Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The strange phenomenon of multiple theatrical viewings

It is a rather unique joy, seeing the same movie multiple times in the theater.  Not on television or on DVD, but on the big screen, during a movie's initial run, where there are no interruptions (hopefully), everything is bigger (and louder) than life, you can't pause it, you can't leave without missing something, and you have to pick and choose what to focus your gaze on, up there on that big screen.

My family did this so much growing up, we had a name for it, and two thresholds.  We call it borching (from a book we had growing up on Boontling, a little local Northern California language, where "to borch" meant to take in an entertainment repeatedly.  Perfect, no?).  Reaching six viewings gave you a "Borch."  Reaching and passing eight gave you a "True Borch."  Why?  Because after eight times, the movie viewing experience changes a bit.

After eight viewings, you're in a whole 'nother ballpark.  Oddly enough, you can start to have "bad" viewings after eight.  "Bad" is a relative term, of course, because no viewing of a movie you've chosen to see this many times is ever bad.  But because you're no longer just watching the movie at this point -- you're catching new things all the time, you're watching what actors are doing off to the side, you're watching what the extras are doing, you're paying attention to set decoration, you're memorizing the music, you're reading stuff on computer monitors and signs, you're counting how many bad guys Iron Man flattens when he bulldozes through them.  You end up going into the movie saying, "I want to make sure I catch X, Y, and Z."  Then you look at something else at that moment and miss it.  Oddly, the more times you see a movie, the more likely it is to miss stuff you're actually watching for.  Until you get to about twelve viewings, in which case you've finally caught just about everything you wanted to see and you relax again.  Now you've finally learned just about every note of music, including which parts are in the movie that aren't on the album (always frustrating, because invariably, one of those non-album moments is one of your favorite bits).  You have large swathes of dialogue memorized without even trying.  After eight viewings, I usually spend each new viewing focused solely on a different character.  It's great fun to watch what the actors are doing things when they're not the main center of attention in a scene with multiple people, but you really can't start seeing that kind of stuff until you've seen it a bunch of times because initially, you don't want to miss something by looking off to the sidelines. 

And the most amazing thing to me is that my family doesn't tire of movies seeing them multiple times.  In fact, the more times we see it, the more we want to see it again on top of that.  It builds on itself and you can't wait to see it again, even if you just saw it.  Especially if you just saw it.

Once the movie leaves the theater, then the mad, delightful urgency to see it as many times as you can slowly fades.  Life becomes normal, boring, ordinary again.  Life shrinks.  You have to be content with memories and dreams (and acquired merchandise).  And you despair of ever finding another film worthy of that much of your thoughts, money, and time.

I'm looking forward to the DVD coming out, and I'll buy it right away, but I doubt I'll watch it for awhile.  I won't be able to bear to see it on the small screen.  It will be too depressing for words.  But at least, for now, I've memorized what it looks like BIG, so I can close my eyes and expand it back to its real size in my mind. 


  1. Is borching kind of like when you go into a mutliplex, paying for one movie but staying for several shows afterward by "sneaking" into the other theaters?

    1. Nope, that'd be theater-hopping. It's simply returning to the theater day after day to see the exact same movie over and over again. :-D

  2. Have you actually gone to see the same movie in the same theater 8 times?

    1. Sure, many times. 8 is actually on the lower end. I've seen quite a few movies over 15 times, and a couple of movies I saw over 30 times in the theater during their first run. The Avengers is currently at 12 viewings (basically, I've gone to see it every weekend since it was released).

    2. Sigh. I think 4 maxes out how many times I've seen anything in the theater. I see many movies 2 or even 3 times, but then something else comes out or the movie isn't in theaters anymore.

      I remember the first movie I saw in the theater that then paled in comparison on my TV. It was "The Phantom of the Opera" -- on the big screen, it was almost like drowning. I saw it twice in one week, because it was only going to be in my theater for one week. When it came to DVD, I put it on, then turned it right back off because it was not right. I think it was almost a year before I could watch it on my TV.

      Also, I need a bigger TV. Some day this one will die and we'll get something a wee bit bigger, at least something big enough to see satisfactorily from across this current living room.

    3. I love this! You're a real champ at this. I used to do things like see EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and RETURN OF THE JEDI every week for the first month they were out, and have seen the STAR WARS films and a few other movies like SOUND OF MUSIC on a big screen easily 8-20 times or so in my lifetime, depending on the titles -- but you've got me beat on both the numbers and doing it all at once when the movie is first out! My STAR WARS screenings include things like taking my oldest kids to the '90s reissues.

      Still, I know exactly the feeling you describe in your last two paragraphs! I remember the summer EMPIRE was out, after the initial month of going to see it weekly, I went back all by myself one summer day because there was no one around to go with and I just...had...to...see...it again right away to absorb more of it! That summer, in fact, was the summer of my first videocassette player (as they were often called then -- and it was Beta!) so the feeling that the movie would be GONE once it left the theater was very much in my mind at that time. And as you say, even in this DVD age, the movie really "shrinks" at home! (So what a thrill to see things like those Boetticher films and SOUTH PACIFIC in HUGE prints...wish you could have been there! Hopefully another one soon...)

      Love your post!

      Best wishes,

    4. Rachel - I know circumstances are not always advantageous for going back multiple times to the theater. Maybe when Avengers 2 comes out? LOL! It's also expensive to go that often to the movie theater these days! Matinees showings (at least out here) cost what evening shows used to cost. And matinees seem to stop mid-day instead of at 5 pm. It adds up fast when you keep going back! We've been buying our movie tickets at Costco, because it's cheaper that way even for the matinee showing. Which then requires extra planning... It's this big production... but worth it! :-D

      Laura - Yep, we went back to the theater to see the Star Wars films a jillion times too. Both when they originally premiered, and then yet again when they were re-released. I don't actually have a clue what my theater count is on any of those anymore if you combine both releases. LOL! And there was one day during the re-issue when my sister and I went down to Hollywood and saw all three Star Wars movies, in three separate theaters, on the same day. We had to see them out of order due to the movie times, Jedi, then SW, then Empire, but that actually worked out well because Empire is our favorite of the lot anyway.

      The family went to catch Avengers one more time this past weekend. It had been three weeks since we'd seen it, and all of us were in that "just... have... to... see... it... again" mode that you described perfectly. And amazingly, we caught new things! Including finding the Shawarma Palace restaurant during the movie itself. That cracked us up.

      And I STILL suffer that horrible, aching feeling that the movie will be gone forever once it leaves the theater, that feeling we all had before videos and DVDs. And in a way, it is going to be gone forever. At least the big screen version. I mean, I've gotten so used to reading all the cool stuff off to the sides in Iron Man's heads up display, or on various computer monitors in different shots throughout Avengers, and I know I'll never be able to read that stuff again when it's reduced to television size. That makes me so sad.

      But hey, everything is transitory, and I've had a really good run of viewings with this movie, so I can't complain!

    5. What was the movie you saw 30 times? Was that Star Wars, the original?

    6. No. That one was in the twenties. First movie I went back and saw 30+ times in the theater was "Raiders of the Lost Ark." Second one I saw 30+ times was "The Phantom Menace." I know, not exactly a good movie, but what can I say? That's what happens when you're starved for the Star Wars universe and the movie ends with a great lightsaber duel. :-D To date, those are the only two movies that exceeded 30 viewings during the original theatrical release.

  3. Holy cow! That's alot of times! I remember the excitement when Phantom Menace came out; it was the movie of the summer back in 1999.