What’s the Best Way to Watch a Movie?

March 21, 2012 — 15 Comments

I watch a lot of movies, and you probably do, as well. When it comes to the actual watching part I do have preferences. In an ideal world I would see every movie in a huge, glamorous theatre, with a well-dressed, well-behaved audience and not a single food item or cell phone. The audience would stay totally quiet, expect for laughing/gasping/screaming/whooping at the appropriate times. If the theatre features classic style inclined seating then I wouldn’t allow any tall people in unless they agreed to sit behind me. The image would be perfectly projected on 35mm or digital (for digitally shot films only) and would be constant-height so that scope films are truly the widest viewable on the screen. The sound would be THX certified and scalable to 7.1 surround. There wouldn’t be any ambient lighting whatsoever. Nobody would be allowed to enter or exit the auditorium during showtime.

THAT would be my preferred way to see a film in an ideal world. Of course, this isn’t an ideal world, and that has to be taken into account.

It seems like theatres are increasingly crappier. Audiences are more and more disrespectful. Going to the movies is often a terrible experience. But how about the home viewing experience? First of all, the distractions are there and are worse. Phone calls and door bells. Even the ability to pause is a distraction? Second, the screen size is hardly great. I’ve got a projection system and even that isn’t quite the same as seeing a movie at the cinema.

But home viewing is often preferable for exactly those reasons. It’s comfortable. You can pause a film to take a call if necessary. You can pause when you go to the washroom! You can even stop a movie in the middle and pick it up later. It’s wonderful. Full control. Which raises the question: does that put too much in the hands of the audience? Shouldn’t the audience be enveloped in the film rather than the audience controlling how the movie plays? Do movies lose effectiveness at home? Or maybe they gain more. Maybe the ability to pause and reflect a moment gives the necessary time to unwind. It’s not that difficult to do, but it’s true that human beings have a difficult time concentrating on one thing for the length of time required by a movie. Maybe movies should be at the whim of the audience.

In the end it all comes down to what the best way to watch a movie is, or whether there is such a thing at all. I know my preferred way of watching, and while I don’t necessarily think it’s the only correct way to watch, I definitely try to reach for that ideal when possible. How do you watch movies? What’s your dream movie-watching environment? Do you go out to the cinema anymore? Do you have an awesome home theatre set-up? Do you just stream movies on your computer? Let me know in the comments.


15 responses to What’s the Best Way to Watch a Movie?

    sanclementejedi March 21, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    Nice topic, I think I would prefer my first viewing of a film to be in a nice theater. Although unlike you I would want some popcorn 🙂

    However, I am all for subsequent viewings at home so I can pause, rewind to watch scenes over, take notes more easily, or take a nap.


      Yeah, I actually like the idea of pausing and rewinding on subsequent viewings. At that point it’s less like you’re watching it for the experience, but more to really get deeper into it and be analytical.

    chandlerswainreviews March 21, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    Definitely to see films on a large screen is the optimum condition. I fear that, as you mentioned, the temptation we have at home with the pause button is causing a fracturing of our viewing habits. While it allows us the ability to stop and rewind a part we might want to reclarify, it might also be giving us the very bad habit of not paying attention as closely as we normally would have. I wonder, even going to a theater, with the knowledge within weeks we can have the film at home, at our leisure, if this doesn’t cause us to not focus as intently as we would have normally before the cushion of (only briefly delayed from theatrical exhibition) home viewing.


      You bring up an interesting point about how quickly movies come to DVD. It almost seems to devalue theatre-going. The audience seems to take the film as a theatrical experience for granted.


    Awesome. I love seeing movies and hate hate seeing movies at the theaters. It’s definitely a love hate relationship lol.


      Yes. The love-hate relationship seems to be at the core of films. Sort of like how I hate the idea of long movies, but my #1 film of all time is the super long Redux version of Apocalypse Now.


    It depends on the mood I’m in. Sometimes I like watching a bad movie in a theater full of loud people. For that, it’s all about the communal experience.


      Going to see a bad movie with an audience who is excited about seeing a bad movie can be a lot of fun. A number of years ago I went to a special screening in Toronto of Troll 2. It was an amazing experience, and the film itself is incredibly, awesomely terrible.


    I am typically a home viewer but for the non-theater format, I’m surprisingly flexible.

    I took my younger daughter to see The Lorax tonight, and we were the only two in the theater. I liked that quite a bit.


    That description sounds perfect. I’d probably prefer an empty movie theatre all to myself. Movies should be watched on the big screen preferably. But since I do most of my watching on the go and at home I guess I don’t always see them in the way they are meant to be seen.


      The reason my ideal includes an audience, is that I do tend to believe that watching films can be a great communal experience. A comedy feels funnier when you’re part of a group and everyone is laughing. Horror movies may not feel scarier, but they feel more alive.


    No matter how many texters, talkers, and misbehaviors there are, I will ALWAYS consider the theatre to be the best way to see a movie.


    Like most movie buffs, I prefer seeing a movie in a theatre, but strictly for the picture and sound quality, both of which, when handled well, provide for the most engaging experience possible.

    On the flip side, I really, really like lying on my coach with a bowl of cereal or a meal I prepared and watching a movie on blu-ray. I can go to the bathroom, i can get more food when I want to and at no extra cost. I’m pretty freaking comfortable watching films in my living room to be honest.

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