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Big Screen vs. Small Screen and Why I Care

September 1, 2009

I am an avid movie-goer. This may already be obvious by the fact that I have (and even occasionally update) a movie recommendation blog, but I enjoy movies. A lot.

But note that the noun is ‘movie-goer’ not ‘movie-watcher.’ I could easily be an avid movie-watcher, and buy DVDs left and right and play them on my obscene home-entertainment system. If I had an obscene home-entertainment system. (We do alright, with a small flat screen and a modest collection of our favorites, but it’s nothing to brag about.) But while I do enjoy watching movies in the comfort of my own home, there’s something special about going out to the movies.

Big Screen

I like the smell of movie popcorn (although I rarely get it, because I don’t much care for the taste); I like sitting in a large room with many other people to collectively enjoy a show; I even like waiting in line for blockbuster opening nights, especially if it’s a movie I’ve been dying to see.

And, of course, the quintessential part of going to see any movie: previews. How else am I to know what I’ll be dying to see next?

But all that aside, there’s just something magical about seeing a story played out on a 30 foot screen with a crowd of other people who are similarly caught up in the magic of the moment.

And there are some movies that I don’t think should ever be watched on the so-called “small screen.” Anything smaller than 20 feet across just can’t do justice to the likes of John McClane, or Neo, or Indiana Jones.

Small Screen

That being said, there are several advantages to staying home and being an avid movie-watcher:

1) It costs less.

You save on gas, you save on tickets, you save on candy or popcorn, if you can bring yourself to buy it.

2) It’s often more comfortable.

I know that there have been “advances” in movie theater seating in recent years, but there’s only so much comfort that can be derived from a small chair for several hours, no matter how plushy it is.

3) You don’t have to worry about getting a sitter for the kids (dogs?) or worry about all the stuff that you won’t get done that evening because you’re driving into town (across town, wherever) to see a show.

But there are also downsides to staying home:

1) Interruptions.

The aforementioned kids/dogs/chores can very easily create interruptions that detract from the movie viewing experience and drag you out of the story. Not that tending to those interruptions isn’t important, but there’s something to be said for going away from them and fully immersing yourself in the experience of the movie.

2) The pause button.

A great invention, to be sure, especially when the above interruptions occur, as they inevitably will, but the more you pause the movie, the more you lose the flow of the story. TV programs are designed to have pauses (they’re called commercials), but movies aren’t. Unless you’ve seen a movie before, it’s hard to know when is going to be a good time to pause it to minimize disruption.

There are many people who don’t care how awesome an explosion looks on a 30 foot screen, or how much more you can dive into the story of a movie when you’re immersed in the experience in the theater. Those people will probably never see the point of my argument for going to the theater, but I will say this:

There is something to be said for enjoying a creative work in the manner in which the creator intended it to be enjoyed. Movies were created to be watched from 40 feet away on a huge screen. Sure, you can enjoy them in on a smaller screen with little (and often no) loss in quality, especially with the advent of cheaper, crisper flat screen TVs, but that’s not the format that the creator originally intended.

It’s like watching a foreign film dubbed (more on that in a later post) or watching a fullscreen version of a movie or show that was shot widescreen (yet another forthcoming post). You may not be missing much, but you’re missing something.

Coming soon… My recommendation of Legally Blonde. Stay tuned.


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