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such a nasty woman | by maryann johanson

question of the day: What is your preferred way to watch movies, and how often do you actually get to do that?

This is such a basic question about how we watch movies that I can’t believe we’ve never talked about it before, but a glance back through the QOTD archives suggests we haven’t:

What is your preferred way to watch movies, and how often do you actually get to do that?

By that I mean: Perhaps you like watching movies best in a multiplex, but for whatever reasons — the expense, the decline of the multiplex experience, etc — you mostly watch movies on DVD. Perhaps you’d prefer to get all your movies on demand or streaming, but the options there are still limited, so you mostly rent or buy DVDs.

Inherent in the question, too, I think, is how often you get to watch movies. Even if you prefer to see movies in a multiplex, perhaps a lack of time and/or money prevents you from doing so as often as you’d like; you wish you could go to the movies twice a week, but you’re lucky if you get there once.

Have at it.

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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  • Anne-Kari

    My preferred way to watch a movie is in a nice movie theater. By nice I mean not a run-down multiplex (a lot of those around my area) – something more like the Ziegfield Theatre in New York. I don’t know if it’s still awesome but it used to be THE place to see a movie.

    But being a mom of 2 young kids with a husband who is gone 3/4 of the time, I rarely get to see a movie anywhere but on my computer. Unless it’s $2 day at the local 2nd-run University theater, and then it’s usually a movie the kids want to see.

    Sometimes it’s pretty boring for me (Alvin & the Chipmunks), sometimes it’s fun (How to Train Your Dragon), sometimes it’s sublime (WALL-E).

  • Bill

    My preference is DVD. There is not enough draw for me to go to the theaters although I do it from time to time.

    I subscribe to Netflix which is very convenient.

  • Nate

    I’m probably in the minority on this, but I like watching movies in a packed theater. When well-behaved (which in Iowa is more often the case than not), they add a fantastic atmosphere that can’t be duplicated by a DVD or Blu Ray player.

  • RogerBW

    I’d like it to be the Perfect Cinema: comfortable seats with a sensible rake, and not so close to the screen that I break my neck; interesting things to eat, not just the same old fast-food garbage that everywhere else sells only at five times the price; reasonably clean, both in environment and in patrons; quiet apart from the film. And of course the film I want to see, when I want to see it…

    This place doesn’t exist. It may never have existed. So I built my own. It’s not at all hard, as long as you don’t try to do it with modern consumer electronics with all their DRM nonsense.

  • markyd

    The theater experience trumps all, but ONLY when it works the way it’s meant to.
    Way too much can go wrong:
    Idiots on cell phones, people who won’t shut up, smelly food, cold temps, etc. etc.
    Despite it all I still love “going to the movies”. There’s that thrill you get out of it that simply can’t happen when at home. I would go multiple times a week if I could. Sadly, I probably only get to the theater 6 times a year or so. That whole life thing gets in the way.
    I have a subscription to blockbuster online and watch 1-2 movies a week through that. I think I’ve got 700+ in my queue right now.
    I’ve a nice setup in my downstairs rec room. Nice and dark, Bluray player(PS3), 42″ HD TV, and a good surround setup. Because I watch most movies/shows at night I am forced to wear headphones so I don’t disturb the wife and kid. Sometimes my cat Merlin will curl up in my lap.

  • RyanT

    I don’t think I have ONE preferred way of watching movies. Like a bunch of people said up there, who really DOESN’T want to go to the theater if the crowds are well-behaved and the prices aren’t too high? For some movies, seeing them on the BIG SCREEN is the way they are meant to be seen. While it doesn’t happen often, I really do love those theater experience where it’s a packed crowd, but everyone is behaving and they’re all reacting more or less the same as me. This happened most recently with Inception which probably colored how I thought about the movie afterward as well. Contrast that to Juno which I saw with half the theaters being unruly teenagers and well… no.

    With that said, there are also certain movies I’d rather watch at home, preferably with friends as we hang out and depending on the movie, make fun of it. Movies, to me, is such a social activity which is why I do prefer the theaters/home with friends options.

    And again I say this, but haven’t we all had that one lazy Sunday afternoon where all you needed was a DVD (or Netflix streaming!), a nice comfortable couch, and a blanket for some relaxing time.

    As for how often I get to do this, I’m lucky with close proximity to NYC and friends, and subscriber to Netflix I get to watch movies very often.

  • JJoseph

    Good question. In general, I prefer a decent theater. We take the kids to see whole family appropriate flicks far more often than my husband and I are able to go to more ma kids, I like a packed mature fare. For the kids, we like a busy full theater, usually a matinee, as it is just part of the excitement and fun for them to be part of the communal movie watching experience.

