There’s something powerful about seeing a movie with total strangers. Sitting in a crowded theatre watching a depressing scene, you’re feeling compassionate together, or even crying together. You chuckle during comedies together and you’re stunned during the dramas. There’s an invisible bond among the viewers, a common yet unspoken understanding and acknowledgment of these emotions and messages from the movie.
I remember after watching Moonlight, I immediately heard people saying how powerful the movie was and how awestricken they were, which was exactly how I was feeling at the moment. I’d like to think that we walked out together with altered mindsets and a common awareness of how poverty, racism and crime are a toxic cycle in our society that needs to be addressed.
Image Source: IMDb
Though there is a possibility that your takeaways and thoughts about a movie are vastly different from the next person, there is still a connection formed by taking time out of your day and coming together to acknowledge your interest or passion for the movies.
When I went to the Toronto International Film Festival this year, I was among thousands of people packed in the same room not knowing a thing about each other, connected by our love for movies. Think about how rare and powerful that is: thousands of people from across the country and even the world, taking the time to gather in a single place out of their interest or love for movies when sometimes we are too busy to even go out for dinner with friends and family.
Even outside of the cinema, there’s a bond between all those who have watched and had a similar experience. Because even though millions of people around the world already know of the problem or the message the movie is trying to address, the fact that you’ve gone through a similar experience that has enhanced your feelings, awareness, motivation creates a link.
But as with technology, connections tend to fade. Right now, most movies can be found on third-party sites and streaming services.
Of course, there are benefits to this phenomenon: smaller movies becoming more accessible and independent movies earning a bigger profit than they would through theatrical releases. Yet it not only deprives viewers the opportunity to experience a movie on the big screen, it deprives what is crucially at the heart of moviegoing: spatially and mentally connecting the audience over their emotions, thoughts and their love for film.
Image Source: IMDb
Take Okja, a movie about human abuse and violence towards animals, is a prime example.
A few months prior to its release, Netflix announced it had bought exclusive rights to the movie and that it would be streamed only online – so I had no choice but to watch it on my computer at home. Similar to Moonlight, I experienced a range of different emotions while watching: anger, frustration, hope and more. I came out enlightened and with heightened awareness, but without feeling like I had shared a connection with anyone else. Had Okja been shown in cinemas, it would have effectively created a link between audiences through the similar emotions and understandings they were experiencing together, at the exact same time and place. So the fact that Okja could not be experienced at cinemas diminished its potential power of connecting audiences through experiencing a cinematic journey together.
In a world where personal connections are getting more sparse, the movies is one of the remaining place that can offer this implicit connection between complete strangers. So it’s important to support and maintain it for as long as we can. Go to the cinema and support more theatres, become aware of the people sitting around you that share your interest and understand its worth.