Seeing a movie from your sofa is convenient and pleasant but watching the same film in public takes it from passive consumption to active experience. Funny, frightening, sexy, exciting, awesome movies are 100 times funnier, scarier, sexier and more exciting when seen in public. Being in a theater with strangers allow a frisson that you just do not get at home. The laughter that Barbie elicits and the awe, fear and terror that Oppenheimer elicits make this perfectly clear.
The New York Times just posted a terrific piece about this that articulates this beautifully. It’s by the writer Mark Jacobson.
“For a moment, at least, the Barbenheimer phenomenon brought back the sensation of the movie theater as a semi-sacred public place, a space where we congregate to have an experience, made all the more transcendent by having it together.”
Here’s how it starts:
“It seemed like a miracle. The Cobble Hill Cinemas, a neighborhood joint that opened in the 1920s as the Lido and that served for decades as a venue for B-movie action films, was packed on what would ordinarily be a dead Monday night — and without a single La-Z-Boy recliner, goat cheese pizza or other modern enticement in sight. I was there with 200 or so other patrons, a gloriously mixed crowd, to see Oppenheimer, one-half of the Barbenheimer cultural moment. When the bomb finally went off in the New Mexico desert — this fulcrumatic moment in our species’ history — it was beheld simultaneously, an exhilarating common experience, which is exactly what the movie house is supposed to deliver. In the end, it didn’t matter if you liked the picture or not. What mattered is that we’d seen it together.
“After a few years in which the pandemic and streaming platforms combined to break Americans of their movie theatergoing habits, we’d surged back joyfully, triumphantly, to theaters, producing the fourth biggest domestic weekend of all time. For a moment, it was possible to forget the grim realities that still linger for the cinema business, circling like vultures. The actors’ and writers’ unions (I am a member of the latter) are still on strike with no end in sight. With far fewer products in the pipeline, there won’t be many Barbenheimer-shaped rabbits to pull out of the hat anytime soon. AMC is in trouble. So is Regal, which narrowly avoided having to close its theater in Union Square. On the day before the blockbuster weekend, the Regal UA in Staten Island, one of the last remaining theaters in that borough, closed its doors for good. The 2016 demise of the Ziegfeld means that the largest single-screen theater in Manhattan is now the relatively diminutive 571-seat Paris — which tellingly was saved by and is run by Netflix.
“In the time of streaming and 146-inch TV screens, the simple act of going out to the movies feels contrarian, even subversive. It also feels endangered. That’s grim news, because the beauty of going to the movies was never just about the films on the screens; it was about the way we all gathered to watch them.”
Click here to read the full piece.