Movies

How to Enjoy Going to the Movies

The answer to your moviegoing complaints may be a film festival.

Nancy Friedman
5 min readDec 8, 2023

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In an essay published in the New York Times in October, former Times critic A.O. Scott pondered whether it’s still worth going to the movies. (Gift link for non-subscribers.) Why leave the comfort of your living room and the convenience of streaming services, Scott asked, only to contend with “parking, concession-stand lines, yakkers and texters in the next row, sticky floors, and dim projection” at the local multiplex? Is there anything to be gained from the public, communal experience of moviegoing?

No, no, no, said many of the article’s 700-plus commenters. They cited rude audiences, high ticket prices, and “public-safety concerns in this gun-loving world” among other reasons not to patronize the cinema.

Me? I get it, but I beg to differ. I’m a movie fan and a theater loyalist. I even did a brief stint as a movie critic for my college newspaper when I was in graduate school. And I have a solution for everyone who loves movies but not the average moviegoing experience:

Go to a film festival.

Wait just a minute, I hear you protesting. Aren’t film festivals just for celebrities and high rollers and the rest of the red-carpet crowd?

Actually, no — unless your only frame of reference is the Cannes Film Festival or the Sundance Film Festival, which attract a lot of famous names and are often more about being seen than seeing.

The film festivals I’m championing here are more local, more modest, and often more quirky. The ticket prices are reasonable and the rewards are bountiful.

Promotional art for Noir City Chicago 2023, a festival of film noir.

Here’s what I’m talking about.

I started 2023 by attending most of the 10-day Noir City Film Festival, which is dedicated to film noir. All of the films in this year’s festival had been made in 1948, and many had been gloriously restored to near-new condition. The screenings were at Oakland’s beautiful Grand Lake Theater, about half a mile from where I live. I walked there. Many of my fellow festival-goers dressed up for the occasion, some in circa-1948 clothing. Everyone was polite and thrilled to be there. I had a wonderful time.

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Nancy Friedman

Writer, name developer, brand consultant, idea-ist, ex-journalist. @fritinancy on Mastodon, Instagram, Bluesky, Threads, and elsewhere.