What Is Your Favorite Moviegoing Experience?
Despite the exorbitant ticket prices and perpetually sticky floors, there is still nothing like seeing a movie in a theater. The feeling of community that comes from gathering together to watch the latest blockbuster or tiny art house offering is unparallelled. We all have that one perfect theater experience– sometimes it’s because of the quality of the film, other times it’s the quality of your theater companions, and every so often it’s a combination of the two. With the summer movie season almost upon us, I’ve found myself reflecting on my favorite moviegoing experiences in anticipation of what is sure to be an excellent movie season.
Growing up in a rural area, I spent my formative years in what can only be described as a movie desert, and as a result my childhood memories hold precious few momentous big screen moments. I did manage to see Titanic twice, which to my young, Leonardo DiCaprio obsessed mind was a transcendent experience. Looking back, I now realize that by breaking Alfred Hitchcock’s rule about movie running times and having an entire second half filled with scenes of gushing water, it was more torturous than transcendent, but at the time I was captivated.
My actual favorite theater experience came much later, during my first year of college. Like most fangirls of a certain age, I am a Joss Whedon devotee. I spent my teen years watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel before discovering Firefly in syndication on the Syfy channel (during the days when it’s name still made sense). I immediately became obsessed with the wild west meets space opera vibe of the series, and in short order I began cursing in Mandarin and confusing my friends with crazy talk about Browncoats and The Alliance. When I realized that Firefly was going to keep flying on the big screen I was elated. Then I remembered where I lived and how small the likelihood of the Big Damn Movie coming to a theater near me actually was.
Luckily, I have a very understanding and indulgent mother who was willing to drive roughly seventy miles to take her non-driving, college-aged daughter to see a western space opera. (Years later, I repaid the favor by sitting through It’s Complicated, which featured a very hairy and mostly naked Alec Baldwin, so I like to think we’re even.) Serenity was well worth the effort. The theater itself contained no more than five people, but we were an excited, enraptured five people. Every time I’ve watched the movie since that first time, I’ve remembered how it felt to see the crew introduced in that first gorgeous tracking shot. Because of my preexisting love of the television series, it was like checking in with old friends as we watched Mal navigate his way through Serenity’s corridors and converse with the crew.
The experience was emotional and beautiful and fun. It’s the one theater outing to which all other theater outings must be compared to. If you’ll allow me to be corny: I laughed, I cried and I left the theater chattering at lightning speed about everything I had just witnessed. It was a perfect movie moment.
The only other moviegoing experience that has come close to replicating my perfect Serenity evening came last summer when I made the trek out to see The Avengers. Again, the film was directed by Whedon, but this time the theater was packed. It felt as if I had come full circle as I watched Whedon’s name flash across the big screen. Once again, the movie itself was fun, exciting and full of Whedon’s trademark quipping, but this time my own laughter was lost in a sea of laughter from my fellow moviegoing comrades. By the time the lights came up at the end, I couldn’t imagine feeling more content, both because a writer/director that I loved had come so far, but also because I had just watched a movie in a crowded theater full of people who were every bit as enamored with what they had just seen as I was.
I’m going to turn things over to you now. What is your favorite moviegoing experience? What made it so special? Sound off in the comments below or hit me up on Twitter @sljbowman.