Since the start of 2015, I have seen 222 films at the cinema; that’s one every three and a half days give or take. I can count on two hands (and maybe a foot) the number of times I have been with another person. I have heard all of the archetypal queries and opinions on this habit and they usually boil down to “but don’t you like other people’s company? or “don’t you like to talk about the film afterwards?” Admittedly these have died down slightly as I have moved from school age through university, but occasionally I still encounter some raised eyebrows.
On the first question, yes I do enjoy other people’s company and I do like to be sociable. But given that going to the cinema involves sitting in a dark room for two or more hours in silence, I don’t really know how sociable it is possible to be. Moreover, I do, like most people, need time to myself now and then, and a screening room, cut off from the outside world in every possible way, is a great place to go to get that time. Now, I have been to the cinema with people who get around this by thinking it is acceptable to talk during a film, and perhaps this is one of the reasons I gave up on going with friends in the first place. Talking during a film is flat out disrespectful, to both the filmmakers and to your fellow audience members. To quote The Social Network, you do not need to act “as if every thought that tumbles through your head was so clever it would be a crime for it not to be shared” because trust me, it isn’t. The filmmaker has spent years crafting every image and every sound you experience, while the people around you have paid with their money and time to experience that craft. Don’t talk.
As for the matter of post-film socialising, I will accept that I am perhaps in the minority when I say that I actively avoid talking about the film, or talking at all if possible, for a good while after I’ve seen it, until I’ve made up my own mind on what I’ve experienced. It’s all part of the process. When I go to the cinema, I have a ritual; I get there early, I get the seat that I always sit in, I turn my phone off when the trailers start, I don’t eat or drink anything while the film is playing, I don’t leave the room or speak while the film is playing, I don’t move until after the end credits have finished and I don’t try and verbalise any thoughts on what I’ve just watched for at least an hour. To be fair, I’ve gotten many more raised eyebrows at the fact that I have a preferred seat in all 6 cinema screens I am ever regularly in than I have for the fact that I go to said cinema by myself. But then again don’t you have a preferred seat in those places that you go to at least once or twice a week? Your living room? The table where you eat? Lectures and seminars?
Going to the cinema alone has also thrown up some additional perks that I would otherwise not have had. For instance, I have from time to time had conversations with others in attendance; strangers, more distant acquaintances, and at festivals such as the Glasgow Film Festival which took place at the end of February, people involved in the industry. If I had company I would be unlikely to strike up conversation before the film with anyone else I found there. But it is those interactions which are more unique and sometimes interesting than the interactions I could have with a friend who I see on a regular basis.
Now, I’m willing to accept that my film going habits are not typical, and it is probably possible to treat the experience with less reverence than I do. Nevertheless, my experiences have showed me that going to the cinema on your own, while still treated with a taboo of sorts, does not detract from the experience of watching the film, protects you from accidentally going with someone who is going to be a nightmare to sit next to for two hours and may just give you opportunity to interact with someone who you would otherwise not have interacted with. You never know, you might make a new friend who you can avoid going to the cinema with for years to come.
[Tim Abrams – @timabrams123]