Solo cinema paradiso


I love movies, love watching them and also love the big screen cinema experience. A collection of friends and strangers in a room going through the same story (set to a soundtrack, no less) at the same time? Sign me up!  Add the blissful alchemy of popcorn and junior mints and a diet Coke? Even better. What I do sometimes keep a bit more under wraps is my penchant to sneak off every once in a while and indulge in a little mid-day solo cinema therapy. Yes, that's right. I sometimes go to movies by myself.

At first it felt kind of strange to park in the lot and walk up to the box office alone: "One ticket for...." (And, years ago, the first time I went it actually required a pep talk phone call from my cinephile brother.) But after the first solo movie, I was hooked. I loved that I could take a short vacation from my life of multi-tasking; in fact, it's two hours of glorious single-tasking. 

Sometimes when I confess this as one of my favorite indulgences, someone will say "Oh, I could never do that. I'd feel too guilty!" For me it's just the opposite; whether I find time on a day off during the week or on a Saturday, I always come home feeling recharged, marveling at the creativity, mulling over the story, and ready to jump back into my own life with a little more verve. Julia Cameron, in her book The Artist's Way, calls this "the artist date." She says that setting aside time for a solo expedition of "assigned play" enhances your creativity and work.  I don't go every week or even every month but I'm completely on board with having a little away time now and then.

Years ago on a snowy afternoon in Harvard Square, I sat in the semi-darkened theater with six strangers--all of us solo. Something happened to the projector so we sat there for about 15 minutes, chatting and (since most of them were retirees) reminiscing about those classic grand cinema theaters and memories of bygone movie prices. One guy remembered that his mom would get a plate or a dish each time she came to the movies as some kind of promotion. Sometimes if she didn't like the movie, she would send him to pay the 5 cent admission and buy the dish since it was such a good deal.

It's still a good deal for me...much cheaper than therapy, better than other potentially expensive habits. I mean, I don't do drugs or drink or play the lottery. I don't have a thing for collecting fine jewelry or figurines or spending the day at the golf course. Just a little movie outing now and then, that's my luxury. 

Here's what I want to know: is it just me? And what small indulgences are therapeutic for you?