3 reasons you should go to the movies on your next trip
Updated: Aug 26, 2020
I love going to the movies wherever I travel. From arthouse theatre's tucked away in the cool part of town to huge multiplexes showing the latest global blockbuster, going to the cinema when travelling has not been the waste of time many thought it was... In fact, I argue that everybody should go to the movies while travelling. But why?
Travelling a country, a continent or the world, people tend to develop something that they have to do in each different place. One of the most standard things to do ones is to collect country ‘patches’ – various flags that you can religiously sew on to your undoubtedly worn and battered rucksack as a kind of scrapbook of the journey. Others are more original… remember the guy who literally danced, and is still dancing, his way all over the world? (aka Where the Hell is Matt?)
The thing that I have found myself doing in country after country is visiting the cinema. This might seem strange to some people... and I get why.
Why would you travel halfway across the world to sit in a dark room and watch a film that can be watched anywhere in the world?
Well, for me, experiencing the cinema in a different country isn’t about going to the first multiplex you may happen to stumble across showing the latest Hollywood offering - but that's not strictly off-limits, either. Going to the movies while travelling is one of my favourite things to do because it makes me feel at home. It has allowed me to do something completely normal while immersing myself in the new culture and surroundings I found myself in and I believe that it has always made it easier for me to feel more connected to the country I'm travelling in.
It's easy to find listings, directions and prices for the nearest independent or art-house cinema pretty much wherever you are but, as I said, a big Hollywood blockbuster is just as good. If you're really lucky, there will be a film festival, or outdoor viewings available. Whatever you decide to do, here are 3 reasons why you should make going to the movies part of your travel habits too.
1. Get to know the real culture
When travelling, the cinema offers a rare foot in the door of normal life. That may sound strange, but a cinema is far away from the typical tourist traps that so many cities or areas kind of throw in tourists faces... far away from the bright lights of the sex shops in the Red Light District of Amsterdam, an organised group city tour of Sydney or the trashy bars with cheap alcohol and cheap music that lure backpackers in on the idyllic shores of Thailand's Koh Samui. The cinema is not something you particularly do when you go on holiday or travel, so the tourist facade is not necessary.
Independent cinemas tend to show national or even regional movies. This means that you’re experiencing a part of the countries culture – the real culture, not just the tourist equivalent. One of the best cinemas I’ve visited on my travels was in Cape Town. Inventively named the ‘Labia’ (a little bit awkward when lost in the street and asking where to find the Labia…), I saw an Afrikaans movie. Although the plotline was maybe a little lacking and some of the acting debatable, the film I saw was entirely in one of the many national languages of South Africa – a language in which I’d heard very little of until that point. The content of the film was entirely South Africa, and I left the movies with a clearer grasp of the people of the country that I was in.
2. Get off the beaten track
In pretty much every major city in the world, you will find a pretty major cinema - and a film scene to go with it. In most small towns, ask around, and there will often be a small theatre tucked away in the town somewhere. Whether its a big city or a remote town, a large multiplex cinema or a tiny independent cinema that has stood the test of time, finding a place to go watch a movie can be just as much as part of the adventure as anything else. Winding your way around the less touristy parts of town to find that perfect
3. Immerse yourself in something shared
Watching a movie in the theatre is a communal experience - 99% of the time... unless you're at a terribly timed screening of a bad movie! Especially a piece of advice for the solo traveller (or those looking for a break from their travel companion!), movies are a fantastic way to feel part of something again, and a little less alone. That sounds a bit depressing: but I promise, it's not. Nothing beats watching a movie in a room full of people, immersing yourself in a story and hearing and seeing people around you react and laugh and enjoy themselves.
Travel and cinema: an immersive experience
The cinema allows you to fully get involved with the real lives of locals, something in which so many travellers desperately try to achieve but ultimately fail miserably at doing. And why do so many fail so epic-ly in experiencing the real culture of a country? Well, maybe it’s because as tourists, travelling in destinations around the world, we’re often subconsciously looking for something completely out of the ordinary. We travel to experience something different: something that makes our senses tingle in every way. We desire a complete change to our normal. We want something so spectacularly exotic and unique that it blows our minds, opening up the unthinkable variety in the world. In short, we're looking for something out of a guide book or, ironically, a Hollywood movie.
But reality often doesn’t live up to the fantasy. How many times have you been disappointed when you arrive at some world-famous tourist spot? How many times have you left a destination, cursing yourself that you didn't take the time to learn how to say hello or thank you? Going to the cinema when travelling is a way to actually learn more about the place you are travelling, and the people that make up the fibres of that country. Sometimes it takes participating in something altogether normal to immerse yourself in something entirely different.