Thursday, April 9, 2015

Riske Business: The 10 Best Things About the Movie Theater Experience

by Adam Riske
I love going to the movies and here's why.
10. Posters – Ever since I was a little kid, I would always go look at the posters whenever I was at a movie theater. Hell, if I was even close to a movie theater I would want to go look at the posters. For example, I used to go with my parents as a kid to a mall called Woodfield, which had a five screen cinema (p.s. I love mall theaters - - they’re such a product of the '80s and '90s) and while they were shopping I would ask every time to go to the movie theater to look at the posters for the movies playing in the mall. That was almost better to me than going to the movies itself. Nowadays, I still love walking the aisles at my local megaplex and looking at either classic posters or posters for upcoming releases. Most posters are confused or generic, but every once in a while there’s a great one that makes you stop in your tracks. Some of my recent favorites are the posters for Ex Machina (that movie looks awesome, btw), Focus, Paddington, A Most Violent Year and the above poster for It Follows, which is really fantastic.

9. Arcades – I have not kept up with video games. I’m a Sega Genesis and old school Nintendo man myself, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like to tear shit up at the movie theater arcade. In fact, this might be the only place (besides the once-a-year stop to Gameworks or Dave & Busters) where I play video games. It’s a great time waster and I get to shoot aliens with giant machine guns, play basketball and drive cars really fast. What’s not to like? Funny story: I was once with a girlfriend at a movie arcade playing The Fast and the Furious and all of a sudden we both smelled poop. We looked at each other wondering if the other one had just shit their pants (which, in my book, and should be in yours, is a deal breaker). To our relief, we looked over and there was a toddler standing next to the game.
8. Lounges – Yeah, lounges! I’m not the most upscale guy, but I do like luxury creature comforts like leather couches, puffy chairs and pool tables. I used to like to go to the bars at movie theaters; however, I quit drinking last year so that part is now out. Nevertheless, movie theaters are doing a nice job making a common area for people to sit down and chill while waiting for their friends to arrive. My favorite lounge is the new one at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago. If you are in the area, it’s worth getting there early just to hang out in the lounge. It has this great brick d├ęcor with awesome old posters and film cans on shelves/on the wall etc. Another bonus is if there’s someone playing the piano like at the Century Theaters in Evanston – always a nice touch. Unless it’s a person singing at the piano because fuck you guy, you’re not Billy Joel.

7. Dining In – If you would have asked me a year ago, this would have been on the worst list but I’ve become a fan of the dine-in theater, probably because there’s one that’s a three minute door-to-door walk from my place. That’s always convenient when I either a) don’t want to get in the car to drive to a movie or b) haven’t eaten lunch or dinner yet and want to see something. The food is usually bad and the prices are expensive (for what you are getting) but there’s something about eating pizza in the dark that is just worth trying out. One drawback is the servers who come in during the movie to give you the bill or ask if you need anything. They are often good about finding a slow spot in the movie to do this, but I had a couple of occasions where a server came in during an important moment or during the climax and that was obnoxious.
6. Mega Screens – Call it IMAX or XD or ETX, giant screen theaters are the bomb! There’s no better way to watch something like Interstellar, Furious 7 or Avengers: Age of Ultron than in a theater with a huge screen and ear-pounding sound. You can never replicate that type of experience at home and it makes going to the movies feel like, well, GOING TO THE MOVIES! A couple other bonuses of mega screens is that they usually seat upwards of 300 to 500 people, so there’s room to spread out and avoid sitting in front of or behind other moviegoers and you get to see trailers on a huge screen. I especially like that for IMAX 3D presentations. 3D IMAX trailers are maybe the only time I like 3D because it’s over and done within 2-1/2 minutes, which is just enough time to think the technology is cool before growing tired of it.

5. Trailers – Many people don’t like trailers (spoilers, etc.) and some even avoid them altogether, but I am not one of those people. I like seeing footage as soon as possible. It helps me get excited for a movie. For me, even bad trailers are good trailers because they become memes I can make fun of. For example, I think I saw the trailer for The Hundred-Foot Journey 20 times last summer. I hated it at first but then I slowly began to realize that I could expertly mimic the old man in the trailer who says “I will turn the music down, but I WILL TURN THE HEAT UP!!!!” I now say that at least once a week and it has enriched my life.
4. Classic Theatres – I’m not talking about the theater chain Classic Cinemas (though they do a good job for a chain), but rather those old movie theatre that show independent and repertory cinema and are often located in downtown areas or in the city. I love old movie theatres. That’s where the magic is. I can’t believe I just wrote that. There’s something about the architecture, the curtain that goes up and down in front of the screen, the seats, the employees that actually want to be there, balconies etc. that just makes the experience of going to these single screen palaces into something special. I’ve said this before, but whenever I feel jaded by the moviegoing experience, a visit to a classic theatre (always spelled “re” not “er”) completely erases my cynicism.

