Poll: Do You Ever Go to the Movies Alone?

This week’s poll was inspired by a conversation that sprung up in the Comments of our last Blu-ray Highlights post. Do you ever go to a movie theater by yourself, or does it make you uncomfortable to see a movie in the cinema without another person or group?

I’ll be honest that I find it a little strange that going to the cinema is usually perceived as a social experience in our culture. Yet once you get into the theater, you’re expected to be quiet and focus your attention on the movie, not on your viewing companions. Why is there such a stigma against going to see a movie alone?

I’ve never been bothered by seeing movies on my own. I grew up as an only child of a single parent. Although I certainly had friends, it wasn’t always convenient for me to get to them, or them to me, and I learned early how to keep myself entertained without relying on others to do everything with me. In my teenage and adult years, this extended to going to the movies alone. I wonder what experience my own sons will have.

On the other hand, I get out to the theater so infrequently these days that there’s almost no point in going alone anymore. If I were to go to the cinema, it would be on a date night with my wife. Otherwise, I might as well just wait for the movie to come to Blu-ray.

Do You Ever Go to a Movie Theater Alone?

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  1. Typically, I try to go to movies with at least one other friend just because it makes the post-viewing digestion of the film that much better. In high school I’d always wrangle up a crew of my closest friends and whoever else was interested in seeing whatever the newest movie was at midnight. Now that I’m in my waning college years however, its much more difficult to pull people to theater. Half of it has to do with most people’s level of interest in seeing any given movie, especially a midnight showing. The rest of it just comes down to getting my work/class schedule to mesh with friends and the release of the movie. Then there’s the fact that trying to get anyone between the age of 18 and 27 to do something other than drink on a Thursday through Saturday night is an uphill endeavor (especially in Wisconsin).

    With all that being said, I’ve only been to a few movies by myself. When the Dark Knight came out, I saw it close to 20 times in theaters. The first time was at the IMAX premiere at the Minnesota Zoo, I ended up having to see the film by myself because none of my friends believed me when I told them (two months in advance) that tickets would sell out quick. After that I saw it with friends but also went by myself whenever I got the chance, I’d say out of the 20 times in theaters I saw it, only half or 2/3 of that was with other people. I had high hopes for Green Lantern and saw that at midnight by myself, for some reason I had just as hard a time trying to convince my friends to go see it as WB had in convincing a large audience to see it (the theater I saw it at maybe had 30 people in it).

    I drove all the way from Milwaukee to Madison one night just to catch the early screening of the Dark Knight Rises preview on IMAX by myself, that was an hour and a half each way for 7 minutes of footage (still think it was worth it). The most recent film I’ve seen by myself was Thor: The Dark World, couldn’t really find any friends interested in seeing it and after a week or two of not seeing it, I said “fuck it” and went by myself one day after I got out of work early.

    While I don’t mind seeing a movie by myself, I definitely enjoy it more when I’ve got at least one other friend along for the ride but I’d say the most fun is seeing a great comedy with a huge group of friends. It just seems like you feed off one another’s laughter and it heightens the hilarity of the film.

    • T.J. Kats

      “I’d say the most fun is seeing a great comedy with a huge group of friends. It just seems like you feed off one another’s laughter and it heightens the hilarity of the film.”

      This is something I totally agree with. My wife and I saw 22 Jump street on Friday(in a sold out theater) and while I would have found it excellent and funny anyways that added element of all the people cracking up at certain jokes really takes it to another level.

  2. All of my friends are a bunch of wet blankets who would rather see movies when the theater is next to empty. That is not how I enjoy movies, so I have unfortunately had to go to more movies by myself. Because I want to see it as close to opening night with a big crowd of people. Sad thing is that people just are not getting into movies the way they were when I went to see movies like ST TWOK or Aliens. Granted not every movie is in that class but it just seems to be a more subdued feeling at theaters. Even with a movie as good and exciting as The Winter Soldier people hardly clap or cheer anymore. Bums me out.

  3. Alex

    Just a couple of weekends ago, my wife and I did a “split-date”. We had dinner, we went to the theater together, we just saw different movies. I wanted to see “X-Men” and she wanted to see “The Other Woman.” We picked showtimes that were only 5 minutes apart. It was fantastic.

    • Timcharger

      While I may agree that “it was fantastic,” I highly suggest telling
      Wifey, it was just alright. It’s not the same without your company.

