a night at the movies

I'm trying to think what movies I have seen in a theater in the last 12 months.  It's possible I'm missing one, but I think the complete list is:

  • Wall-E
  • Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull
  • Waltz with Bashir
  • Coraline
  • Monsters v. Aliens

The key point here is that four of these are primarily kids movies, and the most recent two are both 3-D.  (As it happens, the adult movie was also animated, but that's another story.)  I've just about given up on going to the movies as a way to spend an evening out.  The theater experience just isn't enough better than watching it at home on Netflix to justify the cost of a movie ticket.  (Let alone the cost of a babysitter.)  On the not-terribly-frequent occasions when T. and I go out in the evening, we'd rather spend the time talking or doing something rather than sitting next to each other in a theater.

The 3-D movies are, I think, the theaters' current best hope at answering the question of what they can offer in terms of an experience that a Blu-Ray player and a widescreen TV doesn't.  The new technology really is impressive.  If I'm going to see a movie that's available in the 3-D, it's worth the couple of extra bucks for the experience.  But, at some point pretty soon, the novelty of it is going to wear off, and the question will be whether the movies stand on their own.  Coraline passed that test for me.  Monsters vs Aliens, not so much, although the boys loved it.

The other thing that theaters offer is the experience of seeing a movie early, when your friends are still talking about it.  Almost none of my friends see first run movies either, so that's not a real factor for me.  (Interestingly, I got a pitch today from a service that rents recent hardcover books, in a Netflix-like manner.  Their argument for why you should pay $20 a month for something that you can get for free from your public library is that you'll get the popular books faster.  Again, there's certainly no short of older books that I haven't read, but I can see the appeal in the right circumstances.)

The sales data suggests that movie attendance is up in spite of the bad economy, or maybe because of it.  Including popcorn, it cost the four of us $60 to go to the movies, which certainly isn't something that fits in my budget terribly often.  But if you're giving up your family vacation, going to the movies can seem like a cheap way to splurge.

10 Responses to “a night at the movies”

  1. merseydotes Says:

    We saw Monsters v. Aliens on Friday night, and I was really wowed by the technology.
    On night when we have free babysitting (family in town or friends watching Petunia), we would go to a movie. But it is an expensive night out.

  2. Jeremiah Says:

    The 3-D movies are, I think, the theaters’ current best hope at answering the question of what they can offer in terms of an experience that a Blu-Ray player and a widescreen TV doesn’t.
    I still vastly prefer to see movies in the theater, even documentaries. The problem is ill-behaved crowds.

  3. Kai Jones Says:

    I went to a movie last night (Sunshine Cleaning).
    I watch a lot of movies at home on DVD, and I’m often disappointed. Even with the TV adjusted to high brightness, the movies all show very dark screens and I miss lots of detail. The sound balance is lousy too: the music is too loud when the volume is high enough for me to hear the dialogue. They’ve been filmed to be shown on a giant screen in a very dark and quiet room that has an excellent sound system, not in my living room with a light on and the only sound system being the speakers on the TV.
    I enjoy the *movies* more at the theater, but the ill-behaved crowds make the experience of watching a movie at the theater less pleasant. I’m so frustrated with people distracting me from the screen because the backlight on their cell phone is bright in that dark room as they’re texting, or when the phone rings and they answer it during the show.

  4. jen Says:

    My husband and I will use our date night to go to the movies if we have a free sitter. When we go out to dinner we just end up talking about all the stuff that’s stressing us out anyway. The movies can’t be beat for absolute escapism.
    My only in-theater movies this year:
    Quantum of Solace
    Tale of Despereaux
    Slumdog Millionaire
    I really seek out action movies when I’m in the theater, because they’re so much more fun on the big screen. For other types of movies I read the review and put them right on my NetFlix list. I have movies in my NetFlix queue that have only been out for a week. I’d be interested to see how much NetFlix sees that behavior.

  5. Madeleine Says:

    We also don’t usually go to a movie unless the babysitting is free. But we usually play hooky for a day near my husband’s birthday and go to a movie in the middle of the day. It’s often the summer SciFi blockbuster, since as Jen said they gain a lot from the big screen, plus that’s his favorite. It is satisfyingly decadent to go out to lunch and a movie on a work day while the kid is at summer camp.

  6. Lisa V Says:

    I think the theatre is a far superior experience. Home is distracting. Not just the kids, but the computer, folding laundry, getting up to get a snack. I like to immerse myself in a story.
    We always have a free sitter now, and often go to the dollar theatres to save money. We’ll splurge sometimes on first run movies, only if it’s getting incredible reviews.

  7. jim Says:

    I no longer go to the movies. I find them too loud, too obtrusive. And I hate the continuous ads while waiting for the movie to begin. But my wife and daughter still go. Sunday afternoons, typically, to Cinema Arts in Fairfax City, which doesn’t do ads, at least.

  8. jo(e) Says:

    My husband and I still go the movies pretty often as our Saturday night date. It costs us $17, but it’s worth it to be out of the house, away from the gang of teenagers and housework that needs to be done. I like sitting in a dark theater, seeing the film on a big screen, and hearing the reactions of the rest of the audience.

  9. kathy a. Says:

    i keep meaning to go to the movies, and sometimes it happens. the only movie theater in my town is a renovated 1920’s theater, now outfitted with sofas and comfy chairs and tables and real food, not to mention popcorn in metal bowls. they have cheap matinees! i think going there more often will be part of the Plan for Better Living.

  10. Jody Says:

    I prefer the theater (and I must say, the crowds never bother me — now watch, the next six times we go, they will) but I can never justify a movie date. If we’re going to pay a sitter — or, more realistically, take a night away while the grandparents watch the kids, which happens 4 times a year — I want to go someplace where we can TALK.
    I do look forward to the teenage years when we can go to movies every weekend if we want, without the babysitter hassles. We used to go to a lot of movies before kids.
    We should probably take the kids out to more family movies — there are several discount theaters in the area and the kids love the experience — but it’s just not that high on our list of priorities.
    We’re spending our tax refund on a 46-inch TV, which is giving me a tiny bit of a fit (I feel like we should save that wad of cash) but spouse is fed-up with the 10-year old 25-inch TV with the broken on/off switch. We have to turn it on and off by unplugging it, and Spouse Is Done. On the plus side, at least movie nights at home will be a little more fancy.

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