Why going to the cinema alone is one of life's greatest small pleasures
The first time I went to the cinema alone, I was afraid.
Not because I was going to the cinema alone, but because I was going to see Hereditary, the Ari Aster horror film where Toni Collette loses her mind and *that* telephone pole scene happens.
Granted, I was a little apprehensive about seeing a film by myself. I had never done it before, I didn't know the solo cinema-goer's etiquette. What if people looked at me and thought I didn't have any friends? What if I didn't have any friends, really?
For most people, going to the cinema is a group activity. You gather your mates, you decide on a film, you go to see that film, you discuss it afterwards.
The above scenario is fine, I'll engage with it. I'll go along, I'll be there, and the vast majority of the time, I may very well enjoy myself.
But will I enjoy myself half as much as I would have done if I had gone to see that film alone? Absolutely not.
What I had once presumed to be something only film reviewers (or people with no mates) did, had quickly become a regular occurrence for me - and a preferred one too.
Here's a couple of reasons why I would much rather go to the cinema alone:
- Pick your own film
- Pick your own film without having to argue
- Pick your own film without having to argue only to win the argument but still know full well that your cinema-partner is unhappy with the film you're both seeing even though they promise they're not
- More popcorn
I also get to tell people that I went to the cinema alone. So there's that.
Solo dates (or simply, doing-things-by-yourself) is a new enough feat for me. Where I once denied myself fun, relaxation, and a general Good Time unless I had somebody else to go with, I've since learned to enjoy my own company more than most people's.
Before I started doing things by myself, I didn't do anything by myself - and not because I hadn't considered it. I had. But I was afraid that people would look, that people would judge, that people would think I was weird for doing something alone.
But the more things I did by myself, the more I realised - nobody cares. Literally, not one person. It turned out that I enjoyed my own company far more than I ever realised, and that went for the cinema too.
The absence of movie-going over the past few months hasn't been much of an issue thanks to glorious weather of April, May, and most of June. Movies are great but so is laying out your back garden with an iced latte and the new Naoise Dolan book in your paw.
But then July came along with its damp, dreary, dark days, and suddenly, the cinema was the only place I wanted to be.
The comfort of the darkness, the gentle crunch of popcorn, the excuse to ignore your phone for at least two hours and if you didn't you were a pariah.
The sense of community among a group of people who have all decided to watch the same film at the same time. The understanding that now is a time for silence. The unwavering anger when somebody breaks that contract. The support when someone else leans over, kindly yet firmly, telling them to please be quiet, the movie is on.
Such interactions may not be possible in a Covid-19 world. Many cinemas have committed to practicing significant social distancing measures to ensure that people are kept as far away from each other as possible - measures that technically I, a solo cinema goer, should have lauded.
But I don't. It won't be the same, but most things won't be same after all of this. At least not for a little while.
A good number of cinemas in Ireland are opening their doors again after a long three+ months of closures. Some of them will struggle, others may thrive, and a few may not be able to reopen at all.
The entertainment industry has been, like most other industries, hit hard by the pandemic and the health and safety measures that have come with it.
Going to the cinema may not be the same, but at least we'll be able to go again soon.
(Alone. G'wan. Do it. No one's looking at you.)