The magic of the movie-going experience


By Kaanan Raja

With movies such as “Interstellar” and “Big Hero 6” in theaters, it’s hard for me to see why anyone wouldn’t want to head over to one of the many theaters in the area and grab a bucket of popcorn.

However, I spent an afternoon last week having arguments about whether it’s worth it to head to the Urbana-Champaign movie theaters, such as The Art Theater and the Virginia Theatre, when we could just stay in and watch TV. Ticket price, noisy preteens, the prohibition of cell phone use and expensive refreshment prices were all arguments thrown at me while I stood there, defending my love of movie-going.

What my friends couldn’t realize was how invaluable the cinema experience is. Films serve as more than just entertainment; they allow us to connect to a group of strangers through the same medium that leaves us each with a different moving message. With a large screen, dimmed lights and the possibility of midnight premieres to go to, the cinematic experience is one that cannot be beat.

Cinemas are like the cultural campfire that we all gather around to hear a similar story. It has the power to gather complete strangers around the same “fire” and leave them all with a parting message, all while surrounded in a cathedral-like atmosphere filled with the smell of popcorn and sound of surrounding speakers.

In fact, I would argue that cinema is the most powerful art form in present time. Psychologically, movies allow us to emotionally connect and experience a new world from the comfort of a chair.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
Thank you for subscribing!

While film can have the same visual effect on its viewers, each individual will interpret the movie differently. Some may become nostalgic of times they were in love, while others may connect to the movie through feelings of anger or bitterness.

Similarly, going to the cinema will allow this to occur: Each individual will leave with a range of emotions that help can make that experience memorable for a lifetime. With no other immediate distractions that are usually present if you’re in your own home, watching a movie at the cinema allows these emotions to completely transport you to the world of the movie playing in front of you.

My friends are probably not the only ones who believe that watching TV or movies from the comfort of their own rooms is more accessible and easier than physically going to the cinema. But there is one thing that cinemas will always have that no online streaming source will be able to beat: the midnight premiere.

The audience members that are present at these shows are usually the most fanatic of the bunch; they help raise the excitement level in the theater. Buzzing with anticipation, these die-hard fans murmur with one another until the film starts rolling. Then, the entire theater is filled with silence as the audience members are the first to be transported by the shared event.

While other forms of media, such as Netflix and Hulu, are definitely prevalent in today’s society, none of them will be as grandiose as the full movie theater experience. There is nothing more exhilarating than an audience that is loud, pumped-up and ready to laugh, cry and scream at the screen together. Movies are a social experience and the cinema fully captures this.

Movies will always leave lasting memories in my own life. Some of the best moments I remember involve laughing and crying in a movie theater with my family or friends. 

In fact, the first time my parents let me go to the movies alone with my friends still resonates with me. On the edge of my seat with a box of candy in one hand and a bag of popcorn in another, I gleefully watched “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” with wide eyes. The room was filled with my 12-year-old girlish giggles and even cries. “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” now leaves a lasting impression on my mind; I can recall all of its lines at the drop of a hat.

As soon as the lights start to dim, the music starts to blare and the film reel starts to roll, I no longer feel like an individual sitting in the theater with my friends, but rather as if I’m part of a group of people connected through the same story.

While a great movie may be experienced both in the comfort of your home and at the cinema, it can only become magical when embellished by the experience surrounding it.

Kaanan is a freshman in LAS. She can be reached at [email protected].