When I got to work Tuesday morning after the Memorial Day weekend, the first person I saw in the newsroom hit me with a question.
"Well, how did you like it?" said my friend Chris.
"Like what?" I said.
"The movie" she said.
"Oh, I loved it," I said. "I'd see it again."
It's been a long time since a motion picture has dominated office talk the way "Top Gun: Maverick" did last week. Credit actor Tom Cruise for insisting that the sequel to the 1986 blockbuster "Top Gun" open only in theaters — 4,732 North American cinemas to be exact.
By now, most of you have probably either seen the movie or heard somebody gush about it. Box office was through the roof; early reports pegged the weekend take at $156 million. My younger son has already seen it twice. I'm itching to see it on an Imax screen.
Yes, "Top Gun: Maverick" was the right movie (a celebration of American military prowess) at the right time (during a very depressing news cycle) for the right audience (virtually everyone). When a 15-year-old (like my son) and a 64-year-old (like me) can rave about a film with equal enthusiasm, Hollywood is back on its game.
My birthday was last week, and my only request was a family trip to see the Cruise movie. It seems like it's been years since we all went to the theater together. COVID-19, streaming options on TV and varied interests make a family movie outing a hard sell. It takes a special film — and, in our case, a special event such as a family birthday — to make the stars line up.
The Sunday afternoon outing reminded me of all the reasons I prefer going to the movies, compared to watching at home. Here are eight that spring to mind.
— SweeTarts. These hard candies are my guilty pleasure, my '70s comfort food. There's something about the contained chemical reaction of SweeTarts and Diet Coke inside my mouth that makes me happy. I'm betting everyone has a go-to movie concession, and for most of us it's a treat we don't keep at home. Show me a person who keeps Milk Duds in the cupboard, and I'll show you a person with a candy problem.
— Sound quality. Watching movies at home, I'm always reaching for the remote control to turn up the volume. My 64-year-old ears, dulled by years of drumming, are beginning to falter. Theater-quality sound brings the center channel back into the clear range. and I can hear the dialog better.
— Previews. I know, most people hate previews — aka trailers — but I like to watch them as exercises in editing. Taking a two-hour movie and condensing it into two and a half minutes takes a lot of skill. I admire the craftsmanship.
— Reclining seats. Our 15-year-old son introduced me to theaters with reclining seats. For only a couple of bucks more per ticket, there's no reason not to splurge on comfort. The wide aisles and abundant leg room are worth the extra bucks, even if you don't kick back in the recliner.
— Phone fatigue. There's something cathartic about entering a theater, turning off your smartphone and slipping it into your pocket ahh! At home, I might pick up my phone during a lull in a movie and lose interest in the film entirely. Phones are so insidiously addictive that we have all but lost the power to resist them.
— Fewer distractions. Aside from an occasionally coughing audience member or paper rustler, movie theaters are generally more distraction-free than home. At home, a barking dog or a family member entering the room can break your concentration.
— The applause. "Top Gun: Maverick" is the first movie I've been to in a while that drew spontaneous applause from the audience. It doesn't happen often, but it's a fail-safe sign that the movie has succeeded in its basic mission: to entertain us.
— The ride home. At home, the credits roll on a film and people immediately go their separate ways. At the theater, there's always the ride home to decode, dissect and digest a movie with your companions. And that, friends, is the most compelling reason to buy a movie ticket to start with.
Contact Mark Kennedy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6645.