    However, for movies like Toy Story 3, if we can get a baby sitter, we will also make the effort to drive to the nicer theater and go to a late night, mostly child free show to enjoy the film again undistracted.

    By virtue of being lucky enough to marry a technophile, I have access to a quite decent home theater. We live in a half-a-horse town and the thought was that all the great Indy type movies etc… that would never be released within two hours of here would get viewed in it. Not so much. Those films are watched in our bedroom on a small (well, not that small a screen, techie hubby after all) screen, the home theater is now used more frequently for sporting event, spectacle type films and, playing high res video games and new episodes of Doctor Who.

  • Matt C

    On the big screen. I work at a movie theater, and I do realize the complaints/conditions that turns people off in favor of Netflix or Redbox. And when I went to college, I usually tried to go to the movies at least twice a month.

    The experience and sensation of a theater showing just can’t compare to even the best home theater system. The opening night showing of the “Friday the 13th” remake was enjoyable, mostly due to the audience participation.

  • Left_Wing_Fox

    Ideally, I prefer a movie theater. I like the full experience; a drink, a pack of red Twizzlers, a considerate audience, comfortable seat, digital sound, big screen, all the trimmings. The problem is that you are paying for the experience rather than just the film, so it’s easy to get messed up by faulty equipment and rude audiences.

    Short of that though, then just watching it on a TV on the couch is fine. I do have a surround-sound system and an HD blue-ray system at home, but that’s as much for games as it is for movies. The story, the performances, the music, all come through on a small screen just as well as on the big screen, so while it’s not the same immersive experience, it’s still enjoyable.

  • Drave

    RogerBW: This place does exist. It’s in Vancouver, Washington. It’s called Cinetopia. There is live music on Friday and Saturday nights. There are screens that are 21 and older. There is full restaurant and bar service right up until the previews end, with food from a four star chef. The DLP screens are the among the finest in the country, the stadium seats are extra wide with extra legroom (and there are leg rests as well), and the tiers are so high you can’t see the people below when you sit down.

    For the movies I am most excited about, I like to go to the above theater, even though it’s a bit of a drive from Portland. For the average summer blockbuster, I like seeing it with a friend in a packed theater opening weekend. For everything else, I like a solitary matinee experience.

  • Barb

    It’s basically at home via DVD or Blu-ray. I used to go to the movies when the matinee prices were at $4.50. Now, forget it unless it’s one of the marvel comic movies like Iron Man, Batman, etc); plus, I get annoyed by noisy kids. Most movies are not worth it and they are out on disc within a few months anyway.

  • Keith

    The movie theater is great, especially if it has decent seats. I like to just far enough back so that the screen in fully within my field of vision. I almost always stick to the $5 AM special at the theater near me. However, that limits you to what is playing and is someone cost prohibitive, even at that price.

    The next most popular method for me is watching DVDs on my laptop, though if we are going to have a group viewing, we watch DVDs (player) or Netflix streaming (though the Wii) on the LCD TV in the den.

  • I like the Monday after opening weekend, 1pm showing. Nearly empty theater, seats right in the middle.

    And I’m a stadium-snob too.

  • Sok

    I’ll use this as an excuse to plug my favorite theater: The Academy Theater in Southeast Portland. It’s a very nice second-run theater. They have comfortable seats, they’re close by, darn inexpensive, and provide beer so you don’t get a lot of rowdy kids. (Also: beer.) This is my preferred way to watch movies… although Cinetopia is a very, very close second.

    I like the theater experience, and I agree with Amy Pascal about the benefits of relinquishing control. More simply, the theater experience helps me fend off distractions that impede my DVD/computer watching experience, including my urge to babble to my long-suffering wife about what I’m watching. This is particularly true when I’m watching a scary movie, as the temptation to pause, the familiar surroundings, and the needy dogs really hamper my engagement.

    In general, if it’s a film “I really, really wanna see right now dangit”: if it’s a special-effects extravaganza I’ll go see it in the multiplex about a week or so after release. This is particularly true when it’s in 3D; the multiplexes are the only games in town. If it’s a smaller film I’ll catch it in second run. If it’s a limited release film I’ll head to whichever theater has it.

    If it’s a film that I’m interested in seeing “soon” and I think it’ll translate well to a smaller screen, though, I will rent it. I’ve gotten hooked on streaming movies via the Xbox 360, but the library and search capacity is rather limited so my wife and I usually wrestle with what’s coming next on the DVD queue. (She usually wins.)

  • Sok

    Oh, and how often: we usually catch something in the theater every other week. Much as we enjoy it, there’s a lot of making time and having the money issues involved.

  • CB

    At the Alamo Drafthouse, with a pizza and beers.