      Okay, if want to Wifey, I’d do it again, so that I don’t have to force
      you to watch my kind of movies. (Wink, wink.)

  4. It’s my preferred way of going to the movies, especially a matinee. The first movie I ever saw alone in the theater was The Crow and I absolutely loved it. I feel like I got more into the movie that way. Not too long after I saw Legends of the Fall and at the time I was having some girl troubles and going there by myself was very therapeutic . I left the theater feeling like a new man. I think that’s when I discovered the true feeling of escapism and how much I appreciated it.

    Now going to a midnight movie alone was a little different, I definitely felt like the weirdo the first time I did that, but now it doesn’t matter except for having people hold your seat if you have to get up. Sometimes it has its drawbacks, like when I went to see Avatar, I got up to use the restroom and got back only to find these two hefty girls in my spot who didn’t want to give me my seat back, but the couple next to them offered to scoot down and gave me a seat and was even better then where I was. I learned a lesson there. Either bring a hat to mark your seat or simply ask the strangers next to you to hold your seat.

    One other minor drawback is the “creeper” factor which I only really felt twice in my loner movie going experiences. I went to see Jennifer’s Body at an early morning show and all these little teenage girls showed up and I felt like a weirdo. I also felt very vulnerable because if they wanted to be cruel they could easily play a nasty joke on me and it would be their word against mine, but I’d like to think most people aren’t that mean. Aside from that a maybe a few negative solo movie going experiences, I highly recommend anyone to try it once. You just might love it.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love going with my friends and family to the movies, but if they can’t make it, I got no problem flying solo. As far as eating in a dine in restaurant alone, or hanging out in a theme park alone, that I can’t do, but a great movie experience alone in the theater gives me total inner peace. Jesus I just wrote a freakin’ novel!

  5. Ryan

    I prefer to go with my wife…but I’ve been to the movies a few times when she has no interest, or if I’m really bored.
    It’s not very often though….some recent ones:
    Pacific Rim
    Scott Pilgrim
    Life of Pi
    Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

  6. Brian

    Grew up in a small town. Movie’s took me to a different world, especially in the 60’s and 70’s when Hollywood wasn’t tied to happy endings (Cool Hand Luke was a bit of a baptism by fire). I enjoy the company for discussions after, but during it takes away from the escape and that’s the big pay-off in my mind. I wonder how many of us who bought into the “home theatre” for the family continue to watch movies alone in the dark? Probably poor social skills at some level, but what the hell I need my magic shadows.

  7. Timcharger

    Choice 1) “Sure, I have no problem going to movies by myself.”


    Choice 4) “It doesn’t matter to me either way, alone or with company.”

    seems tough to distinguish.

  8. Chris B

    Growing up and in my 20’s I always went with someone whether it be some friends or a girl. After becoming a parent though, the wife isn’t able to join me as much as she used to and friends are hard to go with because their schedules tend to differ from mine as I work extremely early hours. As a result, I’ve begun going to the movies by myself a lot in the last year. I’m pretty used to it now and do find it enjoyable, however, I think the fun factor is slightly reduced. It’s nice to see the film with someone, especially if you both are loving and feeding off each other’s energy like a previous poster mentioned.

    • Chris B

      Haha the above comment should read “especially if you are both loving IT” as in the movie, not each other….although I suppose that wouldn’t hurt either.

  9. I mostly go to movies alone because I normally go to the first showing of the day which is too early for certain people to join me or it is a movie that certain people do not like genre.

    • Chris B

      Agreed, trying to convince any of my friends to go to a western or 90% of foreign films is a hard sell so I usually don’t bother. I’m going to watch Fritz Lang’s Metropolis at the local art-house/indie theatre in my town next month (never seen it, super pumped)…try and talk people into seeing a silent German film from the 20’s? Not bloody likely!

  10. William Henley

    I prefer to go with friends, but they usually want to go to the CineCapri or Imax or XD or Xtreame for the prime time showings. That is fine, every now and then, but I am not plopping down $10-$20 every weekend.

    I probably catch 3-6 movies a year by myself. The last one I saw was XMen, and I think the one I saw before that was Great Gatsby and Wizard of Oz and Jurassic Park. (I also saw Ted by myself, but hated the fact that I saw it by myself – comedies are really better with friends). There is a Tinseltown not far from me that has $3 matinees, and as I work early shifts 4 days a week, I am usually up by 7 on my days off, and catch the 10 or 11AM showing.

