Going to the movies solo (and I don’t mean Han Solo) can be a terrifying prospect for some. It seems unnatural in a society where we’ve been trained to think about it as part of a classic date scenario (dinner, movie, terrible or awesome goodnight kiss) or a group activity where at least one other person is involved in the rite of watching images on a gigantic screen in a darkened theater. And I certainly can understand the need for someone with whom to share popcorn during and discussion after.
But we also live in the golden age of binge-watching where we can watch hours of television shows and movies without changing out of our sweatpants, and the majority of us participate in THAT rite alone (save for maybe a bag of our dear friend, Doritos). I realize a night in with ye olde Netflix may seem a bit different than one out at your local movie multiplex, but with a little courage and maybe a gentle swath of mascara (if you feel like it), it’s not as different as you might think.
Since moving to New York a little over three years ago, I have become a pro at the solo movie date. Now, I know it’s a little easier to blend in when you live in a city of nine million people, but I started going to the movies alone when I was in Oklahoma City for college, and I still managed to be an under-the-radar solo movie-goer. So let me give you the pitch for why you should start hitting the Cineplex on your own:
- You always get to pick the movie. Wanna see J. Lo’s new sure-to-be-a-guilty-pleasure-but-probably-terrible-movie, the Boy Next Door? Go for it! No one can sigh loudly and politely yet pointedly suggest something with a higher score on Rotten Tomatoes. Feeling more like indulging your gangster side with A Most Violent Year? What about a Truffaut marathon at your local art-house theater? C’est bon! Allons-y! Going alone means you don’t have to ever compromise; your choice is the only one that matters.
- You always get to pick the snacks/drinks. You’re basically the Kevin McCallister of your movie going experience. A lovely cheese pizza just for me. Or you.
No judgments. Full disclosure: one time, I snuck in a 10-piece chicken nugget combo with waffle fries from Chik-Fil-A to a Toy Story/Toy Story 2 double feature. Because I’m a BAMF…and I was starving. Also, you never have to share, so have a calorie fest on your own, because you can.
- You can wear whatever you want. Obviously, you have to learn how to not care what you look like in public, but this is the most freeing part of the whole experience. There is no one you have to impress because you’re just sitting in the dark. Like, who actually is going to notice if you’re in an old college sweatshirt, jeans, Converse, and no makeup? I personally do not need winged-tipped eyeliner and red lipstick if I’m wearing 3-D glasses and watching the T-Rex attack Lex & Tim’s SUV in Jurassic Park…unless I want to feel fancier, but that decision is solely up to me.
- Nobody talks to you during previews. I think we can all agree we’d like to swoon over the next Avengers movie and its hunky stars without any extra commentary. (Am I the only one who finds Mark Ruffalo CRAZY HOT as Bruce Banner? Is it seriously just me? And also obviously I have had several dreams involving Iron Man and Captain America…)
- You can double-feature it whenever you feel like it. Maybe you want to see Wild and then maybe you want to see Night at the Museum 3. Tomato, tomato. No one can stop you.
So now that I’ve told you why it’s amazing ridin’ solo (and also ridin’ Solo…wink wink), let’s talk logistics! Here’s a little starter guide to how I personally do the whole going-to-the-movies-alone thing. Feel free to adapt this to suit your own heart’s desires. After all, as the wise and dreamy Dr. Ian Malcolm once opined in a dinosaur breeding lab on Isla Nublar,”Life finds a way.” You’ll find yours.
- Pick your movie(s). Remember, nobody is going with you, so you have free reign. I actually have gotten overwhelmed before because when you don’t have to think about what somebody else wants to see, you suddenly have way, WAY more choices. Know that you can make more than one trip or see more than one movie in a day (budget allowing). This may sound obvious, but if you’re used to always seeing movies with other people, it might seem like a strange concept to wrap your head around. See what YOU want to see!
- Opt for a morning showtime (before noon) when possible. In New York, it costs $14.50 for a regular adult priced show and up to $18 for an IMAX. However, most movie theaters here in the city offer early bird prices around $8 for movie times before noon. The great thing is most of these showings are relatively empty, so you’re guaranteed your choice of seats and an almost private viewing experience. If you don’t have problems with hanging with the elderly, you’re golden (just like the Golden Girls).
- Buy your snacks/drinks outside of the movie theater. Okay, so generally, this is frowned upon, because the big corporations who own movie theater chains want you to give them as much of your money as possible (and possibly your first-born child) like the Scrooge McDucks they are. In no world should a small Coke cost $5.25. So I stick it to the man and hit up the Duane Reade or 7-Eleven before I go and always remember to carry a slightly larger purse/bag with me. Since I typically go to morning movies a lot these days, I like buying a pastry and iced coffee, which costs me less than the price of a movie theater concession stand small soda. Take a big bag and be inconspicuous.
- Don’t worry about being there alone. Every single time I’ve gone to the movies by myself, there have been at least one or two other people there doing exactly the same thing as me. I don’t know about you, but I go to the movies mostly because I love movies. Occasionally, it’s also a form of stress-relief, but that’s a side benefit. If you’re nervous about being alone, try to focus on the fact you’re there to be entertained and engrossed in a story. The truth is that is what everyone else is there to do, and no one is paying attention to whether or not you’re there by yourself.
- Double Feature-it on occasion. What’s better than seeing one movie alone? Seeing two! Now, I have been a bad girl and snuck into a second movie at larger multiplexes where it’s easier to do that (I’m a rebel WITH a cause!), but I have also simply bought another ticket to a second feature. Recently, I saw both Whiplash and Nightcrawler back to back and realized I had unknowingly created a theme night (in this case: tales of obsession)! Part of the fun of seeing movies this way is being able to tailor your own movie-going experience. But don’t forget we all need some sunlight!
So now you have a plan for hitting the movies on your own like a boss. Hopefully, I’ve made you feel a little less apprehensive about leaving your house, your Doritos, and your Netflix behind in lieu of a cushy seat, large popcorn, and Meryl Streep. It’s good to do things on your own sometimes, to be the master of your own cinematic destiny. One last thing: enjoy yourself!
See you at the movies. I’ll be the one clandestinely chowing down on chicken nuggets towards the middle of the theater while Benedict Cumberbatch tries to break the Enigma Code and beat the Nazis.