No matter how many platforms there are now to watch films at home, no matter how many hours I spend drowning myself in Netflix and Amazon and Hulu content, not to mention the awesome service exclusively for horror films ? Shudder ? I will always take at least one or two days out of the month to go see a film in the theater.
When I was growing up, I went to the movies almost every week. And I always went with friends. For most of high school, it?s what my friends and I would do on a Friday afternoon after school. Pick a new movie and go check it out.
But when I started college in Los Angeles, it took me a year or two to make some really good friends, so I started going to movies by myself.
I barely even understood the landscape of L.A., let alone where all the theaters were located and what theaters were playing what movies, but over the course of a few months I figured out where to go and what to see. And every time I went to see a movie by myself, I felt one thing.
It?s silly when I think back on those first experiences I had going to the movies by myself, but I always did feel ashamed from the moment I entered the theater to the moment I got back in my car.
Going to the movies was a social activity, I often told myself.
Going to the movies was something to do with friends. If it was a comedy, you could laugh together. If it was a serious drama, you could go to dinner or drinks afterward and actually talk to someone about the movie.
There was always a depressing nature to the activity of seeing a movie by myself. Think about it ? you take part of the day to pick out a movie to see, drive to the theater, buy a ticket, sit in a dark room for two or more hours, then get back in your car, and drive home.
And there?s nothing said to anybody. No conversation to be had. No matter how great the movie I might see, the solitary activity always left me with a little bit of sadness.
I needed friends to go to the movies! I needed a boyfriend, a companion! It?s what society says! If I go by myself, I?m a loser, a creep, a failure!
Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
Cut to today. I see, on average two movies a month in a movie theater, and for the last six months or longer, I?ve seen every single one of them by myself. I don?t see as many movies as I did when I was younger, but I?m still making time to catch the occasional film in a theater by myself, always, and you know what?
I?m no longer ashamed. I actually delight in my occasional outing to the theater.
I have a big, fat grin on my face from the time I buy my ticket to the time I return to my car. Because no matter how much time has passed, and no matter how busy life has become, I?m still, for that two-hour period, a teenager again, enjoying a new movie the way it was meant to be seen ? on the big screen.
There are a few basic reasons why I like to go to the movies by myself. The first is that, sadly, I don?t have any close friends at the moment who actually like to go to the theater to watch a movie.
I have a few people I can drag to a film if I really, really try, but for the most part, there?s not a lot of enthusiasm about film-going from anyone in my life.
The other is that I still sometimes use my MoviePass card to see films, and the way that the company runs now, I often have to make a split-second decision on a film to see, based on what movies and times are available that day. This is a big reason why it?s hard to see movies with other people, because I have to make my decision so fast, sometimes inside of an hour or less.
But going beyond those two reasons, whether I had a ton of movie-going friends or not, whether I still used this Moviepass card or not, there are some advantages to seeing movies alone?
1. You Can Watch What You Want.
There?s not that fight of which movie to see. If I want to see the latest blockbuster on opening weekend, great. If I want to see a small indie movie playing, and nobody wants to go, I can do that, too. I can see whatever I want, and I don?t have to make any compromises.
2. You Can Go When You Want.
I?m lucky in my life right now that I have a pretty flexible schedule. I teach four days a week, but the hours vary, and sometimes I?ll have a few hours in the middle of the day to myself.
Most people can only see movies at nights or on the weekends, but sometimes I?ll have three hours to kill on the middle of a Tuesday or something, and I can use that time to go catch a new movie I wanted to see. When you?re waiting to see if other people can join you, likely that opportunity to see the movie will fall through.
3. You Can Sit Where You Want.
This is a big one for me, because, unlike most people, I actually love to sit up close to the screen.
Most people like to sit in the middle of the theater, or toward the back, but I actually like sitting about five or six rows back from the screen, close enough that I?m completely immersed into the film unfolding before my eyes, but still far enough back that I?m not straining my neck for two hours.
When you go see a movie with other people, there?s usually a compromise made in terms of where you sit, and I never really like that.
4. There?s Nobody to Bother You While the Movie is Playing.
I would say that many people are on their best behavior at the movies, but sometimes you catch a movie with a friend? and your friend just keeps talking to you throughout the entire film.
I hate that.
I hate the constant whispering, the constant questioning.
When you see a movie by yourself, you still might sit close to people who are whispering and questioning, but you can always move a few seats down if anybody nearby gets extra annoying.
I can get irritated by the smallest things, like someone merely fidgeting in their seat, tapping a finger against the armrest, bouncing a leg up and down, even heavy breathing. I like to focus on the film and only the film.
5. When the Film Ends, You Can Just Leave and Go About Your Day.
Some people like that stretch of time after a film ends where you stand in the lobby for twenty minutes and talk about the movie. If you?re on a date, you can go to dinner after and discuss the film, or if you?re with a friend, you can go to a bar to chat about what you just saw.
Sometimes that?s fun, sure, but what I love about seeing a movie by myself is that as soon as the end credits begin to roll, I can hit the road. I can just get to my car and go. I don?t need to talk to somebody about the movie.
I can think what I want to think and then maybe write about the film later and read what other people have said about it. When you go to the movies alone, you have the freedom to do what you want when it ends.
I used to feel weird, always, about going to see a movie by myself.
But I don?t feel awkward about it anymore. In fact, I look forward to it. Watching a movie, at the end of the day, is a solitary exercise. The theater goes quiet, and you watch what?s up on the screen by yourself, in your own thoughts. Going to the movies with friends or family or partners is fun, sure, but it?s a different kind of fun.
There?s just too much good stuff about going to the movies alone.
You get to see what you want to see, you get to go when you want to go, you get to sit where you want to sit, you get to watch the movie free from distractions, and as soon as the movie ends, you can just leave, nobody around to hold you back.
So if you haven?t seen a movie by yourself in a while, give it a try! You might unexpectedly find it?s a whole lot of fun.
Brian Rowe is an author, teacher, book devotee, and film fanatic. He received his MFA in Creative Writing and MA in English from the University of Nevada, Reno, and his BA in Film Production from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. He writes young adult and middle-grade suspense novels and is represented by Kortney Price of the Corvisiero Agency.