The Moviegoing Experience

It might sound silly, but to me, there’s something magical about going to see a movie in the theater.

It often goes something like this. You arrive at the theater, get your tickets, and meet up with your friends. The group of you talk and laugh and share in the excitement of whatever movie it is you’re about to see. When the time is right, you enter the theater and do your best to find some really good seats. In the past, I liked sitting far in the back, but now I like to sit closer, so that the screen fills just about my entire field of vision. Less distracting and more immersive that way, at least to me.

You and your friends keep laughing and chatting until the previews start, which you quiet down for, but you still can’t help but make some commentary on the trailers that you liked or didn’t like. Then, finally, after the screen pleads for you to turn off your phone, the lights slowly dim down, and the film begins. Ideally, a hush falls over the crowd right at this moment.

Seeing the movie itself is magical (if the movie is good, that is), but that moment when the lights go down is really special in itself. To me, it’s just like when you go to see a play and the same thing happens. The dimming of the lights is like crossing the threshold from the real world into the world that the filmmakers have created, pulling you into an experience.

That’s what a movie is to me. It’s an experience. It’s not merely entertainment. Filmmaking is an art form, and sure, there are plenty of films out there that abuse the medium and are not worth anyone’s time. But there are also many films out there that are truly creative. Immersive. Magical. Timeless. Soul-stirring. Riveting. Even life-changing. Those are the kind of movies that I love seeing in a dark theater on an enormous screen with crystal-clear surround sound. I find that it’s the best way to experience the audiovisual art form known as cinema.

Anyway, if the movie is good, you keep your eyes locked on the screen, drinking it all in, enjoying the story and the characters, marveling at the technical skills being put on display, relishing the sound design and the music. Occasionally, you may whisper a reaction or a thought to the person next to you. Other times, you may laugh out loud, or cheer for joy, or even cry your eyes out. And when the credits start to roll, you stand and applaud along with everyone else in the theater. Then you all exit the theater and talk about the movie. And talk. And talk. And talk. You can’t stop talking about it, because the movie impacted you. It meant something to you.

Movies are powerful.

As I’ve said, if they’re good. And also if your theater experience is as sublime as the one I just described. Sometimes, you run into people who don’t respect the moviegoing experience. They range from mildly annoying (someone playing on their phone the whole time) to excruciatingly frustrating (people talking and reacting much too loudly). I feel sorry for these kinds of people. They just don’t seem to understand all the work, heart, skill, and passion that goes into creating a film. They don’t see movies as art. They see them as a fun little escape from the real world for a couple of hours, during which time they can act however they want, regardless of the people around them.

In a perfect world, everyone would want to keep the moviegoing experience magical. Sadly, we don’t live in a perfect world. So what’s my point?

My point is that cinema is an art form, and one that deserves respect. Seeing a good movie in a theater with an audience that understands this is one of the most magical experiences this world has to offer. I only wish that more people saw it that way.

Well, that was a little more melancholy than I originally anticipated. Anyway, next time I’ll have a more enthusiastic post about my reactions to the E3 reveal of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild! Late, I know, but better late than never. Until then!


Drama is Magic

Drama is magic.

No, I don’t mean drama as in breakups and pointless fights among friends. I mean drama in the original sense — theater, acting, performing. That sort of thing.

Why is it “magic?” I really don’t know for sure. All I know is that there is something incredibly special about it — something so special that “magic” is the only word that can describe it well enough. Allow me to attempt to explain why I think so.

So, a play is announced, and you go to audition for it, probably alongside a bunch of friends if you’ve had similar experiences to my own. At the auditions, you’re nervous and sometimes probably embarrassed, but you stick it out and do the best you can, often receiving encouragement from your friends.

Later, you get a call from the director(s) offering you your role(s). If you’re like me, you’re absolutely ecstatic and say yes without any hesitation. You can hardly wait for the first rehearsal, and when it finally comes, there’s even more excitement than there was at the auditions.

You read through the script with your friends — now your fellow actors and actresses. You start memorizing your lines. You start blocking scenes. Things get better and better at every rehearsal. It’s hard work, but it’s great fun at the same time.

After a while, it all leads up to opening night. You get into costume, get your makeup/hair done, and wait. Before long, you hear an audience begin to gather in the auditorium. The tension among everyone backstage is almost tangible. There’s excitement, there’s nerves, sometimes there’s absolute terror.

In my experience, all of the negative emotions go away as soon as the play begins and you hear the audience enjoying it. Most often, the audience laughs much more than you thought they would — you tend to forget how great a play is after rehearsing it so many times. As you act on the stage, you get so immersed in your character that you almost forget what’s really going on. The same goes for the audience — if everyone in the play does well, they create an illusion for everyone watching, making them forget where they are and all of their troubles. They create magic for them.

Before you know it, the show is over, and you get to hear the audience give their final applause during curtain call. You walk out to take your bow, and the applause grows louder. It’s the audience’s way of saying: “Thank you for creating magic for us to enjoy.”

And as you smile at the audience and bow, it’s your way of saying: “You are so welcome.”

After the show, you meet your audience and rejoice with your friends. You hear compliments from people telling what a great job you did, and you feel like the happiest person on earth.

Most of the time, more shows follow the first. And then, once the final show is over… you’re done. You help take down everything, you go to the cast party for a final hurrah, and you go to bed that night feeling as though you’ll never be happy again. When you wake up in the morning, you find yourself back in ordinary, day-to-day life — a jarring transition after spending so much time and energy on a production.

Thankfully, you get used to it pretty soon. At the same time, you know that you will never, ever forget the wonderful experiences the play brought you. The magic still lives inside you. I know that probably sounds a little corny, but it’s true, at least in my experience.

So what is it about drama that’s so magical? Is it getting the role you most wanted? Sure, that can be part of it. Is it having a blast with your fellow cast and crew? Absolutely, that’s another part of it.

But I think, most of all, drama is magic because it allows the actors, crew, and directors to give a wonderful gift to the audience. To allow them to escape reality and be immersed in a story, with the hope that, by experiencing it, each of their lives will be a little bit brighter than before.

That’s a very beautiful thing, and that’s why drama is magic to me.