The Weekly Moviegoer - What Are Your Moviegoing Traditions?
by Christopher Campbell
November 24, 2009
The other day a friend was telling me about her Thanksgiving plans, which include the annual post-feast trip to the movies with her parents and siblings. She's an adult, yet she continues to follow this tradition of moviegoing that has been regular practice since she was a kid. And of course she's not a rare grown-up to be holding onto such tradition. Millions of Americans will always follow the first half of their Thanksgiving and Christmas rituals with a visit to the multiplex.
One thing that I love about the sustainability of moviegoing is that it's so rooted in tradition. The holiday moviegoing custom shared by many is a good example of this, as it's such an institution in people's lives that it will likely endure all threats to the movie theater industry because it seems to carry on in a cyclical nature. One day my friend may be married with children, and she'll probably introduce her kids to the practice of moviegoing on Thanksgiving, and they'll keep it going into adulthood and pass it on to their own children, and so on.
Personally, I can't understand the desire for people to go to the movies on Thanksgiving and Christmas, but that's probably because while employed in the industry, I worked these holidays annually for about a decade. Witnessing the massive crowds throughout these days, while barely having time to eat my own plate of cold leftovers (always graciously brought to me by a friend or coworker's family), I've seen the worst of holiday moviegoers.
Yet year after year of participating in this ritual on the audience side, I'd imagine these holiday moviegoers have also had some terrible experiences. Sell-outs, shoving, yelling, lack of poise and orderliness on the part of the overworked and underpaid concession staff, projection problems courtesy of flustered projectionists, and so on. These are some of the busiest days of the year for cinemas and are therefore the least comfortable and accommodating to individual customers, but due to ritual, people return to the madness every year. Seemingly with less patience than the year before.
Then again, I have my own stupid moviegoing customs. Partly because of the way I saw movies as a kid and into adulthood, I always have to eat popcorn at the movies, regardless of all the reminders of how bad it is for me. I also habitually pick up trash, mine and other people's, on the way out of a theater thanks to all those years as a movie theater employee (plus, I like to set an example for the rest of you slobs). But these aren't exactly traditions that will be passed on to my children in the same way that holiday moviegoing and other rituals are.
Are they really about tradition and ritual, though? Some might argue the holiday moviegoing practice is merely about getting out of the house. And since cinemas are pretty much the only places open (save for some bars, but those aren't as family friendly), and it's typically cold this time of year, they're the only possible destination anyway. If some other indoor, out of the home, place of recreation (preferably passive recreation, since you're stuffed) were available, moviegoing might not be as big a deal.
Either way, though, it's not likely that holiday moviegoing will ever be replaced with holiday DVD watching for a lot of these folks, because home entertainment still allows for too much continued interaction with the family. And nobody wants that.
What are your moviegoing traditions, on the holidays and otherwise? And how long have they been a regular practice?
Movie theater photo courtesy of Joits on Flickr.