Streaming video services like Netflix have, in a lot of ways, improved the disposable time of people worldwide.
In addition to the number of new releases and decent selection of recent blockbusters and television series online, it's produced an increasingly strong variety of original programming, like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Stranger Things, F is for Family, BoJack Horseman, Love and Master of None, among many others.
It's so, so easy to rack out on the couch and let the hours unravel with your laptop on your belly and percussion of the House of Cards theme shaking your stomach.
While increased access to movies and shows is great for viewing a bevy of films and shows you may never have checked out, let alone heard of, it can also be easy to feel that the social aspect of movies is fading away.
It wasn't that long ago that if you wanted to catch a flick at home, you at least had to head up the road to Blockbuster or Rogers or some local joint to snag a VHS or DVD. If your preferred option wasn't there, it was disappointing, but at least made some sense. Someone else beat you to the punch and you'll have to hope it's there next time. In the current Netflix days, I was left baffled that they had two Wet Hot American Summer miniseries — their own original content — but the 2001 cult classic used as the basis for both series is no longer there. Huh?
Thankfully, Netflix is not God — it's a demigod at best. There are still options to go watch movies outside the house.
Sure, the Village 8 here in town brings the big new releases and has a perfectly fine location and atmosphere.
But it's a blast to watch some of the old classics in a communal atmosphere, like I had the chance to at the Rio Theatre in East Vancouver last week. I'd had my eye on their calendar for months, hoping my schedule would align with something worth checking out. I'd let my partner know about the Rio and she did the same, eventually zeroing in on a screening of Dirty Dancing last Thursday night. It was very nearly a sellout, which I haven't been able to say for any movie I've gone to see in theatres in quite some time. Since many of the audience members seem to have seen the movie before, they reacted to it in ways that were nearly as entertaining as the movie itself — catcalling Patrick Swayze, cheering for famous lines and yelling out at the antagonists. There's something more than just the big screen, the smell of the popcorn and the cushiness of the seats (and, hopefully, a decent show) that makes going to the theatre a worthwhile experience, especially one worth driving to town for.
Whenever I describe living in Fort Frances, Ont., one of the first vignettes I used to describe life there is the need to go through customs to go catch a movie, as the theatre was just across the Rainy River in International Falls, Minn.
The year I was there was a pretty strong one for movies, as Up in the Air, Toy Story 3, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Inception, Shutter Island and The Social Network all came out. Even so, the seats were mostly empty, and in some cases, my buddy and I were the only people checking out the show.
While it's fun for a while to have your pick of seats, there's something a little sad about being in the middle of a sea of empty ones. You don't have to look at someone else to know that they feel the same sense of joy, or amazement, or humour as you do during a certain scene. Or when your 'Should I be laughing at this?' apprehension softens to 'Yeah, it's fine, as long as I know why I'm laughing.'
And thank goodness for the current resurgence of outdoor options. My partner and I had a great time at the showing of Beauty and the Beast at Big Sky Golf Course up in Pemberton, and last year in Vancouver's River District, we went to a showing of Halloween as part of a special October drive-in showing scary movies leading up to Oct. 31.
If you're properly prepared for a night out (literally) with some blankets, warm clothes and bug spray, they're a wonderful way to get some fresh air.
Don't get me wrong, I'm still going to binge my share of Netflix, but when I get the chance to get out of the house and share a movie-going experience with others, you bet I'm going to take it.