    The reason I brought the conversation up in the Blu-Ray Highlights thread had to do with the Creeper factor – for example, right now, I really want to see Maleficent. I have one friend who does, but her health usually prevents her from going with me. So why don’t I go alone? Well, the movie is aimed towards kids. 11AM on a Thursday in June for a Disney movie is going to mean a theater filled with kids 3-12. There is actually one theater in my area that will not admit adults into these shows unless you are accompanied by a child, as there was an issue a few years back where a child was assualted at the theater. I could go to another theater, but this still results in nasty looks from parents.

    Seeing movies made for tween and teen girls is also pretty bad. Like I went to go see Divergant (I was with a friend, though) and we had no clue it was a YA book series. It was opening weekend. I think me and my friend were the only people over the age of 15 in the theater. While I enjoyed the movie a great deal, we felt strange being in the big auditorium with over 600 screaming girls (I swear, I think the little girl next to me – yes, the show was sold out – had an orgasm when the lead character took his shirt off). At least I had my buddy with me – as uncomfortable as we were, I probably would have walked out if I had of been there by myself. It was that uncomfortable.

    So for me, I prefer going with a friend, certain movies I will see by myself, and others, depending on the movie, I refuse to go by myself to avoid being labeled a creeper.

    • William Henley

      My friend and I finally got to see Maleficent on Friday. I was there shortly after the previews started, she showed up about three minutes into the movie. I certainly got some strange looks until she showed up, then people left me alone.

      Glad I got to see this movie on a big screen. Beautiful cinematography, brilliant story, brilliant acting. The only thing this movie really had going against it was weak directing – ie some framing is odd, some editing of shots just feels off, and some interaction between characters – especially between the CG characters / small fairies and humans (ie composite shots) feel off – its like you can tell the characters on the screen were not on the same stage at the same time because the interaction between the characters feels off. I honestly feel like Disney had another Frozen in the bag here, and ruined it by giving it to an incompetent director. Oh well

  11. Guy

    At thirteen, Minority Report was the first film I ever saw alone. In my small hometown, if you didn’t go to a high school football game, getting dropped off at the mall on a Friday night was the only entertainment to be had at a pre-driver’s license age. Everyone just showed up at the mall, congealed into random groups and caught a movie together when the seven o’clock showings began. For reasons that escape me now, I ended up alone one of those times and got a first taste of flying solo in a theater.

    A few years later, about a month after getting my license, Serenity was the first movie I went to alone with the intention of seeing by myself. In the years since, I’ve come to almost prefer it. It’s just you and the movie. I find that other people in the theater are becoming less considerate these days (talking, cell phones, obnoxious eating) and my one-and-only local cinema has started dimming the projector bulbs to a distracting degree (no clue what happened during the nighttime ship raid at the beginning of The Winter Soldier), so I’ve been going less and less, but it’s me, myself and I when I do go for the most part.

  12. Growing up in the 80s, I had a grandmother who would go to the mall every weekend. She’d take me along and while she went shopping, I’d either a) spend an afternoon in Walden’s bookstore or b) go to a movie. This was back in the days when you could let a 12-year-old by himself without worrying about a kidnapping. So by the time I became an adult, I was so used to seeing movies by myself – and actually PREFERRING to see movies by myself – that it never occurred to me that it was “odd” behavior (or at least seen as “odd” by some).

  13. Question to Guy and Shannon: I’m not terribly familiar with American movie going practices (have only visited a New York AMC once), but: they show movies at malls? In my (limited) English vocabulary, a “mall” is a large shopping center with hundreds of stores. But they also have silver screens in said malls?

    • Timcharger

      Often an anchor tenant to shopping malls is a movie theater complex.
      We “show movies at malls,” in the sense that movie theaters are just
      another “store” of the hundreds of stores in that mall.

    • EM

      Many American shopping malls have movie theaters, and many don’t.

      (Would that all my languages’ vocabularies were as “limited” as your English vocabulary…)

    • Chris B

      It’s pretty common here in Canada, there’s a huge theatre in West Edmonton mall,
      complete with a giant animatronic dragon that is suspended from the ceiling and bellows hot fire at you as you walk through the lobby…it’s pretty bitchin’

    • Guy

      The mall we have is nowhere near as grand as you’re imagining. Only 20-30 stores depending on the configuration over the years. Far before I was born, there was a two-screen cinema downtown near our courthouse and a (still operating) drive-in. The mall was built in the late 1970’s I believe and, if I’m remembering my dad’s stories correctly, they added the first movie screens a few years after. I never knew the place otherwise. For the first 15 years of my life, movies were synonymous with the mall.

