No distractions, no judgement and all the popcorn. Andrew Dickens argues that going to the cinema alone is the ultimate way to watch films.
A trip to the cinema is usually something done with others. It’s a date (please, for the love of humanity, not a first date), it’s a weather-avoiding activity with family, or perhaps a chance for you and the gang to indulge in some subtle Toy Story cosplay (nobody will even notice the spurs).
But how often do you go to the cinema by yourself? If the answer is “never” or “not if I can help it” or “some of us have friends, old boy”, then I urge you to reconsider.
I urge you to reconsider as someone who, 15 years ago, would have given those answers. It was around that time that I started going to see films for work: screenings full of journalists reviewing it or prepping for an interview with its star or director.
Journalists who a) have to concentrate and b) are extremely intolerant of people whispering “Who’s that?” or “What did she say?” or “I’m going to the toilet, fill me in when I get back,” every 17 minutes. Journalists who are, almost invariably, on their todd.
So, I got used to it. Then, I started to appreciate it. Now, I actively enjoy it. Not every time, and not for every kind of film (Avengers: Endgame, for example, is a dish best shared), but yes, I enjoy it. I’ve even been in screenings completely alone, begging the question: if a man cries at a children’s cartoon and the projectionist doesn’t see it, did he really cry at all?
“But why is going to the cinema alone so much fun?” I hear you bellow. I’ll tell you why.
1. You get to choose the film
Alone time is important and precious, so why compromise? Going to the cinema alone means no bargaining and – most importantly – no judgement. Your cinema-going habits are yours to reveal as and when you choose.
2. You get to choose and not share your snacks
Personally, I’m against any cinema snack louder than marshmallows eaten from a silk pouch, but whatever you feel the need to munch on, it’s all yours. And in a quiet screening, with lots of isolated seats, you won’t need to munch it next to someone’s ear.
3. You get a better seat
Because people in a cinema believe that all other people in the same cinema have a terrible contagious pox, they hate sitting next to each other unless absolutely necessary. Consequently, there’s nearly always a spare single seat, even on the best rows. You are the peg that fits that hole.
4. You get to concentrate on what’s going on
See above comment about whispering.
5. You get to go more often
No fiddling around with availability, no qualms about an 11am showing: because you’re not reliant on other people, you can go when you want and as often as you want (with or without them). This not only keeps you off the streets and prevents you from falling into a life of crime, but spending time at the cinema also makes you come across as dead cultured.
Read more: Why I love airports as a solo traveller
6. You get to join a trend
More and more Brits are going to the cinema alone. According to a recent survey by Showcase Cinemas, 24% go solo at least three times a year. That’s a small enough number for you to seem a bit cool and different, but large enough for you not to look like a weirdo.
7. You get to react how you want
How many times in your life have you laughed just because other people are laughing, out of politeness, embarrassment, or not wanting to look like the one person who didn’t get the very sophisticated joke? How many times have you screamed like a fox because something has made you jump and felt a little bit awkward about it (see date reference)? If you’re going to the cinema alone, you have the freedom to be as quiet, loud, confused, weepy, and frightened as you darn well please.
8. You get to completely disconnected from the world
And I mean completely. Ok, not completely – you can still see, hear and smell people, and the film you’re watching is technically part of the world – but once you walk through those fire doors and step onto the static-inducing fibres of the generic movie theatre carpet, you don’t need to interact with anyone. But even better than that, it’s an enforced digital detox – and at around two hours, the perfect period of time – because you can’t use your electronic devices (if you do, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will cough in your popcorn).
This article is part of our summer content series celebrating the concept of being ‘positively selfish’. We’re turning our focus on the self, recognising how a little selfishness can be a positive thing – how it can even promote your personal growth
Images: Movie Stills DB