Online Streaming Isn’t The Same As Going To The Movies
It’s about the entire experience, not just about watching the movie itself.
The pandemic has propelled a mass consumer shift towards OTT platforms. Platforms that were once struggling to rake in subscribers, are the default movie watching experience today, what with everyone being locked up intermittently in the confines of their homes with every unexpected wave of the virus. In fact, many online streaming platforms reported double digit growth during the two major lockdowns we had over the last 3 years.
Be that as it may, online streaming services are no substitute for the real physical experience of watching a movie at a cinema hall. Most people go to the movies to watch them with their friends, partners, or family members, significantly elevating their movie watching experience with this social aspect, something that you cannot just as easily accomplish with online streaming.
Sorry OTT fans. No amount of features on your apps or websites can propel me towards online streaming as my go-to option for movie watching.
You can pamper me with unlimited show repeats, High-Definition picture quality, downloadable episodes that can be conveniently watched later without internet connectivity, and all the exclusive documentaries you want. But no amount of variety can make up for the deluxe and exquisite experience of watching a newly released movie at a theater near me. You just don’t feel that childlike awe and wonder which cinemas bestow upon you as you slouch in bed and watch movies on an OTT platform.
Watching movies at the cinema, you are not only transported back to your childhood, but feel like you’re a very part of the movie you’re watching, what with modern day developments in software along with upgrades that have been made to audiovisual systems inside the theatre itself; Gigantic screens with high-bass surround sound speakers from which almost lifelike noises emanate, air conditioning that reaches every corner seat of the theater, plush comfortable reclining seats, and 3D glasses, all making movie watching a surreal and bespoke experience.
The aromatic fragrance of the air-conditioned lobby as you’re waiting in line at the ticket counter to buy tickets, the melodious sounds of movies playing on other screens that manage to escape through a slightly ajar door when waiting in line for popcorn at the food kiosk, the sudden pall of quietness that descends upon the entire theater once its intermission time and the lights come on, the bitter chill of the air-conditioning that feels colder than it actually is during horror movies and makes you pull your hoodie over your head, and the hushed voices of people that can be heard during quiet scenes are all bespoke experiences that one can never get to experience online.
Suffice it to say, making a trip to the movies to catch a highly anticipated blockbuster release is an experience in and of itself. No amount of online streaming or web services can make up for it. No matter how expensive a home theater, or how loud a surround sound system you have at home, there’s just no recreating the anticipation, thrill, and exhilaration of watching a movie at a cinema hall.
The rush of endorphins you get the moment your ticket is booked in a seat of your choice is incomparable to silently scrolling for movies on Amazon Prime or Netflix.
The advertisements and trailers that play prior to the movie, the crowd slowly milling its way into the hall, the latecomers with their bright torches piercing throught the partial darkness of the theater as much as their voices pierce through the complete silence, the boisterous gaggle from a bunch of school kids who bunked classes to be there, and the executives from the food kiosks delivering food to the ones who ordered the food to their seats…..all create a rising tempo in the crowd in anticipation of the movie that finally crescendos when it actually begins playing.
Movie theatres are an exquisite and delightful experience in themselves that just have no parallel at this moment. And no amount of online streaming can change that.
Let’s talk about the experience right from the beginning, shall we:
You can feel the endorphins coursing through your brain as you make your way to the ticket counter on the 4th floor of the mall to buy tickets for the blockbuster releasing the next day. Or you feel them as you’re browsing for tickets online, watching the trailer of the movie at the same time on your computer screen, checking which one to choose. Sometimes there’s too many good movies playing all at once that you don’t know which one to go for. The dopamine hits the moment the ticket arrives on your phone and you have it ready to display to the usher at the door for the show the next day.
Arriving at the theater
You dress up, put on some good perfume out of courtesy for your fellow row mates, style yourself up, and then get ready to go as there’s barely an hour left for the show to start. You keep your phone fully charged, as you don’t want to look like someone who has nothing to do during the intermission. You get into your car/motorcycle, hail a cab, or take the bus going in the same direction. You eagerly make your way into the cool basement parking, park your vehicle, check your hair once again in your rear view mirror and head over to the lifts to directly get to the highest floor of the mall, where cinemas are usually located.
Either a gaggle of noisy college kids or a romantic couple on a movie date manage to get into the lift with you just as the doors are closing, and you know for a fact that they’re there for the movies too. You can easily make that out from their excitement.
Getting to your screen
You arrive at the outer lobby of the cinema before the security check, where the smell of caramel popcorn is quite detectable, but faint. Theres just 15 minutes for the movie to begin. There’s a long line in front of the ticket counter, with one person from each group respectively in line to purchase tickets. Your friend or partner arrives in the next 5 minutes and you make your way inside to the actual lobby where the aroma of caramel popcorn dominates. It’s a bit colder here, but you know it’s nothing compared to how cold its going to be inside one of the screens itself. You get your overpriced popcorn in a jiffy, your friend gets her drink, and y’all are at your seats in no time.
Watching the movie
You get inside the theater just as the advertisements are running and the trailers haven’t even begun. The lights haven’t dimmed yet, so you easily find your way to your seat. The crowd isn’t too heavy, it being a weekend and the fact that it’s the first show in the morning. So you know for a fact that a bunch of them will still be coming in after the lights have been turned off and the movie has just started.
But what do you care? You’re just happy your movie watching experience isn’t hindered by an obnoxious person sitting next to you, or someone who keeps checking their phone all the time. So far so good.
You begin munching your popcorn during the trailers as your friend begs you to save some for later, or you’ll have nothing to munch once the actual movie begins playing. So your quietly oblige. You let your comfy seat recline fully right from the beginning of the movie or somewhere during the middle depending on the kind of movie you’re watching.
The movie begins and you’re transported to another world of your own. You could be anywhere right now, but you’d still be inside the movie. No phone call can disturb your monk like focus on the plot right now. The few perks of watching movies at the theater huh! Even if a call does come, you’re forced to run outside and receive it, and are in an equal hurry to get back or risk missing out an important twist in the story.
You laugh with the crowd and cry with them too. You hear the boisterous ones loudly shout out their comments about the Hero or villain, and are thankful it isn’t you who’s sitting next to them. You make guesses about the plot and its characters with your own friends and family, or explain the scene to someone who didn’t understand it. You and your friend tightly hold your hands against another friends mouth before he can utter any spoilers, since he’s already watched it.
Finally, when the movie comes to an end, you begrundginly get out of your seat and join the beeline to the exit. The cocoon of warmth you so comfortably ensconced yourself in for the last two hours, the one you so carefully created using your jacket and the seating to protect your body from the bitter chill of the cinema air-conditioning, is now broken. It feels like someone broke a magical spell that was cast on you for the last 90 minutes or so.
Wait, I have to leave? I thought I was part of the story I was watching, and not just some mute spectator. What am I supposed to do with my life now?
Damn right, Manny! A loss of communal space it is. And besides the loss of communal space, it’s also the loss of a lot of priceless experiences, the idiosyncracies of movie watching, if you will.
“I’m a fan of the movies. And I’ve been a fan of the movies for more than 40 years. I love going to the movies; I like waiting in line to get my ticket, I love the previews and I like buying overpriced popcorn at the concession stand.”
If I needed just a few lines to sum up what my article tried to convey, then the above quotes from Manny’s article would be it. Do let me know your thoughts about this in the comments bar to the side.