YOUR VOICES: On the Movie Theater Experience


Your Voices is a simple concept created to encourage conversation and opinions between movie lovers. It works like this: I throw out a certain topic. After that I’ll make my case or share my opinions. Then it’s time for Your Voices. Head to the comments section and let me and fellow moviegoers know your thoughts on the topic for that day!


Today’s topic fascinates me and I’m really curious to read the responses. Steven Spielberg made a few headlines after his latest shot fired at Netflix and movie streaming in general. At the very core of his concern is that streaming is killing the movie theater experience. I wrote a commentary on it that you can check it out HERE.

Since then I’ve been thinking about what we refer to as the ‘movie theater experience’. Since Spielberg’s comments several have shared their positions with me and I was surprised at the amount of apathy towards seeing movies on the big screen. Their takes weren’t without merit. Convenience, cost, location – it all played into some people’s take-it-or-leave-it approach.

While I still don’t side with Spielberg in his push against Netflix, I do agree that there is something special (for me) about the movie theater experience. I love seeing films on the big screen with a great sound system. I love seeing movies in a theater full of strangers but I equally enjoy a lonely matinee screening. For me it still feels very different than watching at home. I’m still pro-streaming for reasons shared in my piece, but I can’t and won’t deny the pull of seeing movies on the big screen.

But now it’s time for Your Voices. Please hit the comments section to share your thoughts.

YOUR VOICESWhat are your feelings about the importance of the movie theater experience?

54 thoughts on “YOUR VOICES: On the Movie Theater Experience

  1. I am not against streaming; like you said before, it can provide people with movies they may not have access to in theaters. But ultimately the cinema is and will always be the best place for films. Modern theaters are not perfect (I’m not always satisfied with digital projection, plus there’s almost always an obnoxious audience member in the room), but movies are meant to be a shared experience. Watching a movie on your tv, tablet, or phone seems impersonal in comparison.

    Recently Jean-Luc Godard actually criticized streaming as well, juxtaposing it to the end of silent cinema (which is odd for me, because if anyone’s movies really require streaming’s instant playback, it’s Godard’s recent essay pictures).

    • I can see Godard pushing back on streaming but you’re right, he could really benefit from it as well.

      I’m a big fan of streaming, but as you said movies are meant for the big screen. For me it’s the idea way to experience the art of cinema.

      • I may be misremembering things but I feel like Godard said The Image Book was made to be seen on a tv screen, in which case it seems like streaming would be the perfect medium for the film.

        But yes, the big screen is the perfect place for film. It’s why I went to see The Other Side of the Wind, Buster Scruggs, Roma, and Hold the Dark in theaters last year rather than watch them online.

      • Buster Scruggs would be incredible on the big screen. Unfortunately it was never an option in my area. But that’s the case with so many other films as well. Films that only make it to my area via theater release.

  2. I share a similar stance. There is something special about going into a theater and seeing a film on the silver screen. I think the experience alone is what really sparked my fascination and love for filmmaking in the first place. As someone with a theater background, I love the spectacle of it all. That sense of expectancy and excitement just doesn’t happen in my living room. I still watch more movies in a theater than on my couch at home.

    However, I have subscriptions to both Netflix and Hulu and have watched stuff on other streaming services from time to time. While the experience is different, I enjoy the convenience and if I’m honest, the low cost. I also love that various different filmmakers have been given a grand platform to share their art. Because that’s what film is to me- and I’d like to think that many others would agree. I look at a project like Roma for instance (a film I enjoyed) and I think about the people who also enjoyed it at home, but would have never gone into an actual theater and paid $12 to watch it. If they consumed the art and were touched by it, does it really matter if they saw it in an theater or at home? That’s partly why streaming is supreme at the moment. Many people, especially those with kids, just can’t afford to go to the theater anymore. It’s becoming a privilege, or a treat rather, to go see a movie and that saddens me because it means less and less kids are growing up without the movie-going experience I was so fortunate to have.

