I’m one of the weird ones who still prefers going to a cinema over watching a movie at home. Most people associate cinemas with sticky floors, people who laugh a little too hard, and infants who obviously don’t want to be there. That may be true in most cases, but I still get excited when I hop in my car and begin the journey. Some of my best memories come from being a kid and going to the old theater in my hometown. It had that old-fashion charm with brick walls, one screen, and a balcony that overlooked the first floor of chairs. There were elegant red curtains that parted for the silver screen and the scent of fresh popcorn and eager chatter created an atmosphere that wrapped around you the moment you walked through the doors. There would always be music playing during the wait, ranging from famous scores like the theme of Star Wars to the song about putting a lime in a coconut and shaking it all up. It just placed me in this cheerful mood that I couldn’t shake off. It was an event, not just a casual time out. I was smitten.
Then the lights dimmed and the screen would come to life with an anticipating silence. Then the volume would rise and there would be the first sound of the trailer reel. These would leave me in awe even if I knew all the worthy parts were being shown in this three minute clip show. After the title and release date showed for each one I’d think, “I need to go see that.” I think I felt that way because everything is more thrilling on the big screen. It’s so colossal that you can’t miss it and it transports you into the film’s environment. For those three minutes you’re lost and sometimes it’s nice to be taken away to a new world, even for a brief period of time.
When the trailer ended is when the moment everyone in the theater has been waiting for finally began. The trailers, no matter how impressive, were merely a warm up before the real thing. The screen gets dark again with the only sound being a popcorn crunch, a loud sip of Pepsi, maybe a cough, and then the film slowly fades in. For the next two hours you’re lost again, only this time everything is more grand and detailed. The rest of the world fades away and unless the cinema catches on fire or you have the misfortune to sit in front of a seat kicker. When the credits role and the lights slowly come back on, it always takes me a second to come back to reality. I tend to do with books too because I become so immersed in the creative value these stories present. Even if the movie is downright awful, it still takes me a moment to come back because all my thoughts are dedicated to analyzing either what went wrong or what went right. Maybe it was one scene that spoke to you or made you cringe; maybe it was every scene or that one line or that one facial expression. Those moments that we see emphasized on screen are what stay with us the entire car ride home. At least, they do for me.
I talked to my brother about this and we both do the same thing where once we leave the theater we spend the ride home analyzing the film in our heads. This might sound a little intensive, but keep in mind that we’re both English majors and that’s just what English majors do. We think about the symbolism, foreshadowing, and any pieces that just blew us away. Why did the director do this? Why didn’t the director do this? How was the acting in that opening scene? What was up with the ending? This is what swirls around in my mind the second I step outside of the theater after the sun has set and a new wave of visitors are entering the building to sit where you sat and experience the same cinematic adventure. The new people chatter with as much eagerness as you with the phrase, “I hope this is good” fading in and out of the air continuously like a lighting bug until everyone is at the ticket booth. What draws us to this place? What draws us to these films that have influenced and captivated society for centuries?
I like to think we’re attracted to film because it takes all the emotions, exciting and mundane aspects of life and emphasizes them sometimes even hitting us over the head with them. There’s an element we can easily discover and then connect with so, in a way, we project ourselves onto the screen and live out a fantasy for the next two hours. We’re putting ourselves in the lives of these characters or at least wondering what it would like to be in the imaginary world in front of us. Even movies that try to stray away from the world we know like Star Wars or Lord of the Rings still contain aspects of the human condition that are so real we gaze at it and say, “Yes, this character is just like me” or “This is similar to what I’m going through at the moment.” About a month ago I saw the second installment of “Captain America” and afterwards my brother ran into a friend and he asked how his friend liked the movie. His friend said it really hit home for him because there were parts that weren’t all that different from a situation he was going through. This was a movie about a guy who was frozen for decades and hangs out with Thor every so often and his friend was still able to find a connection and project himself into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Wait, you might be thinking, projecting yourself onto a film sounds a little unhealthy. I get where you’re coming from make-believe person who I made up for the sake of this blog post, but I disagree. True, some people might turn movies into an addiction because they rely on that continuous escape, but not everyone. I see film as a number of things: art, story telling, work and so on, but I also see it as the equivalent of a kid pretending a box is a pirate ship that will take them to Disney World or wherever else they want to travel. Film allows our imagination to get some exercise and discover new things. Unfortunately, it’s common to stop seeing that box as a glorious ship and more as a simple brown box that your refrigerator came in. A movie, especially seeing it inside a cinema, is that box revisited; you take out of it what you decide to put into it. If you find connections or look for the artistic values of the movie you’ll walk away amazed. If you don’t care then the trip will be nothing more than sticky floors and that irritating seat kicker. You can let it take you on an adventure even if it’s going to be short lived and you lose yourself to that imaginary world for just a moment. You let it take you away from all the stress and issues that life tends to present us with and you let yourself have a little fun. You pretend that you’re the suave Hon Solo with the perfect shot and an adorable Wookiee pal or Same who through all odds helps his friend throw the ring into the heart of Mount Doom.
For a moment you’re in that box again getting to be whoever you want to be or do whatever you want to do while ignoring that pesky spelling assignment. For a moment you get to have some fun. Once the lights come up and the credits are over you know it’s time to come back to reality, but that’s alright. You feel rejuvenated and you still have those lingering thoughts about the film to get you through any dull or stressful moments during the week. Sometimes I wish I could stay in the cinema forever because I’m in love with the atmosphere, but getting to go every now and then is what makes it an adventure.