Poppin’ Off with Dr Popov: On Moviegoing Alone

You’ve all seen him: you’re out at your local Cineplex with a group of your like minded, attractive, hilarious young friends. You’ve got your bags of popcorn and your smiles and your good times. You take your seats, chatting about whatever bullshit like your jobs or some recent premiere on the television, and there he is. Three seats back, a few to the left; it’s THAT guy who goes to movies alone.

But before you judge that sketchy son of a bitch, listen up, because you might learn something. That guy back there, the one with the mud on his boots who’s wearing the sweatshirt from the university that he obviously did not attend, that guy is me. And you want to know something? That guy (or girl, come on now, it’s the 21st century and we all know that both sexes can feel the cold hard stick of loneliness and despair) could be you, too. The kind of fall from prominence that will land you on a solo journey to your local film house is right around the corner, ready to seize you at its first opportunity because, face it, friends come and go, they get fired, promoted, relocated, deported, move to big cities, move away from big cities, go back to school, drop out of school and so on. Eventually, all of you haughty motherfuckers out there are going to find yourselves cold and alone with no good reason to leave your parents’ house or your studio apartment, and when you do, you’ll reach out to the same social activities that you used to love to share with your friends, except now your friends are gone, and you’re just that sketchy motherfucker in the back of the movie theater.

If you don’t believe that you’re headed for friendlessness, I’m pretty sure the phenomenon is discussed in that book, Bowling Alone, though I can’t know for certain because I’ve never read it. Basically, though, as we make our way into the future and the Elks’ Club and Free Masons and really WASPs in general fall out of style, a fundamental truth about humanity that misanthropists and more serious alcoholics have known for quite some time has become increasingly apparent: people don’t like people. This isn’t to say that your mother doesn’t love you or you aren’t friends with your friends. On the contrary, people certainly do like the people they like; they trust the ones that have earned their trust and they want to be around the ones they’ve been around for a while, but, deep down, before and after everything else, people are fundamentally distrustful of other people. It’s why you’ll call your college buddy twice weekly who lives three states over even though you haven’t seen him since the time you guys hung out in the city last Christmas and he booted on that police car, but you’ve never spoken a word to your neighbor who has lived across the street for the past five years. It’s engrained in our minds as early as kindergarten, where we learn all the important shit, “stranger danger.” People don’t trust people, and that’s fine, because on the whole, people are bastards. However, this does mean that when you run out of the finite number of friendships that you do have, instead of forging new ones, you’re going to withdraw into yourself, become a recluse, and start being OK with the fact that there is no one in the seat next to you to see Harry Potter 7 1/2.

That’s where I come in. Here, I’ve tried to compile a list of do’s and don’ts for you first timers, to ensure that you’re virginal solo moviegoing experience is the best that it possibly can be, not because I care about your life, but because I care about the art of solo moviegoing, because it’s all I’ve got right now, on top of which there are those out there claiming that modernity is about to ruin the Cineplex the same as it’s ruined everything else, and, really, it’s better for your health than drinking alone (but you can find that guide here).

Do carefully consider the time your movie is playing, and the kind of movie it is. Determine what time most people would see that kind of movie, and do the opposite. If the movie you’re seeing has been out for a while (more likely at the larger theaters) then you’re in luck, most people have seen it already. If you’re seeing a kids movie at a late hour, the children will have long since gone to bed and your fellow attendees will most likely be stoned (do not try to score some weed off of them, as it would require interacting). Remember: a daytime movie is a toss-up. It’s unlikely that there will be very many people there, but the ones that will be there will be old, and the old and the dying among us love to try and reach out and connect with one last human before they get shipped to the big retirement home in the sky.

Do leave the theater as soon as the credits start to roll. This will ideally leave you a brief window of darkness in which to get up and to the aisle, which will leave your fellow moviegoers unsure as to whether or not you actually flew this one solo. Not that you care what they think of you, but you certainly don’t want them to have the momentary satisfaction of thinking that their life is better than yours.

Don’t sit in the dead center of a row, especially not in the dead center of the theater. This is where people like to sit, and if you’re in this to win it, you don’t like to sit near people. You don’t have to be so extreme as to sit in a side section, but find a seat out of the way, towards the front or the back, and more on one side than the other. You’ll be out of the way without drawing attention to yourself, and people will do their best to respect that and keep their distance (again, people don’t like other people).

Don’t make eye contact. Ever. With anyone.

Don’t fucking talk to anyone. That’s not what you came here for.

Do pick out a theater a good distance from where you and all those people you don’t actually know live, preferably a larger multiplex where you can find some anonymity in the crowd, and the staff won’t get to know you. On the topic of the staff, try and buy your tickets from some sort of ticket selling machine if possible, to minimize interaction with other humans.

Do consider the type of movie that you’re going to see, and remember the situation you’re in. If you see 50/50 all by your lonesome, you might find yourself wishing you had a buddy like Seth Rogan to see it with. If I could make one recommendation, it would be that you take a night to yourself and go see The Way, an Emilio Estevez production. Martin Sheen’s son dies and he sets out on a hiking trek for reasons he can’t explain to himself. Along the way, he keeps running into these people, and they’re all kind of douchebags, but they’ve got their merits as well. Feel-good-about-feeling-bad movie of the season, ten points. Also, I was the only one in the theater for this one; bad for the box office, good for me.

Do hit up your local Applebee’s or Buffalo Wild Wings for some hard liquor beforehand. If you’re at a large enough theater, there’s probably one in the same complex. Some people who go to bars to drink alone are really hoping to strike up a conversation, and you don’t want that. People who go to Applebee’s are caught up in whatever Jets game and their own group of friends, so you’ll be able to slide through for a quick cocktail before anyone notices you’re there. Drinking alone before seeing a film alone lets the universe know that you mean business.

About: Dr. Popov

Dr. Anton Popov has a Ph.D. in Misanthropology from a prestigious university. He has various other credentials that, frankly, are none of your business.

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