My Top 10 Movie Theater Experiences of 2014

Seeing movies at home may be easier than ever, but the fact remains: heading out to the movie theater is still the best way to see a movie.

You may get stuck with a talkative audience or a person who just can’t conceive of going two hours without checking their phone is sitting in front of you. But if you can ignore all that, movies on the big screen are the best.

While I already did my Top 10 Films of 2014, I’m looking at the best times I’ve had in a movie theater. I went to the movies more times this year than I had ever before - partly because writing for means that I have to see some of these. The other reason is that I just love movies on big screens.

I also had a chance to attend my first film festivals this year. In April, I went to the TCM Classic Film Festival in Los Angeles and in late October, I hit the Savannah Film Festival. These were obviously two very different experiences, but both provided me with memories I’ll never forget.

Without any further delay, here’s my personal list of best theater experiences.

image of ‘Interstellar’ star Matthew McConaughey courtesy of Kristin Callahan/ACE/

[new page = Big Hero 6]

10. I saw Disney’s Big Hero 6 a few days before its release at the Savannah Film Festival. The beautiful city’s Trustees Theatre was the central hub for events and it’s a great theater. I sat in the front row of the balcony, directly in the center and the 3D presentation was gorgeous. It was a blast to see the film with such a big audience and hearing “AWWW”s everytime Baymax did anything put a smile on my face.

[new page = Cheaper by the Dozen]

9. The original 1950 Cheaper By The Dozen was the first film I saw at TCMFF and that helped me immediately cross off an item on my bucket list: see a real Technicolor film on 35mm. Three-strip Technicolor is the most beautiful color process from classic Hollywood and seeing a real print was a pleasure. Jeanne Crain just looks beautiful in Technicolor.

Sadly, the trailer below is only in B&W:

[new page = Nightcrawler]

8. Since Nightcrawler came out on a really quiet weekend for Hollywood, my local AMC didn’t have any choice but to play it in one of the bigger theaters. I don’t live in an area where people are exactly running to see Jake Gyllenhaal go berserk for two hours, so the theater was mostly empty. But had Nightcrawler opened on any other weekend it would have been in a tiny theater.

Nightcrawler is a movie that begs to be seen on a big screen, just so you can see Gyllenhaal, whose eyes might as well pop out of the screen.

[new page = A Hard Day’s Night]

7. Over the summer, The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night celebrated its 50th anniversary. The film’s current distributor, Janus Films, toured its new restoration around the country and I got a chance to see it. I saw it at a local indie theater with a packed house. It was glorious to see the Beatles on the big screen.

[new page = Employees’ Entrance]

6. One thing I learned at TCMFF is that classic movie buffs love pre-code films. Screenings for any movie made between 1930 and 1933, when Hollywood wasn’t following a production code itself set, were packed. I managed to get in to see Employees’ Entrance, a kooky movie starring Warren William and Loretta Young, on 35mm. It’s a funny movie that highlights some of the strangest things Hollywood would do to titillate audiences. I still can’t get over William throwing a dog in a trash can, though.

[new page = The Normal Heart]

5. I’ll admit, I wasn’t exactly interested in ever seeing Ryan Murphy’s The Normal Heart. But I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to see the film on a big screen. It was made for HBO and never got a wide theatrical release. In fact, I don’t know where else it was shown on a big screen. Matt Bomer was also there and did a neat Q&A session with the audience after it, going over the painstaking process of making the movie. Now, I can’t picture seeing it on a small screen.

[new page = Guardians of the Galaxy]

4. Guardians of the Galaxy was a total blast to see on a big screen in a packed house. It’s a film that should be seen with a big crowd to laugh along with.

[new page = Godzilla]

3. I wish Godzilla played on IMAX screens without being in 3D. Director Gareth Edwards didn’t shoot the film with 3D cameras and it was clear that the film was post-converted. Still, it was really cool to see these giant monsters duke it out on the big screen. It was kinda like Pacific Rim - they aren’t perfect films, but seeing them on the big screen was essential.

[new page = Fiddler on the Roof]

2. Seeing Fiddler on the Roof on an IMAX screen at the TLC Chinese Theater will be one of those experiences I will never forget. Obviously, it was in digital, but hearing songs that I grew up hearing my family sing from giant speakers and seeing that cinematography was beautiful. Fiddler isn’t the greatest musical ever made, but it’s an important one and a film I wish more could see on the big screen.

[new page = Interstellar]

1. I was too cheap to see Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar on IMAX, but the screen I did see it on was pretty big. While I had my issues with the film itself (I couldn’t put it on my Top 10), it is a film of visual artistry. It’s a movie that must be first experienced on the big screen.

I’m a bit worried about the film will play on a small screen. Even after I got Gravity on Blu-ray, I held off on watching it on a TV for a few weeks because I feared that it wouldn’t hold up. I hope Interstellar doesn’t have the same problem.

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