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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

March 11, 2011 at 9:40 AM

Why we don’t go out to the movies — and why we do

Earlier this week, pretty much on the spur of the moment and inspired by news reports of fading box-office and by a lady falling asleep next to me at “Red Riding Hood,” I posted a blog item asking readers if they went out to movies less often, and why. Sometimes I ask questions on this blog and get no answers (I assume you’re all busy washing your hair or something); sometimes I get an earful. What I heard, though more than 60 comments and more than 2,000 poll votes, was this:
— Movie tickets are too expensive (this led the poll, though not by much). Many commenters added that the price of snacks, parking, babysitters, etc. had made going out to the movies prohibitively costly. I won’t argue, though I will say that some of the nicest theaters around (i.e. the Lincoln Square) have free parking, and that sneaking your own snacks into a theater is, though technically against the rules, generally without consequence as long as you don’t make a mess and nobody catches you at it. Life is often like this. (A pause, while beleaguered theater owners remind us that popcorn and soft drinks are how they make their money, not on the movie tickets — from which most of the proceeds go back to the movie studios. Fair enough, but damn, that stuff’s expensive. How about Free Popcorn Tuesdays? Combos that actually save you money? A small size drink that’s actually small — and for a small price?)
— There aren’t enough movies playing that you want to see. Amen to that — and I’ve seen those movies. If I’d paid full price for, just to name a few, “Hall Pass,” “Red Riding Hood,” “Beastly,” “Sanctum,” “Unknown,” or any of a number of recent movies, I’d be pretty cranky too. Then again, I’ve yet to hear from anyone who went to “The King’s Speech” in a movie theater and didn’t like it, or who didn’t think that movies like “Inception” benefit from being seen on an enormous screen. But these must-see movies are, sadly, few and far between, particularly during this time of year.
— Much lower on the poll were “I’d rather watch movies at home” (many of you mentioned your fabulous home theaters, which sound very nice and of which I’m quite jealous), and “Other moviegoers, with their talking and texting, annoy me.” Also mentioned: irritation with ads shown in the movie theaters, excessive volume, crying kids (oh, but let’s cut those kids some slack; they don’t like “Sanctum” either), the hassle of trying to get to the movie on time vs. the ease of watching anytime at home, etc.
Fair enough, and I have to admit that, if I didn’t have a job that required me to be sitting in a movie-theater seat at least a couple of times a week, I’d go less often. But I’m still enough of an idealist to believe that there’s something magical about seeing a movie on a big screen in a vast, darkened theater, surrounded by strangers equally caught up in the experience. It does happen; think of the happy jolt you feel when everybody in the theater gasps at the same time in a thriller, or laughs together at something that’s genuinely funny, or sits quietly for just a moment as the credits roll, not wanting to break the spell by getting up and leaving. Anyone had that experience in a theater recently? Do share, and have a lovely movie-watching weekend — whether in a theater, or at home.

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