      Over the years, they added new screens and eventually got nine theaters. It was an independently-owned operation and had the charms that come with it. Behind the concession stand, they’d commissioned a grand painted mural of movie posters. I remember Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Hellraiser. In the hallways, they had wall paintings of characters and moments from films that they’d add to every few years. Han kissing Leia from Empire and Neo stopping bullets in The Matrix stand out.

      It was a nifty little place, but, about a decade ago, ownership took over that decided that upkeep wasn’t part of the plan. Also, a much fancier octoplex opened up in town in the mid-2000’s that stole its thunder. For a few years, though, through some sort of agreement, the two places never showed the same movies at the same time. Our dinky little town had seventeen different movies playing at the same time. You’d have to go to both depending on which had what you wanted to see. Eventually, the disinterest in upkeep took its toll. They had a rip in the middle of the big theater’s screen for literally years and did nothing.

      The guy that owned the separate octoplex bought it eventually, but the lack of updating over the last fifteen years made it too expensive for him too completely overhaul the place and it closed down within the last two years. We went from a movie variety utopia to now only having six movies in town at a time. (The octoplex may have eight screens, but 2D and 3D on separate eliminates two of them.) So movies are no longer a part of mall culture in my town and they’re moving to stand-alone cineplexes in many other places, but the combination was the rule of thumb in most malls I was ever in around Kentucky growing up.

      • William Henley

        You know, it seems that most of the malls I know of that have theaters are smaller malls – and almost every smaller town with a mall (ie 15-50 stores) will have a small theater at it. It’s the larger malls (ie in excess of 100 stores) that seem to lack malls. The exception is larger malls that have been renovated in the past 10-15 years. Busy malls that were built back in the 70s and 80s (ie the majority of American malls) that were not built with movie theaters usually won’t give up parking lot space to add a theater (although there is usually one built within a few blocks of the theater).

        So Julian, the size of the mall, and what they have, is directly proportional to the city and the people who live there, and when the mall was built. A small town of 30,000 people may have a mall that has 15-20 stores and a small 6 screen theater in it that may be the only theater in town. A larger city (500,000+ people) may have malls with 150+ stores without theaters. Malls out in the suburbs and in smaller cities (100,000 to say 400,000 people) will typically have 50-100 stores, and its kinda hit or miss if they have theaters, but if they do have theaters, they are typically 8-15 screens, and, at least in my experience, the theater has been added on after the mall was built.

  14. Charles M

    Yeah, I go alone sometimes. But I make sure to go when it is not packed. So I don’t go during the afternoons or Friday nights or even the weekends.

    But I do spend most of my time watching DVDs, but that’s because of subtitles and such. Won’t watch a dialogue heavy movie in the cinemas.

  15. Bryan

    I prefer to go with my wife, but there’s just a lot of movies that she doesn’t really have an interest in seeing (read as: any superhero movie ever…) I could probably find somebody to go with but most of the time, it’s easier to just go by myself. On those occasions (and given how out of whack ticket prices are around the DC area – $9+ for a regular, non-3D, non-IMAX matinee) I’ve started going early on Saturday mornings. They usually have pretty good discounts and then I can still spend the day with my wife.

  16. agentalbert

    I wish more people went to the movies alone. Then maybe they’d stfu instead of nattering to each other throughout.

  17. I would answer 1, 1 1/2, and 5.
    _IF_ I go, I have no problem going by myself, actually I PREFER to go by myself, and for some of the same reasons I prefer Solo, I also watch most of my movies at home.

    The theater offers too many distractions from other patrons, and if you’re part of a group, even more distractions from them as well. I used to typically go on a Sunday evening, say 7 or 8 PM showing, which had the least distractions of any showings as most people were home or having dinner somewhere, but still enough to irritate me.

  18. I felt a bit odd the first time I went to see a Movie alone but I really wanted to see it at a Theatre and nobody else was interested so I went anyway. I have been several times by myself since then for similar reasons.