    It’s the only way I’ve watched movies for going on I think three years now. And it’s the predominant way I’ve watched them since I moved to Austin. I just finally decided that if it wasn’t at the Alamo, it wasn’t worth seeing.

    If I can’t see it there, I’ll wait for the DVD so I can watch it at home… with a pizza and beers. =D

  • Isobel

    I love to watch movies at the cinema, but I don’t much anymore because there aren’t any pleasant ones near me – freezing cold, expensive, expensive and gross food, uncomfortable seats. Plus they don’t have steep enough seats which means if someone sits in front of me I’m screwed (I’m only five foot tall) and see more of the back of their head than the film.

    So generally I watch things on Sky box office, Sky, or online. I don’t get DVDs often but when I do I usually buy them rather than renting. I may get a LoveFilm subscription (I’m not sure, but it sounds like the UK version of NetFlix).

    I will see Toy Story 3 in the cinema, though – I want the 3D. I’m really glad I made the effort with Avatar, too – that wouldn’t have been the same at home at all.

    I have family in Basel (Switzerland) and seeing films there is great. If you go to the subtitled English showing it’s generally a great atmosphere and the cinemas themselves are nice, with much better food and Movenpick icecream available – heaven!

  • Victor Plenty

    I don’t have just one preferred way to watch movies. For any movie that deserves multiple viewings, my ideal experience would involve watching it several different ways:

    At least once somewhere near the front row of a decent cinema, so the image fills my entire field of view (and so that I don’t have to worry about anybody interrupting my experience by walking in front of me).

    Another time seated in the center of a row about 2/3 back into the auditorium, where I can be fully surrounded by the THX sound from all directions.

    At least once with the theater nearly full of appreciate and well-behaved fans, and also once in a theater that I have nearly to myself.

    At least once with a select group of friends, provided they are willing to stay until the end of the credits (whether there’s an easter egg scene or not, the credits interest me in their own right).

    At least once at home, or someplace else where I can pause and replay if I happen to miss an important line or scene.

    Where possible I’m willing to combine two or more of these experiences in one viewing, so I don’t have to watch every decent movie six or more times. But my ideal viewing experience would include some element of all of these at some point.

  • judy

    I love to go to a theater and try to at least 10-12 times a year. We have a few of the larger multiplexes which are fun for “big” movies.I seem to go mostly in the Fall and Winter when the Oscar movies come out. And we have a very nice indy house called Salem Cinema which is perfect for seeing independent cinema. The owner even comes out and talks before the show and introduces it! totally charming. I also do netflix but seem to use that for watching BBC series that I never could get before. I used to love to go to video stores too but they are almost all closed here now.

  • Althea

    I seldom go to theaters because movies are so expensive, and even if I splurge I still miss the popcorn (which is outrageously expensive.) So I see 99% cent of movies at home on DVD, which is okay with me for the most part.

    But in a perfect world there’d be a smallish multiplex within a 5-minute drive, with stadium seating. (Oh, wait, there is one – an Angelika – but it doesn’t always have much that I’d want to see, an it’s still too expensive, oh, wait, it’s a perfect world, forgot that…) There would never be lines or full-up theaters, admission wouldn’t top 6 or 7 bucks, and popcorn would be maybe 3 bucks. Nice comfortable seats with leg room. I’d sit on the top row most of the time. And they don’t let anybody in under the age of 7.

  • MIm

    I prefer a good theatre, comfortable seats near the front, decent food, very few people.

    But for health reasons I don’t get out often, so these days it’s mostly the couch and a DVD. Which, with a 42″ LCD, good surround sound and my own food, isn’t a bad substitute!

  • Knightgee

    I like the theater experience. Home viewings with friends are also fun, but this tends to mean the movie takes a backseat to our jokes.

  • LaSargenta

    Good cinema. Needs to have not too salty fresh popcorn. Comfy seats, clear sightlines. Ziegfeld good for that. There’s a couple of cinemas in London that are great, but I can’t remember their names, just where they are.

    But, too, for the right sort of random double bill, in the right sort of weather, with the right person, NOTHING, but nothing beats a drive-in!

    There still is one in Fairlee, Vermont. :-)

  • Bill

    big theater, stadium seating, in that seat with the bars in front of it so i can stretch out, alone, middle of the afternoon on a weekday when the theater is empty. also, i’m gonna need it to be overcast and cool outside so i don’t get blasted with sunlight and heat when i emerge. nachos, diet coke, and jujyfruits, hang the expense. ‘The Matrix’ stands out in my mind as one of the few times when everything came together…perfect viewing conditions, great movie.

    i was able to do this often when i was working odd hours. not really an option anymore. i’d probably do it every wednesday if i could.

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