    I think the real issue for people like Spielberg is that they don’t really want to see the industry change. They would rather keep the filmmaking club small and competitive. I’m just not convinced that their motives are as pure as they would have us believe. But gone are the days when the same 5 men had unlimited access to resources and were able to consistently make the biggest movies. I would love to see them get on board and champion inclusion and streaming for all rather than watch them become the old, grumpy men who yell “get off the grass!” from their porches.

    • Great comments! So many wonderful points that I agree with. There is one thing you said that I 100% agree with and had not really thought about it before now. The big screen experience was pivotal in sparking my love for movies too. I think when it has that kind of impact on you it doesn’t just go away. And to be honest, I want my kids to experience the exact same thing.

  3. I love a good relaxing snuggle on the sofa to watch a film. Whilst I still buy Blu-rays, mostly I watch films streamed from Netflix or Amazon. It is such a great way to chill out….. however, for me, nothing beats the feeling of seeing a film for the first time at the cinema.

    They deserve to be seen on the big screen, where you can experience the film as a whole. When watching a film at home it is too easy to be distracted; your phone is close at hand, the sunshine is coming in through the window even though you’ve got the blinds closed and there’s nothing worse than a tense moment being ruined by a motorbike roaring past or someone knocking on the door.

    • Yes! I’m with you. The pros and cons to streaming are undeniable. But you just can’t beat that first viewing on the big screen. I wonder though…is this a case of conflicting views between cinephiles and more casual movie watchers?

      • Yes you are probably right. Given the cost of cinema nowadays it’s difficult for casual movie goers to justify the cost of a trip out.

      • And I fear a lot of younger moviegoers may not have that love for the big screen like we do. I have a coworker who is quite a bit younger than me. She watches a ton of movies but mostly on streaming, sometimes even on her phone. We’ve had good conversations about it and she said pointblank she really doesn’t care about the size of the screen. I’m really working on my kids to love the theater. Fingers crossed.

  4. To me, it ultimately depends on the movie. Movies like Star Wars and Avengers were made for the big screen because those are event films. You expect massive audiences which add to the experience. That being said, I’ve had experiences in the theater that were…..less than favorable. Usually it was because people wouldn’t shut off their phones or bring in fussy and noisy children. Because of that, I reserve the movie theater for really big movies. Otherwise, I’m perfectly happy streaming movies at home.

    • Those are definitely negatives and they drive me insane. I think one reason I get so annoyed at inconsiderate people in a movie theater is because I hold that experience in such high regard.

  5. I think there is a place for both today. Neither is the theatre experience going away any time soon nor the rise of digital streams. I personally have been on both sides of the coin. 2 years back I saw so many movies in theatres but also streamed but the last couple of years, I haven’t been able to go to the theatre cuz I have a baby and I rather watch what. I want from the comfort of my home.

    • Having children definitely causes us to adjust our schedules. 😁

      I 100% believe there is a place for both today. And to be be honest I find that to be really exciting. The possibilities are endless for a variety of different kinds of filmmakers.

  6. I go less and less to the theater, but I’ll acknowledge it’s the better movie viewing experience than watching at home. But I do have a 55 inch tv, things look pretty good there too, and now going to a movie is reserved mostly for some big event movie, some movie from a director I really like and have an idea I’m going to have a favorable reaction to.

    One thing I haven’t seen mentioned here is, at least for me, the commitment level to really watching the movie is much greater when I go to the theater than watching something at home. No distractions, no tempting internet stuff sitting at arms reach, nothing to do but watch the movie. I’ve watched movies at home on DVD, and if it’s slow I’ve drifted off a little bit, and I’ve kind of figured I would have gotten more from the movie in a theater.

    • Great point. When you go to the theater it is all about the movie. Nothing else. You’ve paid money to go and see the movie. Like you said, at home so many other things can grab our attention. It’s a great point.