    The last Movie I went to see by myself was Gravity. I sat bang in the middle of the theatre in the sweet spot and for a moment though I had the place to myself. That would have been creepy but also quite a privilege at the same time. But a group of Three Polish guys walked in just before the film started and Sat in front of me. I couldn’t understand a word they said but it was kind of nice to not be completely alone.

    • Josh Zyber

      I don’t think I’ve ever been completely alone in a theater, but I came close once. I took at date to see Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, and we were the only two people in the theater. That actually worked out, because she’d never seen the TV show and I had to explain a lot of what was going on to her as it played. I wouldn’t have done that if there had been other people in the theater.

      (If this seems like a very odd choice of date movie, as I recall she picked the movie, which I had already seen at that point.)

          • William Henley

            Ah, does it have to necessarirally be a date movie? Actually, that can be one, but how about another with “most awkward movie seeing with another person” and “most fun movie seen with another person”. I got perfect examples for both!

            As for most awkward movie, in college, I was in a small college town, and we had two theaters in town – both pretty run down. Century Theaters came in and built a brand new multiplex with digital sound, stadium seating, etc. Well, a week before they were scheduled to open, they were showing a special screening of the 1999 reissue of Gone With The Wind. I am a huge fan of this movie, as was my friend Jennifer, so we decided to get a few people together and meet up at the theater to catch this. She was in charge of getting people together – none of my friends were interested in this movie (other than her). So she got said about 5 additional people were meeting us there.

            Well, day of the movie comes, and I meet her up there, and notice immediately that something is wrong. First, it turns out that the theater is cash only, and she didn’t have any cash on her, so I had to pay her way in. Then not a single one of her friends showed up. This was also the first time that she and I had really hung out together outside of school. So here we are, in this four hour long romantic film, alone for the first time, and I had no clue (at that time) if her story was true or if she was playing some game to get us alone together (turns out it was true – at intermission, we called her friends, they didn’t show up because they thought the theater was going to be packed, and actually showed up for the second half).

            Funnest time I ever had in a movie was with Mamma Mia. I took my goddaughter, who was about 12 or 13 at the time, the movie had been out a few weeks, and we went to the 10PM Wednesday night showing of this. There were only 4 other people in the theater, in a pretty good size auditorium (not the largest, but still pretty good size). They were spread out so we pretty much didn’t even notice the other people in the theater. We were fine…. until Pierce started singing. We burst out laughing, and pretty much heckled the entire movie

      • William Henley

        I saw Star Wars Episode 4 when it was rereleased in a theater completely alone. It was in their big THX auditorium. However, the theater was getting old, and while their main auditoruims were kept up, the smaller ones were going to crap, so not too many people were going there to begin with. I then went on a school day during school (this was released May of 97, right?) so I was a senior and had half days, so I caught the 12:30 PM showing on a Tuesday. There was no one else in the theater. That was a cool experience

  19. Always go on my own, always have. Usually because I finish work earlier I tend to go in the afternoon when it’s quiet, in fact went to see Edge of Tomorrow a few weeks back and had the screen to myself. Can see why some people like to go with others as I have to wait for friends to see films before we can talk about them, but would be a happy man if I had the screen to myself everytime, got so fed up of assholes playing with there phones!

    • Drew

      You couldn’t be more mistaken. Are you not even reading the comments, before you post your remarks? It absolutely IS by choice. Going to movies with other people relies on multiple variables to work out perfectly. In spite of the difficulty of making it work out, and the effort involved, once the group arrives at the cinema, nobody looks at, or speaks to any other person, until AFTER the film is over.

      Going to a movie alone is convenient and terrific. There’s no need to make plans, ascertain a babysitter, attempt to ensure that the film is good for everyone going to it, work around everybody’s schedule, find a time that accommodates multiple people… the list goes on and on.

      Go see a movie alone. You’ll be glad that you did. And you’ll realize that doing so, is most definitely BY CHOICE.

  20. Thulsadoom

    There should be an option for ‘used to go alone’. I haven’t ticked anything at the moment, as I haven’t been to the cinema alone for nearly two years… But when I’ve been single in the past, I’ve quite happily gone to the movies alone. To be honest, I really enjoyed it. I got a kick out of going when I wanted, to see exactly what I wanted. Of course these days, even if I was single I probably wouldn’t go, purely because of the expense. It’s just not worth it, especially when you only have to wait a few months to see the big releases on rental.

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