Why Go to the Movies When You Can Netflix?

There's something magical about seeing a film on the big screen. Thankfully, Philly has five theaters worth visiting.

My sister and brother never go to the movies. Who needs to schelp to the multiplex, they argue, when they can watch Netflix on their monster TV screens in the privacy and comfort of their impeccably-decorated living rooms? No parking hassles. No long lines. No stale popcorn or watery soda, both obscenely overpriced. No blocked views. No vibrating cellphones. No idiot chatterboxes.

When you put it that way, it’s certainly a tough sell. Nevertheless, I adore going to the movies, especially when they’re playing at a theatre that treats customers like fans, not suckers.  Good movie houses make it their mission to optimize the shared on-screen experience.

Every year at the Oscars, I think about the growing divide between movie-goers and movie-watchers. Sunday was no exception.

As I witnessed Billy Crystal trying to do the impossible—make an interminably-long telecast seem entertaining—I wondered how many of the billion viewers worldwide had seen the nominated films the way they were supposed to be seen—on a huge screen, in a cavernous, dark space, with fresh popcorn, comfortable seats and a respectful audience.

In this country, at least, my guess would be not that many.  More often than not,  movies that get nominated for Academy Awards do not, in the words of Variety, do boffo box office. Conversely, hugely-popular films sometimes go unnoticed at Oscars time.

Sunday’s Best Picture winner, The Artist, for example, did not trigger a stampede to movie theaters. Hardly surprising, given that it’s French, silent and shot in black and white. On the other hand, the largest-grossing movie of 2011, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows–Part 2, was shut out at the Oscars. In fact, the just-concluded, eight-release Harry Potter franchise, the most successful in movie history, has never won a single statuette.

I am hardly a movie-theatre snob, mind you. I own hundreds of DVDs, including many from the 1940s and ‘50s.  Gangster flicks and World War II movies are among my favorites. I have seen some of them so many times that I know every single word of dialogue.

As much as I cherish watching my DVDs, however, the experience pales next to that of sitting in a terrific movie theater, with my PC and DC (popcorn and Diet Coke) in hand.

In my book, the Bryn Mawr Film Institute, the Narberth and all the Ritzes are tops.

The Bryn Mawr is in a class by itself, as anyone who has ever seen a movie there will tell you. The Ritzes are a very close second.  The Narberth, in addition to being a few blocks from my house, is a welcoming venue with a long history.

All three houses serve fresh, fabulous popcorn, and for a reasonable price. The importance of this cannot be overstated. At some theaters (I won’t name names), the popcorn should come with a warning label. Many a good movie has been tarnished by bad popcorn.

In the end, none of my cheerleading will convince my sibs to leave their cozy pods. Hell, by next year’s Oscars, I could become a Pod Person, too.

Until then, I’m off to the movies.