I used to love the thrill of going to the movie theater on opening night. I could feel the contagious excitement of hundreds of people, all focused on the same thing I was, be it the adventures of Luke Skywalker or Frodo Baggins. These days, however, I forgo the cinematic tailgating and opt for the comforts of home cooking, a comfy couch and a rented DVD from Netflix.
Has Cynicism Set In? The Hollywood Blockbuster Backlash
It might be some form of mid-life nostalgia crisis, but I’ve found that I just don’t get as excited about new releases as I did in the past. In 1983, I raced to my local movie triplex to be the first one in line to see “Return of the Jedi” when it premiered in 1983. I sat there for hours, and I went back 7 more times to see it again. All my record-setting rewatchings are in the 1980s. “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” took the laurels, as I sat through that one 36 times, often at drive-ins. This big screen enthusiasm petered out slowly. The last movie I watched in the theater more than once was 2003’s finale to the Lord of the Rings saga “The Return of the King.” The 2009 fantasy blockbuster, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” has the distinction of being the very last movie I sat through in a movie theater. As you can tell, I am a sucker for big science fiction and fantasy flicks. However, the crowd contagion and excitement began to wear thin, even before I managed to finish the Harry Potter series.
I am not sure if this phenomenon is due to my advancing age and laziness or a slowly learned wisdom. In recent years, I started waiting for the 3rd or 4th day after a movie’s premiere, just so I didn’t have to face the crowds. The whole Hollywood blockbuster phenomenon seemed to be destroying some of what made my personal connection with the heroes of science fiction and fantasy stories so special. For example, in 1990, I took it upon myself to drive 60 miles just to see the premiere of “Edward Scissorhands,” a film that resonated deeply with me at the time. There were maybe 30 other people in the theater on the first night, and I also have the distinction of having been the sole watcher of the movie on one lonely Tuesday night. Somehow the theater became my own personal experiential palace. Nowadays, the movies seem to include throwaway gimmick lines designed to make crowds laugh. I found that it took away from my connection to the story. The first instance I remember of this phenomenon was during “Star Trek: Generations,” when writers took it upon themselves to make Commander Data swear gratuitously.
My Love Affair with Frugality, Real Food and Convenience
With the skyrocketing price of tickets in recent years, it became cheaper to move the cinematic experience back home. My living room, with its 32 inch television, isn’t as magnificent as the overwhelming silver screen, but it is vastly more convenient and more affordable. My monthly Netflix DVD plan price is only $8.73, which is practically the cost of a single person’s fare into a movie theater these days. That doesn’t count the cost of gasoline and snacks, which can easily turn a night at the movies for 2 into a pricey proposition.
The other factor was my evolving diet and my love affair with convenience. By “diet,” I don’t mean Atkins or South Beach. I mean “diet” as in “all the food I eat.” I found that it suited me much better to enjoy a home-cooked steak dinner with salad than an overpriced box of Sno-Caps (my old movie treat of choice). Plus, I could get up for seconds or dig in the fridge for a homemade dessert. An old family friend (let’s call him George) actually picked up on this obvious benefit of home viewing many years ago. As my husband and I sat watching “Pulp Fiction” in a movie house with George, he grumbled that he’d much rather have watched this 3-hour movie in his living room, where he could stop the videotape, get a beer, smoke, and go to the bathroom. Then he could return and hit “play” on the VCR without missing a single moment of the action. I think George was on to something.
A Truce with my Body: Chronic Pain Forces Me to Compromise
I’ve suffered from chronic lower back and hip pain for about 15 years, but it was usually intermittent until recently. A car ride and night out at the movies wrecked my back 10 years ago, but I was usually able to bounce back with exercise, muscle rubs and my favorite couch companion, the heating pad. As the years went by, that simple lower back pain became widespread body pain, which culminated in my latest diagnosis of fibromyalgia. A car trip anywhere wrecks my whole body, and by nighttime, I’m too fatigued to go out anywhere. This physical limitation certainly contributed to my decision to enjoy watching movies in the comfort of my living room.
As I’ve dealt with my ongoing chronic pain issues, I have become more aware of my overall health. I work out regularly, and I try to move more. I find it more satisfying now to roll out the yoga mat in front of the television, instead of sitting for 2 hours in uncomfortable theater seats, stuffing my face with overpriced snacks. As I age, I have found that I prefer the freedom to move around in my own home over the desire to commune with the stories of the silver screen.