Have you ever tried going to the movies alone? You should.
“One Saturday, I pretended I was going to services and I ducked out and I watched my first movie instead. The Adventures of Robin Hood. Errol Flynn, great movie.I went in, the lights go down, audience gets quiet, revertant like we're in place of worship.
Then the projector starts to hum, that magical beam of light picking up all those swirls of smoke in the air. It was like another planet, man. And then poof, wham, there's Robin Hood larger than life, swinging from tree to tree, shooting arrows through the ends of other arrows. Everybody glued to the screen. It was magic. Real magic. I knew right then that this was my calling.
That darkened movie theater became my church.”
That quote comes from Episode 3 of the 2022 Paramount+ drama “The Offer” about the making of the iconic film THE GODFATHER, spoken by former Paramount Studios Executive Robert “Bob” Evans played by Matthew Goode in the series.
This week, while I could (and should) review the past few films I’ve seen in theaters (NAPOLEON and SALTBURN) I am here to instead talk about “going” to the movies and why, if you haven’t, you should go to them alone. At least once.
I most commonly view movies by myself, in the theater. Wichita, Stillwater, the Cowley 8 in Ark City. I still remember the first movie I ever went to by myself, actually. I didn’t think it could be done, really.
You grow up going to the movies with your parents, or your friends. That’s natural. It’s an entertainment venue meant to be enjoyed as part of a group. The first time I went to the movies by myself, it was at the Carmike Cinema 4 in Ponca, before it became AMC just years prior to folding during the pandemic.
My parents went to see the animated comedy OPEN SEASON in 2006, but I wanted to see the late Robin Williams’ new film,MAN OF THE YEAR, where he plays a late-night talkshow host who begins an ironic campaign at presidency before realizing he actually has a shot at winning.
There was something spectacular about that. I only went by myself a handful of other times after that, specifically when my “movie friend” went to college in 2016. I saw the Brad Pitt WWII spy-thriller ALLIED and WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES.
Then, I began to like it. As the years went on, my friends had families. Relationships. More important things to do than going to the movies with me, not that I could blame them.
In 2018, I began to really go alone. I’d pick an early showing on a Saturday or Sunday, load up, and go to (usually) Ark City. I’d dress comfy, get there with plenty of time to check out some of the antique stores and other shops in Winfield or Ark City, and head into the theater will plenty of time for concessions, bathroom breaks, whatever.
It became therapeutic, in a way. What the TikTok generation calls “Self-Care Days”.
When you go with a group of your own people, you often talk amongst yourselves, so focused on eachother.
When you go to the movies alone, you really become “part of the audience”.
I remember during the pandemic driving up to Ark City on a particularly cold dark day to watch 2021’s DUNE, the adaptation of Frank Herbert’s acclaimed sci-fi novel series. I picked the 1:30 pm showing and, apparently, so did the local nursing home. It was me, aged 28, and a whole auditorium filled with elderly people. It was magical. They gasped and shouted, like they’d never seen anything like it. I liked to imagine they had read the book when it came out in 1965, and that this was like seeing that come to life.
I remember, recently, watching the FIVE NIGHTS AT FREDDY’S movie. Thinking I had picked a good time (1:15 pm I think) I thought I would have the place to myself, thinking that the franchise’s pre-teen fanbase would all flock to the later showings. I was wrong, and initially, I groaned at the thought of being in a theater filled with tweens. What I got, instead, was something I’d equate to heartwarming. I could hear the excited whispers all around the audience as the movie would make some reference to the “lore” that went over my head, but hit home with the kids whispering to their parents and to eachother.
Around Halloween, I went to see THE NUN II with an audience of people I’d say were about my age, and I loved hearing them gasp and scream as the demonic Nun proceeded to terrorize the poor sisters at the convent they were stationed at. Screaming, laughter, nervous giggling.
Monday, I went to see Ridley Scott’s historical epic NAPOLEON at The Hub in Tonkawa and while I thought I would have the theater to myself at 1:30 on a Monday, I didn’t expect to see an elderly couple just a row ahead of me, on a little day-date. The man was clearly a history buff, and would not-so-quietly whisper to his partner about the historic relevance of what was happening on screen, most notably the burning of Russia and the Battle of Waterloo.
This isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy watching movies with people, either. Like, people I bring to the cinema. Over the summer and year I saw DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, OPPENHEIMER, BARBIE, INSIDIOUS: THE RED DOOR, and ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE with people. Just before Thanksgiving a friend and I saw THE BALLAD OF SONGBIRDS & SNAKES.
Going to the movies with people you love is an experience in it’s own right, but I highly recommend maybe, just once, taking a trip to the cinema by yourself. I have had some of the most profound emotional experiences of my life seeing films alone: Taika Waititi’s NEXT GOAL WINS was one. I sat through the credits and cried through most of it, something I would not be afforded the luxury of doing with my friends (maybe).
So go for it.
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