  7. For me, I think it depends on the movie and the experience I want from it. For example if it’s an iconic sort of thing – a big action movie or something I’ve really been looking forward to, I’d probably head to the theater or at least try to. However, life gets really busy, and there’s movies I really want to see and don’t have time for. And the theater experience isn’t cheap anymore! For two tickets and a tiny bucket of popcorn we spent close to forty dollars! We’d hate to spend that kind of money on a movie just to not like it, so we kind of pick and choose which movies have the best “theater” odds haha. So because of all those things, I’m glad there are services like Netflix so we can see movies we might not have made it to the theaters for.

      • Oh thank you! I did many of these in years past but had gotten away from them for some reason. I’ve got several ideas coming up.

    • For sure. Those are completely valid points. Thankfully for me I’m in a movie club that gives me one free ticket a month and discounts for many others. And most of the time I go and do without concessions. It’s kind of a bummer but it’s the only way I could afford seeing as many in the theater as I do. Cost is a legitimate issue.

  8. I love to watch films in a theater. Yes, there’s been a few bad experiences either due to faulty moments during a film or assholes texting during a movie.

    Other than that, I just love seeing a film on the big screen with surround sound and wonder if that person is enjoying it or not or just be the only one watching a movie that everyone is missing out on (To the Wonder and Knight of Cups for example).

    I’m not against streaming but I just want the option of at least seeing films in the theaters.

    • People texting or looking at Facebook in the theater drives me nuts. Even worse, a few months ago I had two women cackling through an entire movie talking back-and-forth and so on. It can kill the experience for others.

      • I know. It does piss me off. I remember watching Hail Caesar! as there was these two women talking during the entire movie and that ruined the experience for me. I wish some theaters would do what the Alamo Drafthouse does with all of that and I’m happy for their zero tolerance policy on talking and texting.

  9. When you look at the scale and scope of TV programmes today (Game of Thrones for example) it proves that you don’t need cinema to make great entertainment anymore. The platforms are shifting and merging, and that’s quite exciting.
    Although I would definitely pay to watch GoT on the big screen 😂

  10. Very timely topic, this one. I’m seeing John Wick 3 in a Dolby surround sound theater, reserved recliner seating. I love the convenience of Netflix and Hulu and stuff, but let me know when they make living rooms the size of these cavernous theaters. haha! It was my first time in one such theater last time (The Pokémon Movie, of all things!) and I can’t wait to see this one in that setting.

    • Oh that’s awesome. Unfortunately I’m going to have to wait till early next week to see it. Work and life just had to get in the way!

  11. Pingback: Pokémon: Detective Pikachu | Thomas J

  12. I’m gonna spend July 1st seeing Spider-Man: Far From Home and The Wiggles in the Wiggle Fun concert

  13. No movie theatre for me. I don’t like herds of people, the seats are uncomfortable, they don’t do intervals any more so you can’t go to the loo without missing the plot, and you can’t rewind the awesome bits, nor can you make or have a nice G&T. 😊 We converted our garage into a cinema room, huge TV, 11 speakers so we can make the best of Dolby atmos on blurays and a reclining sofa. We do stream from Amazon but will always get the bluray for a film we really want to see, I don’t mind waiting.

  14. I personally love the movie theater experience but I’m also the mother of a young child, and I can’t always find a babysitter. For reasons like that, I’m very pro streaming and VOD. If given the choice, would I see a film in the theater? Yes, every time, but sometimes I can’t and I’m thankful for the option to watch at home.

    • Exactly. Choice, options…all something streaming brings to the table. I much prefer the theater but that isn’t always possible.

  15. I like the theater, but one combined voice can easily, EASILY persuade your experience either for the better or for the worse. If I’m watching a sex scene with my conservative mother who finds the scene grotesque and uncomfortable, I mirror the same thoughts when I normally wouldn’t. Now multiply that by an entire crowd. Plus, ticket prices are rising, movie goers are getting worse, and it just isn’t what it used to be. I personally miss drive in theaters

    • My little town once had a drive-in when I was a kid (in the late 70s). I still have faint memories of it. Definitely a unique experience.

