For 21of21, GOOGLE SHOPPING and PAPER came together to break down some of the most memorable shopping moments of 2021 based on Google's trending search data. When new movies began streaming on our favorite apps, we had no choice but to turn our homes into movie theaters. In the US, Google search interest for “home projector,” spiked multiple times this year, followed by “home theater store near me” which rose 700% in search interest.
Cinemas can make a Scrooge out of even the most well-intentioned movie lovers. We really don’t mean to act this way, but we can’t help it. I certainly don’t want to be shushing a group of adult men in the middle of a screening, but someone needs to roll up their sleeves and do it. And no one expects to have their hackles raised by someone texting their way through a musical biopic (hardly a seat-gripper), but here I am, blood boiling at the disrespect.
It’s a deeply personal thing, movie watching. I am, regrettably, a subtitle freak who insists on catching every last scrap of dialogue, down to the last “um,” even in a language I can already speak. I’ve also dated the kind of miserable men who rage if we show up no less than 30 minutes early to the movies — early enough to secure prized middle seats, only to end up behind the tallest and worst-behaved humans in the room. Others I know prefer to watch movies extremely loud and incredibly close in the front row.
Before the plague, going to the movies was my favorite thing in the world. A sacred diversion from the worst parts of my day and the most dreadful headlines in my browser: Transportation out of my city life, backwards and forwards in time, without a plane ticket or proof of immunization needed; a dramatic supplement for my terribly predictable life of shopping lists and deadlines.
But with shared indoor spaces being a risky endeavor (too many people, too many variables) during these many cursed months, I and many others have given up beloved movie houses and retreated to more familiar viewing areas: our own homes. The home theater has emerged as the safest cinema these days for people who don’t feel comfortable inviting other popcorn eaters into their spit cloud. Some people may resist giving up the big screen for the slightly smaller screen in their homes, but there’s also a certain joy in curating your own cinematic landscape. It’s a place to invent your own rules, build your own lights and sound to your liking, and take up space.
Let’s imagine all the possibilities: First, we unroll the projector screen from the living room wall. Motorized or analog? It’s your call, really. Then we draw up some velvet blackout curtains to lend your space a womb-like feel, pitch black and muted, satiny insulation from the uncertainty, dread and ennui of the outside world. There doesn’t need to be any phone screen in sight but your own, if you choose to invite the urgency of a push notification into the room.
Bring your own snacks — sticky, gooey, crunchy, gratingly loud ones — and slurpy drinks to this private viewing. It’s your own home, damn it! Make some cheesy nachos, pull the spongy mochi bars from the freezer, crack open a beer. If you’re feeling decadent (and nostalgic), try an antique-y popping machine for the deliciously salty, buttery, artery-clogging kernels that you’re used to.
Go big with a multi-tasking soundbar, or sprinkle your shelves with some bookshelf speakers or subwoofers for a well-rounded arc of noise that approximates that earth-shaking, surround-sound feeling. Add some smart lights to dim and raise the lights at your own leisure. A singular remote to rule them all, perhaps? Now we’re talking.
Take your time with the seating. If your den has the extra leg room, sink into an armchair that renders you horizontal with the push of a button, or think of all the bedrolls and floor cushions in the world that are begging to be curled up on. Even better, don’t invest in seats at all! Let’s get sloppy and slip into pajamas. Focus a projector on your most pristine, non-thumbtacked bedroom wall (miniatures for portability, 1080p for the primo cinematic experience), then queue up a movie in bed — one leg in, leg out.
And one last thing: Expect some interruptions here and there. A roommate crashing your viewing may be inevitable. Neighborly tendencies might prevent you from cranking the volume to the deafening frequencies you’re aiming for. But when in doubt, a pair of cushy leather headphones solve everything. They’re like a vacuum seal for your ears, isolating the crash of a Michael Bay explosion to your own ear drums, and shutting out the whir of fruits being hacked into slush in the next room. Consider the plinking strings of “Yumeji’s Theme” pouring directly into your ear... heaven!
Sure, home theaters may not match the sonic force, or the communal rush of a crowded cinema, but they are your own sort of magic kingdom for movies — an optimized, sanitized world of your own making, and isn’t there some deeply satisfying comfort in that? A place to be on your worst behavior, or abundantly fussy about your Kubrick screening. Think of it as a guaranteed sense of control in these uncertain times where you can’t simply strong-arm someone into sharing your values, or modify their behavior — or force them to quiet down in the good parts.
Any distractions that ensue in our movie caves are ones we allow; any flourishes and additions are ones that we select and curate; any attendees on the guest list are pre-screened. Dim the lights, sprawl out, get comfortable, slap on the subtitles and press play.