OPINION: A movie is meant for the theater

An infographic showing the comparison between watching movies in movie theaters to streaming services.

Ethan Potter

An infographic showing the comparison between watching movies in movie theaters to streaming services.

Ethan Potter, Staff Writer

Six southern California Regal theaters closed Jan. 20 2023. Damaged by the pandemic, the movie theater industry has changed. With the continuing rise of streaming services, fewer movies are going to movie theaters and instead heading straight to streaming and many find themselves asking why they should go.

Last year, many movies went straight to streaming, a trend that started in 2020 and continued into 2021. This is prevalent with studios like Disney, who released several animated films like “Turning Red ” exclusively for Disney Plus subscribers, and also seen with film franchises like “Knives Out” having a limited release to only some movie theaters because of Netflix. When these movies could have made a profit in theaters.

Many people feel streaming services are the more comfortable option, especially now when more movies are going straight to streaming and they don’t actually have to go to theaters to see a new movie. They let them take bathroom breaks in the middle which would not be possible without missing a movie playing in theaters. When based on the assumption these movies in theaters will be on streaming soon, then most people will wait a few months to watch it in a more comfortable environment. Not only that but theater audiences can be loud and rude, so why should we go out of our way to go?

There are a few reasons why we should definitely keep going to the cinema. It is not only an area in which films can be projected at their loudest potential, adding to their performance, but also puts viewers in an environment as a communal experience of pop culture.

Some films are definitely meant to be seen in the theater. Even with the best home movie setup, which most of us do not have, we are limited by standard tv size, and have to be quiet, sometimes out of courtesy to our neighbors. The theater is the place where movies are allowed to be loud, and where they are presented in their best form.

When seeing “Avatar: Way of the Water,” the sound and screen actively enhanced the experience as well as other additions like the 3D which put a collective audience in audible awe at what they were seeing. The 3D did not make “Avatar: Way of the Water” a better movie, rather it enhanced the viewing experience of an already great movie.
Something that is also lost in streaming is the audience reaction.

Unless you are by yourself in a theater or you have a very excited friend group come to a watch party, the communal experience is generally lost. Film directs our attention to a common experience, so you are able to share a laugh, a moment of silence, or even cheer along with complete strangers. This reminds us that while we may have differences, we share many of the same emotional experiences.

To be fair, an audible cheer is more likely to be heard on opening night. Again with “Avatar: Way of the Water” there was a collective buildup of praise to a certain plot line’s climax which ended with the audience cheering and even I joined in on the social influence.

“While when you are at home you are just by yourself or with your family, watching it and you do not get that same excitement, obviously you are still excited because it’s a crazy moment,” Junior Emil Hernandez said. It’s just a moment at least for me when I went to go watch in theaters it was like ‘Oh my God’ if I was at home it would not be the same feeling whatsoever”

This phenomenon is observable in the Buena filmmaking class as well. The class makes short films and when everyone finishes they get to watch each other’s short films and react to them. After checking if they are appropriate, Filmmaking Teacher Amanda Graves prefers watching them with the class.

“That’s one of my favorite parts of the classes, doing the screenings and you guys getting to see what each person does, and then hearing the reactions to your work,” Graves said.

And this communal experience of the theater was seen again last year when the Filmmaking class put together a screening of 6 short films and showed it in the little theater with audience members that were not filmmaking students. One of those students was Hernandez.

“Screening the films in the little theater with bigger sound and a bigger screen and all the lights off it adds another, I guess it is corny, but a level of magic to having your work experienced, it is a cool thing,” Graves said.

Another thing for audiences to consider is seeing movies with your friends; Seeing a movie with others allows you to talk about the movie right after,when it is still fresh in your mind which is also present if you’re able to do a watch party.

Ultimately, audiences could use a bit of both. When a movie is playing in theaters it may be beneficial to experience it in an engrossing environment. The problem arises when some movies are limited to only on streaming. Streaming may offer a more general sense of comfort to some but sometimes it is the audacious presentation, and the communal experience which makes a movie memorable which is the case for “Avatar: Way of the Water”