In a Theater Everyone Can Hear You Scream

Last night I had the pleasure of attending Bryn Mawr Film Institute’s Cinema Classics Seminar on Alien (there’s one on Aliens tonight!). I always enjoy a seminar at BMFI, which involves a pre-film lecture, a screening of the film in the theater, and a post-film debrief/discussion. A lot of last night’s discussion was around how Alien portrays capitalism, which is a different lens to look at this classic film through.

But rather than recapping that discussion, I wanted to talk about the joy in watching a film I love presented theatrically. I’ve seen Alien more than a handful of times, and my love for that film has deepened with each viewing (and as I grow and mature as a film viewer). The film was released almost a decade before I was born, so all of these viewings have come at home. And while the experience of watching films at home has never been better, there is still something magical about seeing something on a huge screen in a crowded, dark room.

Seeing the film’s strobe light effects bounce off the people in the seats in front of me, feeling a sense of relief after the jump scare fakeouts, and hearing the sound design fill a huge room gave the film a fresh experience. Even after revisiting the film again before Alien: Covenant this year, I found myself completely lost inside the world of the film. This is what makes repertoire cinema so important to me.

Each year I try to catch a few older films on the big screen, at BMFI or elsewhere in the area. Even better if they are showing a classic on film or a 4K digital version (the ticket price is hard to justify when they are running it off a Blu-Ray). And I tend to enjoy films more when seeing them projected in a theater than at home, whether it is a new-to-me film or a longtime favorite. Seeing Doctor Zhivago last year at BMFI was the ideal initial viewing, and Alien offered plenty of details I had never noticed before.

And as much as it bums me out, I’m also not terribly great about seeking out older films I haven’t seen. And while it just makes me a typical millennial according to a recent poll, that idea might be even more depressing. Which is why having these films available not only on streaming platforms like Netflix (Filmstruck is awesome, but niche) but also showing them theatrically is a worthwhile endeavor. Every BMFI screening I’ve gone to of a classic has been sold out or close to it. There’s a market here and it feels like we’re only scratching the surface.


Author: Ryan Silberstein

Ryan spends his days at a company named one of the best to work for in the Philadelphia area, and his nights as a mysterious caped vigilante saving his city from the disease that is crime watching movies. He lives on a diet consisting of film, comic books, experimental beer, black coffee, and those big metal historical markers around town. Follow him on Twitter and Letterboxd.

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