  16. Great Topic Keith. I think it sometimes depends on ones preparation for the movie theater experience. if Somehow a person can avoid any kind of spoiler, gossip, or even images of the film
    before viewing it, he may be heading in for a great memorable surprise. Back in my mid teens, and in the Philippines, that remains to be my favorite movie theater experiences because at that time there was hardly any marketing information like todays era. It was very exhilarating to walk into a movie like Terminator 2, and have no spoilers and hardly any information about it beforehand. its that feeling of “wow i didn’t see that one coming beforehand”.

    • Great perspective! You’re right. I do miss that element of complete and utter surprise. It’s hard to have that experience today.

  17. Streaming is great when the internet is fast and your app works correctly. When the film freezes, fails to buffer properly, I curse the gods and sometimes have to restart or even give up. Films in theaters do occasionally have issues, but someone else can usually fix it. Watching in a theater in which you do not control everything , including the time, makes us participate in a different way in the experience.

    • I like that perspective. Living in a more rural area, I know exactly what you mean. Our internet was very unreliable for so long. It was only a couple of years ago that my ISP upgraded our service. It made streaming a movie impossible.

  18. The theatre experience imo is one of the best things in life. I love it and love that there are at least filmmakers who aren’t going the streaming route.

    It is a double edged sword as I wrote in my best of 2018 post (sorry for the spam but tell my what you think of my list – I actually wrote a few other thoughts about how film watching is changing, I’d be interested in your comments

    So.. steaming makes it easier to make and distribute a film, that perfect for independent films. But major releases like Roma and Scruggs… they look so good, it seems insane not to have that playing in cinemas!! I was lucky enough to see scruggs on an IMAX screen during a film festival, but the next two watches were at home obviously. Its a hard one.

    It also depends on your home setup. I have a 5k plus home theatre set-up so I really can’t complain too much, but a lot of people don’t and movies like Annihilation just aren’t seen in their full glory.

    BTW I saw Annihilation wasn’t in your top 20?? Did I miss it or did you not like it? My memory is so bad I can’t remember

  19. There is definitely something special about seeing films in theatres where the sheer size of the picture and the quality of the sound immerse us in the film’s world so effectively. It is my favourite way to watch. But I think studios and multiplexes have helped to created an environment where steaming can thrive. By offering such a limited pool of films each week, audiences looking for independent or offbeat releases (especially those living outside the main cities) are left with few alternatives but to stream. In this way streaming provides a valuable service actually diversifying film.

  20. I personally wouldn’t want to ever lose the theatre experience. I think it’s a big part of cultural history, not just in the U.S. but all over the world. It connects people from all different walks of life, if only for a couple hours. I enjoy the pervasiveness of cinema into everyday life and being able to see something for the first time or the twentieth time (e.g. Saving Private Ryan back in theatres this week!) on the big screen is just something very special. I don’t mind paying a bit to have that experience because I think it adds so much to the wonder I already have with movies. Thanks for the good conversation starter, I just found your blog yesterday and am stoked to keep up with your posts!
    Find me on Facebook @redbeardmoviereviews

  21. My husband and I very rarely go to the movies simply because we are a couple of old ogres who insist that everyone around us behave with perfect manners. It never fails: The moment we sit down, a gaggle of teenagers will sit down behind us playing on their phones, and… well, you get the picture. Hence, we stay home and wait for the movies to hit *our* big screen via Amazon Prime, Netflix, etc.

    It’s rarely my intention to assign some special political, religious, or sexual interpretation to a film. The whole point of movie-watching for us is to be *entertained*. If we learn something in the process, that’s a bonus.

    Whether it’s Charles Laughton in ‘Witness for the Prosecution’, Benicio del Toro in ‘Traffic’, Meryl Streep in (name any movie in which she has starred) or ‘The Secret Lives of Pets’, we just want to be entertained. 🙂

    • I completely understand. I do go to a ton of movies at the theater but really get steamed when I run into people with zero respect for those around them. It drives me crazy. 🙂

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