An illustration of inside the movie theaters with the silver screen.
Illustration by Abby Yang, Minneapolis College of Art and Design

Movie Theaters Are Still the Best Places To Watch New Releases

Streaming may provide convenience for at-home viewing, but it doesn’t beat out the experience that can only be found at your local cinema.

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An illustration of inside the movie theaters with the silver screen.
Illustration by Abby Yang, Minneapolis College of Art and Design

Streaming may provide convenience for at-home viewing, but it doesn’t beat out the experience that can only be found at your local cinema.

It’s no secret that life has changed drastically since the pandemic. While most activities have become safer and are slowly going back to normal, some remnants of our quarantine days still linger in our routines. Some places still require masking, hand sanitizer is readily available and there’s still a push for vaccines with about 65% of the population considered fully vaccinated in the United States. Traveling from one country to another may require a vaccination card or negative COVID-19 test results, and depending on where we go, we may be asked by some businesses to fill out a questionnaire asking if we’ve been feeling well or think we’ve been exposed to the virus. There may still be some hesitancy when approaching handshakes, fist bumps or anything involving physical touch, but most things are now back in-person, up and running.

While we’ve embraced normalcy for most things, there are still places that are lagging behind, including your local movie theater — though this drought might not be entirely COVID-19 related. With the wide range of streaming services that have become available over the last few years, including Disney+, Paramount+, Peacock and others, it has become easier and more convenient to simply stream the movies you want to see from home.

Before, it was simply a matter of watching movies safely, but now it’s more a matter of convenience. A subscription to HBO Max gives subscribers access to movies currently in theaters for a brief time at no additional cost; it then mimics movie theaters by pulling the content out and not returning it to the system until after it’s been formally released elsewhere for purchase, such as on DVD. Disney+ recently released the new animated film “Turning Red” and did an exclusive streaming release, meaning the film didn’t hit the theaters at all, which was similar to Hulu’s recent release “Fresh.” All members had to pay was their monthly subscription. Trading in a costly ticket fee for one show, for a similarly priced subscription with more content, seems to be an easy decision. To sum it up, it seems like these days it’s more convenient and more cost-effective to stream the films from our living rooms.

Though one can argue that the price of streaming services is more cost-friendly than venturing out to movie theaters and purchasing a ticket, there are several reasons that leave streaming services in the dust and put movie theaters on top. While turning on the TV and seeing a new film at home is most convenient, it erases the experience and atmosphere of watching a film for the very first time that can only be found in the movie theater.

Convenience should never outweigh experience. Since the first public movie theater in the U.S. opened in June 1905, crowds have been enchanted with going to the movies. Eagerly waiting to see the “Now Showing” posters switched out every week and waiting for the $5 ticket deal special makes going to the movies a treat. Watching commercials for future films, enjoying delicious popcorn with movie theater butter or a cherry slushie and seeing your new favorite movie on the big screen is personally one of my favorite things to do. Nothing can beat going to the movies.

The experience of film is compromised at home, unable to be replicated the same way as it is in movie theaters. There aren’t any large speakers or a large screen (unless you happen to have an at-home theater) to enhance your movie experience. There is also more room for distractions that could take away from the story you’re watching. Other people in the house may cause unintended disruptions, and the state of your living space can ruin the atmosphere. If you’re trying to focus really hard on the movie but can also see the looming pile of dishes in the sink, your attention is torn between the two.

Additionally, you’re also more prone to going on your phone if you’re streaming from home; turning your phone off at the theater is not only the respectful thing to do, but it is also the best way to allow yourself to become truly immersed in the story without distraction. Without being required to turn it off, the temptation to pick it up with every notification can be overpowering. This can also be multiplied if there are others watching the film with you; even if you have the self-control to not go on your phone, they might not, which is yet another distraction for you. In the theater, all of that outside chatter and noise is eliminated.

Outside of being in the theater itself, there is also an affectionate nostalgia when thinking back on the films you’ve seen and the people you were with, a feeling created by actually being in the theater. It’s completely different to see a film in a movie theater on opening night than it is to click play in your basement.

Think about the last time you went to a midnight movie, say, on opening night. My local hometown theater always went crazy for Marvel releases. The theater would rent props and comic books from a comic bookstore from the town over, filling the little glass candy display case with action figures of Iron Man or Captain America. Picture all the lines of people waiting outside the theater doors, wearing graphic T-shirts featuring their favorite superheroes. Little kids might even be dressed up with a mask or hold Thor’s hammer in their little fingers.

Maybe consider one of the latest live-action princess movies released by Disney. Picture the number of little girls holding their parents’ hands, dressed in princess gowns. The release of Disney’s 2017 “Beauty and the Beast” had a huge opening at my local theater; there were little girls everywhere dressed in Belle’s gold gown, and it was heartwarming to see them become so excited to watch the movie.

Growing up, going to the movies was the thing to do on a Friday night. There was nothing better than meeting friends for dinner, and then walking the short block to our downtown theater without our parents when we were old enough. The movie theater has been a pivotal place for all of us; we see rom-coms or terrible movies with our friends, and if there’s someone special, the movies are usually the go-to suggestion for the first date. We feel old and mature going on our own, buying a ticket for an R-rated movie. Going to the movies is more than just watching a film; it’s a memory every time, whether the movie was good or bad.

Beyond the memories and the warm feelings, going to the movies is an activity that can be enjoyed by everyone, no matter their age. As long as a child can sit still and won’t be a distraction to other patrons, they are old enough to enjoy the magic found at the movies. There are plenty of films that come out every year that are suitable for all ages; going to the movies and having popcorn can be a treat to encourage younger children to behave and can offer a fun activity for both kids and parents to enjoy. Parents can also find the movies the perfect escape from time to time; just call up a babysitter and take an evening to reconnect and enjoy yourselves. This can’t be done as easily at home. Even without children, watching from home doesn’t allow you to isolate your mind.

After such a long time of fear and unease toward going outside, after finally reaching a place of normalcy, it’s time for us to start leaving the house! While the streaming services are definitely convenient once in a while, whether we’re sick or just don’t feel like leaving home, they should never be allowed to replace the magic one finds at the movies. The anticipation of sitting in the dark theater, waiting for the show to start, is something priceless, and after being denied it for so long, it’s high time we start going to the movie theaters again.

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Aly Walters

Michigan State University
English With a Creative Writing Concentration

I am a senior at Michigan State University who also works at MSU’s Writing Center. In my free time, I love working on my latest writing projects!

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