The Joy of Watching Movies Alone

August 24, 2016 § 2 Comments

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Last month I went to a crowded sneak preview of “Star Trek Beyond.” As I took my seat, the young woman next to me asked, “Did you two get separated?” When I told her that I was alone, she was wildly impressed. “I’ve always wanted to do that but I’ve never had the guts,” she said. I was baffled: after all, this was a popcorn movie, not a week-long Rainer Werner Fassbinder retrospective. “I almost always go to movies alone,” I said. “You should try it; it’s great.”

There was a time when watching films was my job. I generally saw 130 per year, at least half of them in theaters. During this period, I lost all perspective about normal–i.e., recreational–moviegoing. Not only did I no longer regard films as entertainment but I also had no idea what constituted an average person’s intake. Was one movie a week considered a normal number? I didn’t know, because I averaged three a week in theaters and more on video.

Mostly I watched alone, but I never felt alone: my attentions were fully on the screen, rather than on those sitting next to me. Which brings me to back to the woman who was afraid to see movies alone: how much companionship is there in watching movies? Sure, you can hold hands, but you can’t talk. And the experience is far from shared, as anyone whose opinion of a movie has differed a friend’s can attest.

Last night I went to a screening of a terrible new movie that I can’t name because there’s a press embargo on it until next week. I happened to have a friend with me, who fortunately felt much the way I did about it. Still, I couldn’t help worrying about her reaction to what was on the screen, as well as to my flinching from the gunfire and smirking at the script. At some point I realized there were two movies playing at once: the real one and the one in my row. That’s fine for mindless entertainment, but good movies require a level of concentration that’s hard to achieve when you’re wondering if your companion wants to walk out. That’s why I usually watch alone.

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§ 2 Responses to The Joy of Watching Movies Alone

  • Patrick Curtis says:

    As an Academy member, I get seemingly hundreds of screeners starting around November, some for movies that aren’t out yet. Then I have to make a decision on whether I watch them at home or on the big screen. Often, I end up doing neither, which is just stupid. Recently, I cleaned out BOXES of old screeners, most of which I haven’t seen. Good movies have been missed. I’ve got to come up with a better plan. Any ideas???

    Crossdraw

    • My advice is to get rid of all the old screeners to make way for the avalanche from this year’s awards season. Unless there’s something you’re really dying to see–unlikely, since you haven’t so far–it’s better to clear the decks. As for the new screeners, I would watch the first five minutes of each to see if it’s worth continuing. Save your strength for the screenings at the Academy.

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