I remember a time, not too long ago, when going to the movie theater was a big deal. With the advent of home theaters and streaming services, that cinematic atmosphere has seemingly had the wind taken out of its sails a bit. Trying to recapture some of that spark tied to the theater-going experience, I decided to take a flyer on MoviePass this past year — and it hasn't disappointed yet.
MoviePass, if you haven't heard, is a business in the vein of streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, except instead of allowing access to unlimited content for a flat monthly fee MoviePass allows you one ticket (non-3D, non-IMAX screenings) per day each month for $10.
The idea behind this venture is that basically given a "free" ticket 30 out of the 31 days each month, people will be more inclined to check out films in their initial theatrical run rather than waiting for release on home video, those aforementioned streaming services, HBO, etc. (and not having to pay for a ticket will boost concession sales, helping the theaters working with MoviePass).
Going on six months of using MoviePass, I have not been let down yet. So far, I've been pleasantly surprised by all of the movies I've gone to see that I might not have without the service — from the comically nostalgic "Jumanji" reboot to the mind-binding sci-fi thriller "Annihilation" to my most recent viewing of "Game Night," a hilarious examination of what happens when a friendly game night goes too far (and proof that Jesse Plemons is a national treasure).
Nostalgia played a big part in why I was so willing to buy into the idea of MoviePass, I think, because I remember going to the theaters all the time when I was younger. Part of that was due to a special summer kids program my family always took advantage of while growing up in Salina, which allowed me to see staples of my youth like "The Lion King, "Babe," "All Dogs Go To Heaven" and "The Sandlot." Then, there were the trips we would make to Wichita once or twice a year, which would almost always require a stop by the Warren Theatres.
Aesthetically, I was enamored with the style of the Warren Theatres, with an old-fashioned elegance that made it feel like the perfect place to see a movie — and it gave me the first sense of seeing movies I might have passed over until home release (partly because they were only screening in Wichita).
I will admit that I, too, am susceptible to the modern trend of just waiting until I can watch a movie on my home TV — whether on demand, streaming it or renting it. The sheer volume of content available on services like Netflix, Hulu and HBO Go give you plenty of other viewing options as well.
There is an undeniable magic to witnessing films on the biggest screen possible, though. While I don't recall what the first movie I ever saw in theaters was, my first movie memory is emblazoned in my brain — going to see Steven Spielberg's "Jurassic Park" and being on the edge of my seat from the opening credits to the climactic battle between the T-Rex and velociraptors (spoiler alert!).
Over the years, I can recount many similar memories experienced in a movie theater that have stuck with me — from watching the White House explode in "Independence Day" to seeing the Ents take Isengard in "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" or drinking in the lush environment of Pandora in "Avatar" (probably the only movie ever that NEEDED to be witnessed in IMAX).
Comfort, in some ways, is the enemy of the theatrical experience. While I may sometimes wait for the home release of films, oftentimes it is to the hindrance of my experience watching those movies. I very distinctly remember dozing off several times while watching "Dunkirk" after renting the Blu-ray.
Going and seeing a movie on a giant screen forces you to be engaged. You can't ignore that sense of awe when it envelopes the auditorium — a reason I was happy to go see blockbusters like "Thor: Ragnarok" and "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" multiple times this past year. In short, there is something special about seeing a film in the movie theater, so you know where to go if you want experience true movie magic.
-Kelly Breckunitch is a general assignment/county reporter for The Kansan. He can be reached at email@example.com.