Watching a movie with friends is a totally unique experience. It's multi-layered and full of surprises. I recently had several opportunities to watch some classic and contemporary films with friends. To Catch a Thief, North by Northwest, A Girl Cut in Two, Baby Mama, among others. In fact the picture on the left is of Kevin, H. and Lisa who joined me to go see Metropolis recently (see my previous post). If I had watched any of these films by myself, at home, (which I have), I would only remember the story and not the experience. But it's a whole other story when I watch movies with friends.
I sat down and thought about how friends shape the movie-watching experience. I decided in order to understand it, I had to somehow make sense of it. So I broke the basic experience into three sections. Starting with pre-show bonding, followed by communal viewing and ending with post-show bonding. All three phases are crucial to provide the ultimate experience.
Pre-show bonding is taken for granted by many. In fact, it irks me when people are late (including myself, which is often the case) and pre-show bonding is either reduced to a couple minutes of rushed conversation or none at all. This is the time before the movie where you share your excitement for what's up ahead. If it's a new movie, you talk about what you've heard about the film, the director or its actors or even reviews and friend's recommendations. If it's a movie you've seen before, you share with others your last experience watching it and what interesting tidbits you have to offer. All of this increases the anticipation of watching the film and adds to a heightened sense of enjoyment. 15-20 minutes of pre-show bonding is ideal.
Communal viewing is probably the most elusive and indescribable of the three phases, although I'll try my best to talk about what I have a grasp on. The most obvious thing is laughter. When someone laughs, I find myself laughing too. Sometimes it's a joke that I would find funny so I share in the laughter. Or its just a serious scene that ended up being silly. Or it's not funny at all, but laughter is a way to react physically to it. Others laughter makes me ultra-aware of what just happened on screen. I get to thinking, why did he or she find that interesting? Then, more often than not, I'm the only one laughing, because I get something others don't. Not because I'm super-intelligent, but just because I'm weird. Maybe they're wondering why I'm laughing too?
Post-show bonding is probably the most satisfying. It's a few minutes of talk during the credits then more talk either right outside the theater or at some bar or coffeehouse. If you're lucky and watch a film at someone's home, post-show bonding can last for a good amount of time, without the worry of having to catch the bus or getting out of the cold. During post-show bonding, you get to find out what others thought of the film. What they enjoyed, their reservations or frustrations or what it reminded them of. Some of the mystery behind those random bouts of laughter slips away. People thank whoever organized the outing and promises are made to have similar outings in the future. 20-30 minutes of post-show bonding should be required.
I'm sure I'm missing many key elements to this experience, but I wanted to make sure I at least got some thoughts in writing before it escaped me. Because as nice as it is to snuggle up at home and watch a good movie, it's even better when you are surrounded by good friends.