What makes certain movies so much better on the big screen?

What makes certain movies so much better on the big screen?
Jul, 29 2023 Film and Cinema Studies Derek Silverstone

The Immersive Experience

Let's kick things off by diving headfirst into the immersive world of cinemas. There's no denying it, going to the cinema is just too good. It's an experience. Yes, I have at-home accents like my comfortable couch and my black lab, Pippin, sitting next to me, but it's different in a theatre. The giant screen beckons, dwarfing home televisions and pulling you into the world it presents. You're not just watching a movie. You're living it. The wide shots in movies are intended to give that panorama view for a reason. To see that on your 60-inch screen is not the same as seeing it on a 200-meter screen which can make it look like art rather than just a scene. Take Jaws for example, seeing that great white shark on a humongous screen can make even the bravest among us feel a shiver down their spine!

The Magic of Surround Sound

Next, let's talk about sound, shall we? Far more than mere volume, the quality and range of sound in a theater make a world of difference. Let's imagine this, a car zooms by on the screen and you HEAR it whizzing from one side of the theater to the other- that's spatial sound for you, creating a deeper level of immersion. You just don't get that feet-thumping base from a stereo at home like you do in the theatre. The dialogue, the music score, all play a critical role in setting the tone of the movie and is greatly enhanced in a cinema setup. As I clearly recall, when I saw Inception for the first time in a theatre, by the end of the movie, the hair-raising score had me so riveted, it was like I myself was stuck in a dream within a dream!

Larger than Life Visuals

Now, onto visuals. Remember when Avatar came out, and there was all that hype about watching it in 3D? That's because certain visuals are simply designed for the big screen. Fine details that are lost on smaller screens show up in all their glory on the large screen. The sea of blue Na'vi running towards you, in 3D, absolutely took your breath away. Even without 3D, the bigger the screen, the more lifelike the visuals, and the more you feel like part of the movie. Sometimes, big screens can make every visual feel like a work of art. Personally, I still remember how awestruck I was when I watched "Interstellar" on IMAX - the visuals of otherworldly landscapes and celestial bodies just felt so real and so much more awe-inspiring.

The Shared Experience

Moving on, let's discuss another important aspect - the communal atmosphere. Nothing compares to the energy you feel in a theater filled with eager moviegoers all sharing the same experience. The laughter, the gasps, the applause, the collective silence during a suspenseful scene – these add to the unforgettable cinematic experience. Remember at the end of Avengers: Endgame when *spoiler alert* Iron Man says those iconic words, "I am Iron Man," and everyone just erupted into applause – that's an emotion you can't replicate at home. In my own experience, I fondly recall the time I watched "The Dark Knight" for the first time. When Heath Ledger, in his full Joker avatar uttered - "Why so serious?" and the entire hall burst out clapping and cheering, that, right there, is a memory immortalized!

Escapism at its Finest

Escapism is another reason why certain movies are better on the big screen. Stepping inside a theatre and leaving reality at the door is a feeling that's hard to beat. The dimmed lights, the smell of popcorn, the anticipation of previews—it's a world of its own. This is why fantasy, science fiction, or adventure movies are particularly exciting on the big screen because they allow you to escape your daily life and immerse yourself into a different world. Take the Mad Max: Fury Road. The cinematic glory of that film was designed for the big screen. Could you imagine Immortan Joe's caravan barreling towards you on your TV screen? Just not the same.

Focus, Focus, Focus!

Next, let's talk about focus. In your home, there are countless distractions: your phone, your pet (spoiler: I have a dog, Pippin, who has an uncanny knack for wanting to play fetch exactly when I am about to start a film), cooking, and other chores. In the cinema, it's just you and the movie. You are entirely focused and in turn, get a much richer experience. It's like reading a book in a quiet park versus a bustling café – your engagement with the book is far deeper in the former.

Taking Cinema Seriously

Lastly, there's a sense of gravitas associated with going to the cinema. You walk into the hallowed halls and take your seat, waiting for the lights to dim. There is a respect for the medium which is somewhat lost at home where we might pause a movie midway, wander off and come back. But in a cinema, we respect the director's vision and truly experience the movie as a coherent whole. I remember leaving the theatre after watching Schindler's List. As the credits rolled, there was complete silence, and it felt like an important moment of reflection that I don't think I would've felt at home.

A Final Note

In conclusion, there are countless reasons why certain movies are just so much better on the big screen. The immersive atmosphere, the superior sound and visual quality, the collective audience responses, the escapism it offers, the absolute focus it demands and the respect it accords to cinema and its filmmakers—these facets make theatre viewing an extremely enriching experience. Technically speaking, do you need these factors to enjoy a movie? No, you can still enjoy a movie on your TV screen, but they undeniably enhance and elevate your movie-watching experience. Next time you wonder if a movie is worth seeing in theaters, I hope you think of these points I've made. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to show Pippin some love. Happy movie watching!