3. You’re Out of the House – I love watching movies at home, but a problem I have is I can never decide what to watch so I waste the time I could have watched a movie instead searching for what movie I want to watch. It’s a mindfuck. With movie theaters you are a) leaving the house and b) limiting your choices thus making it easier to make a decision. At home, I have thousands of choices between my DVD and Blu-Ray collections, my Netflix queue, my DVR, cable stations, library rentals etc. and it’s exhausting. It feels like work sometimes or a list of movies I have to get through. With movie theaters, there are often two or three choices I can make each week for what I want to go see so it’s easy to decide. Plus, if I see it in theaters, that’s one less movie I have to plan on watching later at home (unless it’s really good and I buy it, in which case I’m screwed again). It’s a vicious cycle.

2. The experience – This one ties into #6 and #3 a bit, but honestly “going to the movies” is a big part of who I am. It feels weird to admit this, but a movie theater is a big part of my identity. It’s a safe place where I can forget what’s going on in my life for a few hours (not that my life is bad; it’s not) and become invested in the plight of characters on-screen. Going to the movies informs my opinions on topics that I might not have had an opinion on, helps me empathize with others and is a social gathering with friends and family. It’s a quintessential part of life and I would never trade that for anything. There’s only one thing better than this, and that’s…….
1. Coke Freestyle Machines – Oh my fucking G! I love Coke Freestyle Machines. It’s the Netflix of beverages. Whenever I’m at a movie theater that has a Coke Freestyle machine and I’m with a friend, I say to them (in my Michael Rappaport voice) “that’s a lot of Coke, Clarence!” It is my goal to try every type of Coke offered in the Coke Freestyle Machines. What are some of your favorites? I need to prioritize my list. Give me some suggestions. My favorite so far is the Vanilla Barq’s Root Beer. I could shower in that stuff. I would be covered in flies afterwards, but it might just be worth it.

Coming next week are the 10 worst things about the movie theater experience. But before that, do you agree with my list? What did I leave out? Leave a comment below and let’s discuss!

13 comments:

  1. Nice list. I think #2 sums it up pretty well. I'll also always be a trailer guy (my only problem is that the trailers are getting a little long and showing a little too much). Posters are another great one. My sister-in-law actually manages a theatre (it's a classic one, hence the "re") and occasionally snags me some posters for home. I also grew up in a small town with one of the classic one screen theatres with the big curtains (they just recently got it all fixed up again, looks nice). I ALWAYS sat in the balcony, loved it! I will always love going to the theater, and even the occasional downsides will not change that. (Sadly, I don't have a Coke Freestyle machine in any local theater here)

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    1. Thanks for commenting Kyle! That's really cool that your sis-in-law manages a theatre. I used to work at a Blockbuster and as a going away present (for when i went to college) they let me have the SUDDEN DEATH poster in the break room. It's one of my top 100 lifetime moments :-)

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  2. I’m glad I’m not the only one that struggles with the issues you list in #3. #LetTheHealingBegin

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    1. OMG...it destroys my evenings sometimes. Like right now. I would love to watch a movie but I can't make any decisions.

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  3. great read. I'm a huge fan of these theaters that offer in theater dining ( although I was skeptical at first) or a lounge for before and after drinks and food. The amc in my area has huge spacious recliner seats in the theater. Each theater only holds like 75 to 100 people. I also love theaters that let u reserve specific seats in advance. Takes the stress off of gettin to the movie super early to get good seats.

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    1. Thanks Eric B! I find assigned seating stressful but that's for another column.

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  4. I was very lucky growing up, in that our town had an old-time movie theatre downtown called the Paramount. It was gloriously cheesy, with grand red curtains and elaborate sculpted gewgaws. All the Star Wars films showed there, and one of my great movie-going memories was lining up in 1980 to see The Empire Strikes Back. When Han Solo said his last line in that film, the whole audience went off like a firecracker. As irritating and annoying as going to the movies can be, moments like that make it all worthwhile.

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    1. I miss the days of lining up for movies as odd as that sounds.

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  5. Great list.
    I love how you guys come up with new ideas so often

    I love the communal experience of the pictures. Especially seeing a new horror movie with a horror audience. That for me is what I love about movies.

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    1. Thanks Dennis! We really appreciate all of your support and comments :-)

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  6. Great article Adam, and sums up alot of the same thoughts I have. I think the escapism factor (#2) is probably the biggest one for me. Also just that you are kind of forcibly not able to fret around (pause to answer an important call, rewind because you're not sure you heard that last line right, feel pressured to turn it off because the dishes really need to get done, etc).

    For the record vanilla Barq's is probably my favorite too. It's just like rootbeer Xtra or something. The only one I've had that I would not recommend is Orange Coke. Imagine a Coke and Sunkist half and half. Something didn't mix right.

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  7. Adam, your comments about what you enjoy about the movies were very interesting. I used to enjoy getting the brochures that showed the movies that would be coming in the next few weeks. I also love the smell of the popcorn, the neon lights, and the posters of the vintage movies. I really miss the old movie palaces like the ones built by the Balban and Katz chain.

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    1. Thanks for the comment! I wish I could have gone to those Balban and Katz theaters. The way you've described them in the past sounds like they were pretty great.

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