Sorry Cinemas, I’ll Never Go Back – Review Geek

Josh Hendrickson

The past two years have been terrible for a number of reasons. But along the way, we briefly tried an experiment: what if cinemas switched to streaming instead? Now things are slowly returning to the status quo. And you know what? There is no question that I return to the theater.

I say this as a former movie fan, and yes, the experience still keeps me nostalgic. Movie theaters have long been a place to get away from real life, go on a date, or just hang out for a few hours. As a lifelong geek, the era of Marvel (sorry, DC, but please try again) has been a bit of a dream come true. Thought I’d always be among the first to see the latest star trek, star warsWhere avengers film. But now I don’t want that anymore. And most importantly, I don’t need it either.

Free time from movie theaters

A Gogru doll next to a popcorn machine and a soda bottle
Josh Hendrickson

From mid-2020 to late 2021, I never saw a movie in the cinema. For a very long time they were closed, and even when they reopened, many films that were close to my heart skipped them altogether. Whether it be Raya and the last dragon, Black WidowWhere Wonder Woman 1984, I didn’t need to go to the theatre. Instead, I had the option of watching the movie from the comfort of my home. The last movie I saw at the cinema was sonic the hedgehog in April 2020, just as the pandemic was starting to kick in.

Streaming movies from home has led us to watch more movies than in previous years. After all, it wasn’t so bad to attempt a movie if we didn’t have to pay extra, as was the case with Soul, The Matrix Resurrectionsand Wonder Woman 1984. And that turned out for the best too. Can you imagine my disappointment if I had paid theater tickets to see the last Matrix film?

Of course, streaming from home posed some problems. Going to the theater is an experience – the big screen, massive sound, popcorn and even shared cheers add to the fun. The moment Captain America summoned Mjölnir (er, spoilers, I guess?) stands out not only for an incredible moment, but also for deafening cries of triumph from the audience.

One of the last movies I saw before the lockdown started wasn’t even a new movie. My local theater decided to do a special screening of Howl’s Howl’s Moving Castle. Although I know most will disagree with me, Howl’s Howl’s Moving Castle is, in my opinion, the best of the Studio Ghibli films. The music is great, the story poignant and the characters are perfect. But no one I know feels the same way about the film, so seeing it with like-minded strangers in the theater was a special experience.

But it was also a bit terrible because the person next to me kept humming all the songs loudly. I try as best I can to enjoy seeing Howl’s Howl’s Moving Castle in a new way, the distracting buzz detracted from an otherwise enjoyable experience. And that’s one of the biggest problems with movie theaters (besides price).

Cinematic experiences suck now

People talk on the phone in a movie theater

It’s hard to understand how I used to look fondly at the cinema experience. Streaming was not an option when Spider-Man: No Coming Home hits theaters in December 2021. We chose to hit the theater for the first time since April 2020. After more than a year away, we thought it would be the perfect time to see what we were missing.

New Spider Man The film should also have been the perfect “return to cinema” option. A little like Avengers: Endgame, the film contains many moments designed to bring the audience to collective applause. But… that didn’t happen.

Instead, throughout the movie, people talked loudly about everything but the movie. Others used their smartphone with the brightness at maximum. Children, probably at the theater for the first time, walked around unhindered by parents, sometimes blocking the screen even with seats in the stadium. A baby cried almost all the time. Another family decided no less than three times that they needed more snacks and they all left as a group, walking down my row.

It was horrible and I didn’t enjoy the experience at all. Worse still, I paid dearly for the tickets, plus expensive popcorn and soda. The night cost me over $50, only to find me and my family miserable. Sure, the “audience cheering moments” happened and I enjoyed them, but I was constantly struggling to hear, see, and ignore the people around me. Even those “moments of joy” moments were muted from what they should have been.

And this is not the first time this has happened. Going to the movies, especially if it’s popular, is a dice game. Maybe you’ll have a big audience that just wants to watch the movie. Or maybe you’ll find yourself next to some moron answering the phone. Or the theater could be bad when I went to see the first one Wonderwoman, the theater’s terrible lighting setup ruined the experience and took out the screen for more than half of the movie.

We realized we hadn’t been happy with the theater experience for a long time when we thought about it. We kept trying different theaters thinking a particular place was to blame, but the problem was us. My family just doesn’t appreciate the “collective stranger” experience anymore. We want the big screen, the fantastic sound, the popcorn and the soda. But without the others and the high prices. And the good news is that we have already solved this problem.

Build your own movie theater

A giant 120-inch screen displaying 'Finding Neo'
Josh Hendrickson

So the bad news is that I don’t want to go to the movies anymore. The good news is that over the past two years, I’ve slowly built a home theater worthy of the experience I loved. I used to think that the dream of a “home theater” was out of my reach for various reasons. I’m not a rich man so I won’t have a custom theater with stadium style seating ready for extended family and friends.

And I live in a ranch-style house with pretty high ceilings, but not so high that I could hang a projector. The large windows in my house are also a problem, as bright lights are the enemy of spotlights. I have a finished basement where windows aren’t an issue, but it has even lower ceilings and a giant duct running through the middle, so that whole section barely clears my head.

But, even if you don’t have room for a traditional projector, you can still get one to work; it might just mean spending more. Ultra-short-throw projectors are great for small homes like mine because they can live inches from the wall while still projecting a 100-inch or larger screen. But there is a projector for your home, regardless of size and shape.

Buy the right projector and you might not even need a sound system. More and more are coming with relatively decent sound these days, but if you really want a theatrical experience, you’ll have to upgrade to something better. If you don’t have much space, you can try a soundbar. A 7.1 surround system, or better, will help you get the full “cinematic experience”.

I decided to build my 7.1 surround system one room at a time. I started with the receiver and floorstanding speakers, then added another speaker into the system whenever my budget allowed. In the end, I built a system that makes the house rumble for jurassic park and makes every game more realistic. My only complaint about Sony receivers is the company’s insistence on pre-named inputs.

Two arches next to a mini fridge
Josh Hendrickson

Of course, you can stop there and meet the minimum requirements for a “home theater”. But you would be missing something. Every movie calls for popcorn; luckily, it’s not hard to do at home. But avoid the microwaveable stuff. Instead, you can opt for a small air blower or the complete “theater look” with a larger popcorn machine.

Just like the movies

West Bend theater style popcorn machine

If you want traditional popcorn to the max, this is the machine for you. You’ll scoop out the grains and butter, then watch them appear in the container below. Open the door and come out when it’s ready.

Of course, one of the best parts of theaters growing up was the arcade machines. If we were lucky we might arrive early or stay late and lose a few quarters. But now you can take your own machine home, whether Terminator 2a pinball machine or classic fighter.


Arcade1Up Capcom Legacy Edition

One of the best things about this particular Arcade1Up machine is that it comes with 12 games instead of the usual 2 or 3. If you like fighters, especially “Street Fighter”, this is the one for you.

From there, it’s just a matter of adding all the keys you need to complete the setup. It could be a mini fridge to keep snacks and drinks handy or an overpriced replica of the cutest character in star wars since BB-8. The sky’s the limit (or maybe your budget is). But the best part is that only people you invite can come.

And while you’ll probably spend more money on the set-up than on movie tickets and overpriced popcorn in a year, you can use the theater every day (even to play!) rather than during special occasions only. You can even watch baseball or an episode of Holey Moley. We won’t tell.


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