Friday, April 24, 2009

The Movie-Going Experience

*cross-posted with my cinematography blog*

With the improvements and significant price drops of home theater systems in the past few years, the movie-going experience almost appears to be a trivial pastime. It seems like every few months ticket and concession prices are rising. Why do we even bother going to the theaters anymore?

Going to see a movie is more than just going to see a movie. Most often it is a social experience as well. It's a chance to see what's coming next with the previews, it's a chance to get that one snack you can't find anywhere else, it's a chance to enjoy oneself.  At the theater, you can immerse yourself in the film, temporarily away from the distractions of the real world.

Watching a movie at the theater definitely has it's perks: huge screens, great sound, company, and sometimes even luxury. Legally, the movie theatre is the only place to see the hottest new flicks, but illegal methods or patience can change that, which brings us to the flipside, the home movie experience.

As mentioned previously, quality is no longer much of an issue with improved home theater systems. Seemingly everyone has a beautiful, widescreen HDTV now, and a halfway decent surround sound system isn't hard to come by either. So now you have a setup in your living room that rivals that of some big expensive theatre. You can view movies at your discretion, from the comfort of your own home, in your pajamas, while an enjoying a delicious meal or reasonably priced snacks at the same time. 

Though not as taboo as before, one can even enjoy the same first-run movies at home with bootlegs. No, they're not only sold by sketchy characters in front of the corner store in the hood any more. Besides downloading movies online, there is also a very well organized system if you have the "hook-up". Lists are released weekly of what the movie man has acquired or his full collection, with details on whether it is a studio copy, regular quality, a DVD rip, or an in-movie recording, and even sometimes specials such as 5-for-$20 or buy 3, get one free. The decision to purchase bootlegs pretty much boils down to ethics.

The most apparent difference between the movie-going experience and the home theater experience is the cost. At first, the home theater experience may appear cheaper, but the initial costs are far more expensive and it must be a long-term investment in order to be worthwhile. Ignoring the initial costs for the home-theater system, let's compare the annual costs. For a family of four, an average trip to the movies would cost about $60 ($8/ticket, ~$30 in snacks). This would equate to $720 in movie-going expenses for an entire year. For the price of one movie trip, the family could by three new-release DVDs or 15 bootlegs -- either way, everyone in the family gets something they like. On a monthly basis, the family could buy one new-release movie and order pizza for about $40 and spend $480 annually. Of course DVDs go on sale all the time but never movie tickets. (Sidenote: There are so many factors that contribute to both movie-viewing experiences that it's pretty much impossible to fully evaluate both. Well I could, but I won't.)

So is the movie-going experience still worth it? Yes and no. For some popular, action-packed, must-see movies like Transformers 2 coming out this summer, absolutely. But for other casual films that don't necessarily demand the perks of seeing it in a theater, probably not. Another factor not to be ignored is the reason for watching a movie; is it for the plot, the cinematography, the hype, the actors, the social experience, the message? These also all influence how one physically views a movie.

It is not to by implied that one should abandon one system for the other; actually, the best situation would probably be to have a healthy combination of both. Even though it may be a huge splurge nowadays, who doesn't love staring at 20ft screen while munching on $10 popcorn, $4 candy, and $6 soda? 


Monorina said...

I know the home theatre has replaced cinema theatres, but going to see a movie is a lot more fun than catching it at home! I dunno why, but it is.

Noelle said...

Yeah I agree to a degree. I'm all for value, but I still have a great time every time I go to the movies. Perhaps I'm also still a little fed up that I spent $25 last time I went to the movies.