Why we go to the movies

File photo.
File photo.

Picture this. You’re sitting in a room with your friends. An air of anticipation and excitement percolates throughout the packed room. You’re talking with your friends about your rough day of homework and your desperate need for an escape. Suddenly, a booming sound reverberates around the room. You turn to face the front of the room with a beaming smile across your face. For the next few hours, all of your troubles will be washed away.
Isn’t it great to be at the movies?

For a large part of the country, myself included, going to the movies is a favorite activity. There’s nothing quite like watching a story unfold on the big screen. Whether it’s a high-octane action thriller like “Skyfall” or an intimate and dramatic character study like “Flight,” a trip to the movies transports the moviegoer to another world — a world of excitement and wonder.

So why do we go to the movies? Sure, the desire to see the newest movie featuring your favorite actor is a driving force of the American filmgoing culture. So is the innate need to continue the adventures of characters like James Bond or Batman. Hollywood’s love of sequels and A-list celebrities aside, what drives people to keep coming back to the movies week after week?

I think part of the equation is the nostalgic feeling that movies possess. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, audiences of all ages packed theaters in droves. In today’s age, a trip to the movies is a common way for teenagers and college students to pass the time. As popular as movies are among our nation’s youth, older moviegoers still regularly catch a film in theaters. The allure of going to the movies never really dies.

I know that for me, the nostalgia factor is part of the excitement of going to the movies. Some of the most vivid memories of my childhood are revolved around the movies. OK, so running out of “The Lion King” at age three because it was too loud isn’t the best reflection of my love for the movies. But to this day I still look back at that memory with warmth, seeing it as the beginning of my journey with film. It’s a journey that has taken me to worlds both vast and small, fun and sad, thrilling and comical — a journey that I wouldn’t have missed for the world.

In recent years, the nostalgia factor has even become part of the movies themselves. One of the top films at the box office recently was Disney’s “Wreck-It Ralph.” A story about an arcade video game villain longing to be good, “Wreck-It Ralph” is rife with nostalgia for the early days of video gaming, a time where going to the arcade was as favorite an activity as going to the movies is. Well-received by critics and audiences alike, “Wreck-It Ralph” is a strong illustration of a love letter to entertainment.

“Wreck-It Ralph” isn’t the only successful film that’s rife with nostalgia. 2010 saw Disney and Pixar’s “Toy Story 3” tackle the theme of growing up, which was fully realized by the powerful scene of Andy playing with his beloved childhood toys one last time. 2011’s “Hugo” was a love letter to the dawn of filmmaking, telling the story of an orphan who makes a discovery that helps reignite the soul of one of film’s greatest pioneers, Georges Melies. “Toy Story 3” and “Hugo” are both excellent exercises in the power of friendship and movies — a power that hits at what it means to be nostalgic.

While nostalgia is a big part of moviegoing, perhaps the biggest reason to go to the movies is to make an escape. As I noted earlier, a trip to the movies is the perfect way to cast annoyances and troubles to the side. In a distinct way, movies possess a healing power and capability to relieve bad moods in the blink of an eye.

Now I know it’s very sentimental and sappy to write about movies like this. But what can I say? Nothing makes me happier or puts a smile on my face quicker than watching a good movie.

So the next time you’re left wondering what to do or are in need of way to let off some steam, take a trip to a theater and catch a movie on the big screen.

About the Author

Nick Keeley

Nick Keeley is a Chimes staff writer for the 2012-13 school year.

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