Random Question: The Theatrical Experience

A few months back when me and my girlfriend spent the weekend in the city of Dunedin, we had the privilege of seeing a brilliant film that we both loved in the cinema, instead of just on Blu-Ray. The film was Lawrence of Arabia, David Lean’s beautiful, timeless epic, a 60s masterpiece that will always remain one of my favourite films of all time.

But seeing classic movies in the theatre isn’t as easy as it sounds. It’s very rare for cinemas in New Zealand to show classic films, so this was really once in a lifetime.  In the city I live in, there’s only one cinema, and it only shows new releases. This, I think is pathetic. But we’ve had to live with it.

My good friend John at The Droid You’re Looking for recently wrote a post about how the experience of watching a film can sometimes be lost when watching it on the small screen, and many people responded with their thoughts on the matter. And this begs the question:

What are some of your favourite films that you want to see in the cinema? What are some films that you really, deeply love, but have never been given the chance to see in a theatre? Films that you believe would look much better in a theatre than at home.

For me, the choice is tricky, but I’d probably have to go with either Citizen Kane (1941), Fanny and Alexander (1982), Apocalypse Now (1979) or Play Time (1967). Probably Play Time would be my number one pick, because there is so much to see in every single shot that watching it at home completely cuts out so much of the amazing tiny little details the film has to offer.


Posted on December 7, 2011, in Movies, Random Question and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 26 Comments.

  1. The Soviet version of War And Peace from 1967. That would be one hell of an experience.

  2. For me, any movie with cinematography that’s to die for. Basically, Lawrence of Arabia, Sweet Smell of Success and The Thin Red Line.

  3. Christian Hallbeck

    The question is hypothetical in my case, since I never go to the cinema anymore. I can’t stand watching a movie with people I don’t know. It doesn’t work for me. I’m unable to concentrate (for various reasons). It’s a waste of money. However, when I lived in Stockholm during the 90’s (and a three years into the 00’s), I used to frequently visit a small cinema called Fågel Blå (Blue Bird), that annually showed nearly all of Ingmar Bergmans films. Sometimes the owner invited people that had worked on the film that was shown on the specific evening; with discussions afterwards at the next door café… One evening I sat behind Gunnar Fischer during the screening of “The Magician”; which he (of course) had photographed.

    No, I’m not at all comfortable at the cinema. Although I must admit that the cinematic experience of the chiming bells at the end of “Breaking the Waves”, was something to remember…

    As was the screenings of “Wild Strawberries” two evenings in a row at different cinemas in the mid 90’s – after which i rambled the streets of Stockholm for a considerable time; blind to the world; full of what I had just experienced…

    • You sat behind Gunnar Fischer? You lucky bastard! First you stand in line behind Gunnar Björnstrand and now you’re in the theatre behind Fischer! Amazing.

      BREAKING THE WAVES… yes, I can imagine that would be quite something in a theatre. Those bells…

      WILD STRAWBERRIES would’ve been good in a theatre too. I love that film.

  4. I’d love to see Gone with the Wind in cinemas, but 222 mins is a long time. I’m pretty bummed now that I missed The Red Shoes at the film festival last year, because that film must have looked so beautiful on the big screen. Basically, I would love to see my favourite early Technicolour films on the big screen, because that would be so cool.

    A film I’d love to see on the big screen again, though, is The Tree of Life. Yeah, it was beautiful on Blu-Ray, but that didn’t match up to the cinema experience. Same with Inception.

    • I still need to see GONE WITH THE WIND. I’m pretty sure I saw it as a kid but I was very impatient back then so I doubt I sat through the entire 222 minutes.

  5. A movie I missed in theater and always wanted to check out theatrically is Saving Private Ryan. I think it would have left me speechless given that I already love the movie as is, seeing it on the small screen.

  6. There are so many I’d like to see in the cinema so I’m not even going to try and list them. There are some cinemas over here that do show older movies, so I saw the first Indiana Jones two months ago. Last month they showed all Godfather movies (wasn’t able to go) and this month they are showing The Wizard of Oz.

  7. If I had money top throw away I would open a small dingy theatre that screened a variety of films people would never get to see in the cinema, or even on DVD for that matter. Midnight screenings of B-Grade classics. Week long marathons of John Waters, Jim Jarmusch and David Lynch. Every last Friday of the month would be Rocky Horror night (no entry without costume.)

    I have never seen The Rocky Horror Picture Show in a theatre which is really the only way to see it, as a midnight screening with everyone dressed as their favourite characters, shouting abuse at the screen and dancing along to the music numbers.

    I was reading other posts and someone mentioned how they feel uncomfortable watching films with strangers which I can understand logically but that is the true appeal of watching a film in a theatre. The unification of the large group if strangers all laughing, crying, gasping together.

    The greatest cinema experience I remember was There’s Something About Mary. I was 12 or 13 at the time but my Dad knew the ticket salesperson at the time and I got in. Within the first joke of the film the entire theatre was in stitches and the laughter was infectious for the remainder of the film. It’s strange that I never go to comedies at the cinema anymore considering this was a highlight and even though I still love ‘Mary’ after countless viewings at home, it will never be the same as watching it for the first time in the theatre.

    The last Harry Potter was a disappointment for me but watching it in the theatre made it far more entertaining with the audience participation.

    I would want to watch any film in a theatre, especially with a vocal audience.

    • I agree with you about the atmosphere of a theatre. It feels so much more special to have a group of strangers experiencing the same emotions as you, than it does to be sitting at home with chips watching a Blu-Ray on a 42″ screen. There is a big difference.

      I would love to see a theatre showing weeklong marathons of Jarmusch, Waters and Lynch, expecially Lynch as I’ve always wanted to see INLAND EMPIRE in a theatre.

  8. As you saw in my comment to John’s post I kinda disagree with him. But I am coming from a gifted position having a true home cinema. I am lucky enough to be able to immerse myself in a blacked out room with a 92″ screen and big SUB woofer and surrounds, oh and a wife that understands that I need quiet

    Saying that I have had an amazing time seeing films at Dukes, such a great art house cinema. They are always doing classics there, maybe I should indulge myself more.

    • Oh how I envy your blacked out room and 92″ screen. One day, for me, that shall hopefully eventuate, but for now I’m stuck with a 42″ screen (upgrading to 50″ next year, hopefully), and the only way I can get complete darkness in the room is by watching a film in the middle of the night, which I rarely do.

      • I’m lucky to have a very similar setup to Scott’s at home, so I think I have the cinematic experience very nearly replicated.

        I still frequently go to the theatre though, usually sneaking out of work early for matinee shows that only have a handful of other patrons who are usually quiet movie lovers. I get annoyed by packed crowds eating noisy snacks and laughing at the wrong times.

        As for classics, I think something like Visconti’s THE LEOPARD would be great to see on a massive screen.

      • Just cause it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s not super heplful.

      • It’s good to get a fresh way of looking at it.

  9. I’d kill to see any Bergman film on the big screen, namely Cries and Whispers. Also… 2001.

  10. I’ve seen Apocalypse Now in a theatre. I went in hoping it would be the original theatrical version, but it was the Redux (disappointed!). Still, it was great on the big screen. I also saw Aliens, Blue Velvet, A Clockwork Orange and 2001: A Space Odyssey. We have an indie cinema in Sydney that occasionally screens classics.

  11. Good question, and I’ve enjoyed reading everyone else’s comments. Some films need/deserve to be watched on the big screen, like your big hitters like Apocalypse Now and Saving Private Ryan.

    Off the top of my head I’d love to watch Alien. I get jumpy just watching it on my 40in TV at home so I’d be really freaked seeing it at the cinema!

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