Revisiting the magic of the cinema hall

Dubai - Home theatre vs movie theatre: which one do you prefer?


Sushmita Bose

Published: Wed 3 Nov 2021, 2:32 PM

Last updated: Wed 3 Nov 2021, 4:35 PM

In a world that’s being referred to as ‘pre-pandemic’ (or pre-Covid, take your pick), I’d last had a theatrical outing to watch a movie called Thappad. In English, it translates to ‘The Slap’. This was in March 2020, just before corona craziness descended in right earnest — but it was still like a rap on the knuckles for me because fear had already gripped many of us, and we had — unofficially, on reflex — started practising social distancing. Inside that sparsely-populated auditorium, whose giant screen was unfurling the story of what happens when (husband) Pavail Gulati slaps (wife) Taapsee Pannu, some of us sought out other (empty) seats to get away from clusters.

From then to now, for more than 18 months, I’d not been to a movie theatre. Until last Saturday. That evening saw me gear up, catch the Metro to Dubai Mall and seek out Reel Cinemas. I had a date with Bond, James Bond, even though I’m not particularly crazy about him. On hindsight, I’d have probably not made the effort had I not been goaded on by a friend. I’m glad I did; I quite enjoyed No Time To Die, the vertical of willing suspension of disbelief neatly tucked in place.

What struck me when I entered the darkened interiors of a certain auditorium — popcorn and Pepsi in hand — was how empty it was despite it being a weekend, and despite the milling crowds in the mall.

I think I may have added to the diminishing numbers. There was a time when I’d watch a movie once a week, at times twice a week. Then, there was a time before that when I’d watch every single movie playing in town (even the bad ones, I’d look for redeeming features in them) — and I may have actually been visiting theatres three to four times a week (there used to be that magical ‘night show’ that you could lap up after work hours).

I consider myself a film buff, I love watching them, love revisiting them, read up literature on them, try to stay on top of Oscar and BAFTA trivia and so on. I have (what I consider) the best films — those I had watched on screen — in DVD format; and even though DVDs (and my DVD player) are now considered relics, I like the fact that these movies are with me to have and to hold.

But these days, especially after the span of Covid, I barely undertake the pilgrimage to watch ‘newly-released’ offerings at a cinema hall close to me — or far from me. Earlier, “What’s your plan for the weekend?” would elicit a response like “Meeting friends for brunch and then watching a movie” from me. These days, it’s more like “Putting my feet up and binging on a series — ordering in chicken and cheese fatayer”.

I had resisted the OTT revolution for the longest time, but over the course of the pandemic, I surrendered meekly. And then, it coerced me into conversion; I am now an acolyte of the home entertainment movement.

I was initially watching Netflix and the rest of its ilk on my laptop. For one simple reason: the furnished apartment I live in doesn’t have a “smart” TV (it looks smart enough but, as they say, don’t go by looks). A few weeks ago, a tech-friendly friend introduced me to the wonders of input-output cabling. Now I can hook my laptop to my dumb TV — which has an expansive screen — and enjoy Midnight Mass in larger scope.

Has it changed my life?

I really don’t think so. I was pretty content with my laptop. The bigger picture is nice enough, but when you are drawn to a certain series, or a movie, it’s the content that matters, not the bells and whistles.

As most of us get more and more used to living in a bubble, the home front becomes the experience. Not the movie theatre. Yes, of course, we will mouth lines like “Nothing like a Digital Dolby experience”, like I did when I was watching No Time To Die and juggling the three-in-one popcorn bucket (the caramel-flavoured lot always stands out, but not so much if you buy just that, it has to be in company). So yes, once in a while “for the experience” will obviously hold true. But no more compulsive movie watching on a whim like I used to at the theatres, when I can work the remote from the couch — after popping the corn (no caramel-flavoured variant, alas) in the microwave.

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