Monday, July 29, 2013

Going to Theaters / Movies Alone

My name is ______ and I go to the movies alone.

Bored and/or unemployed
It's been a while since I last went though. The last time must have been a few years ago, so more accurately, I used to go to the movies alone. I started doing it after I finished college and went unemployed for about half a year. If you're not aware, being on a permanent vacation is rather boring. After I started temping (i.e. found a full-time job), I kept going alone because I worked a few blocks away from two major theater chains and it became a weekly thing.

One winter, I really wanted to go see The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and had no friends who wanted to go. It was just after Christmas, I was between temp contracts and had a few weeks off, but the thought of going to a theater alone was nerve-wracking.

Going to movies alone is a social taboo. The movie theater is commonly known as a social activity and only to be done with friends. Anyone who goes alone is apparently seen as a "loser" with no friends. This has been common knowledge since I was a kid. It's funny and stupid when you start thinking about it. You're going to sit in a dark room where everyone should shut up and watch a movie, but you're supposed to go with friends to be "social" where you shouldn't talk? It's a social taboo to talk or pull a phone out in theaters too. Something doesn't add up...

Anyways, at some point, the sheer boredom of having two weeks off and the desire to go see the movie overwhelmed all of my inhibitions. I went, I watched, and I enjoyed.

The good thing was that the theater had ticket machines, so minimal human contact was necessary on my way to the seat. I chose to sit about 7/8 up near the back and to a side. It was a matinee, early afternoon show just after Christmas too. The result was a near empty theater with fewer than a dozen people sharing the room -- fewer eyes to see my loser-ity.

I had company though. There were at least two or three other people, all female, who sat alone near the front with popcorn and beverage in hand. By the time the movie finished, it was dark, and I went home with a new sense of "don't give a shit".

Over the hill
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was my first but not my last. Having stepped over the hill, I began to make going to movies alone a regular activity. It felt more enjoyable than going with friends. There's no pressure to talk to anyone, fewer opportunities to be interrupted, no scheduling issues, no cancelled plans, and no need to worry about how the other party enjoyed the show. I watched whatever I wanted whenever I wanted.

The Joy of the Matinee
Afternoon shows, when everyone else was at work, were the best. I had the theater mostly to myself with a few other stragglers, which meant few interruptions from people pulling out phones or just getting up to leave. The choice of seats was also limitless. My usual spot became the exact same place I made a beeline for throughout college in lecture halls: three-quarters of the way back to the right (facing the screen). Unfortunately, I could only make these afternoon shows while I was unemployed.

Death of the theater experience
While I was still temping, work lasted a month or two, then I had a week or more off. Also, I had theaters really close to where I worked. During these times, I went on weekday evenings right after work. There were more people than matinee shows, but I could always look forward to the weeks I had off between contracts.

Then I found a permanent full-time job located a long ways away from a theater and home. I tried to keep going to movies by going to later weekday shows. This didn't work well because the travel time meant I got home later and had to get up earlier to get to work. And the new job was busier, which meant I was more tired by the end of the day. How about weekends? Dead.

Weekends killed theaters for me. I went to a few afternoon weekend shows and the theaters were busy. The choice of seats was limited and I had to sit between people. No more crossing my legs or being able to throw my jacket and bag in the seat beside me. Phones were turned on non-stop, people getting up to walk around, coming in (some probably sneaking in 2/3 of the way through) constantly, etc. Worst of all, I didn't have the weeks off for matinee shows to look forward to. What really put the nail in the coffin was a trip to see Avatar on the opening weekend in 3D.

Avatar and the late arrivals
In retrospect, it was stupid to go see such a huge movie on the opening weekend. I didn't know how big it was at the time. Even worse, I got there with about 10 minutes before show time, which meant the theater was at capacity. The good thing was that I managed to find a seat three-quarters of the way up and to the right. The bad thing was that there was no space to move around.

While playing seat-origami, I dropped my 3D glasses on the floor. No big deal, they were wrapped in plastic, and I'd use them for two hours and recycle them, right? Definitely not a big deal -- if the floor wasn't soaked in a pool of Pepsi or Coke that I put my hand in when searching for the glasses in the dark. So, I got up to wash my hands and took everything with me because no one I trusted was there to save my seat.

When I got back, someone had, rightfully, taken my seat. The only seats available were at the front. Begrudgingly, I ventured to the second row where I had to strain my neck up to see the screen. The end? Nope. Some family, part of four, decided to come in very late, take up two seats in the front row and two seats beside me. They then had the nerve to ask me to move so they could sit together. Worst. Mistake. Ever. I don't know why I felt obligated to move, but I did -- probably pissed and "not giving a shit" since my day was already going so bad. The next two hours were spent wrecking my neck and seeing a fuzzy picture because 3D glasses don't work properly when you look at the screen from 2' away.

The end of the solo movie experience
After Avatar, I went to one more movie alone on a day off for a matinee and stopped. That one terrible experience just killed movies for me. I tried to go with friends, but it just wasn't the same anymore. The solo matinee shows had spoiled me and at capacity theaters began to irritate me. It's been years since I've gone to a theater. Maybe I'll get fired and the sheer boredom will start a new cycle. Here's hoping...

Falling Asleep on the Public Transit
Sunscreen: Beating the sun, burning eyes, I hate you.
Usefulness of a Sound Level Meter
UV Beads: How to See Ultraviolet Light Indoors
Wearing earplugs in theaters, subways, concerts, everywhere!