Why Do Some Women Go to the Cinema Alone?

woman alone at cinema film black and white photograph

Every now and then, I put on my hat and go to a small cinema where they screen mostly European films. Each time I notice without fail at least half a dozen women scattered among the audience, seated on chairs like islands, with two or more empty seats around them which never fill up.

I like to take a seat in the second before last row, from where I can see a wave of heads receding toward the screen, which seems to float in the dark, ethereal and full of possibilities. Since they are always with their back to me, I cannot see their expression when the lovers kiss on screen or when a nude scene hushes the audience.

Some of these women who come to the cinema alone may be critics, I think to myself. Some widows. Some recently divorced. Some in long-distance relationships. Some decidedly single.

I always mean to ask one of them why she came there alone, should a chance meeting before the exist ever occur, when the question, precluded by that social smile that is usually exchanged when two strangers find themselves before a doorway that is too narrow for both of them to pass through at once and one has to slow down to let the other go first.

But somehow they all get lost in the crowd that drains into the courtyard and from there into the streets and avenues nearby, before evaporating into fresh air.

So I am left with the question — why do some women go to the cinema alone? Since most of them are pretty, and the rest interesting, it seems to me a tragedy that they don’t share their company with anyone. At least why not bring a girlfriend or two?

But then, as I go on my way, I pause and ask myself — why do I go there alone? I could call a friend. I could bring my cousin. People sometimes turn you down when you invite them to tea, but they usually accept an invitation to a film, especially if the ticket is cheap.

There’s something about the cinema experience that, despite the fact that it happens before a crowd of strangers, despite the sweet shamelessness of the actors, despite the old woman who can’t stop coughing or the man who laughs throughout the film at all the wrong moments, creates a certain sense of intimacy between you, the spectator, and the troubles and efforts of the people on the screen. And then there’s also the suspension of disbelief which the presence of another on the seat next to you, however agreeable, tends to lessen.

Maybe that’s why some women go to the cinema alone.

Or maybe it’s just because the cinema is one of those places where a woman can still enjoy an hour and a half or two of pleasant diversion, disconnecting from her thoughts and emotions, without being bothered by anyone, not even by curious glances or impolite questions, a place where she can see what she wants to see, and then fade into the crowd just at the right moment.

Do you ever go to the cinema alone?

44 thoughts on “Why Do Some Women Go to the Cinema Alone?

  1. I have always loved going alone to see a film. Why? Because it’s less inconvenient. I can go see whatever I choose; there is no compromise. Everything about it: choosing the film, getting there, picking the right seat (in the middle of the row, in the middle of the theatre), contemplating without interruption; it’s such a peaceful experience. It’s been my little bit of peace since I was in high school, and I want all the peace I can get in this life.

  2. I completely agree with your observation! There’s something about doing things alone that is so liberating, whether it be going to a concert alone, or eating at a fancy restaurant alone. You’re completely immersed in that experience and there is no one to distract you. I haven’t gone to the cinemas alone yet, but perhaps this is something I would like to try!

  3. I used to go to the movies with friends, then with my brother and/or boyfriend… I’ve started going on my own when I started attending Montréal World Film Festival a few years back.

    It is a totally different experience to go totally alone, and I do tend to spot other loners, and wonder about them too 😉

    This year, I had a very strange experience with another loner. During the Festival (I can see up to 4 or 5 movies a day during that period) I had a fetish seat, that I almost always had for myself. I arrived early in the morning, with a bag full of (not noisy) snacks to make it through the day, and made myself comfortable. And I’d say 8 or 9 of the 12 days I attended the Festival, the same man came and sat in front of me. To the point that the last few days, I came to expect him, which was an odd feeling.

    I could write a whole post about that mysterious man, and how we watched many movies “together”… Life is weird sometimes 😛

    1. This has me thinking about a movie like “Clerks” or “Lost in Translation.” Maybe it can be short film about ‘loners’ or loner moments.

  4. This is an interesting post and an interesting question. i have a possible answer for you at least what is true for me. sometimes i go alone because someone has to stay at home with the little one and me and my husband take turns, or i am alone because i want to see one movie and my husband another one and we go to separate theater rooms at the same time :). As about inviting friends, well after having a kid you loose lots of friends who don’t have kids yet, the ones that have, well they are probably at home with their kids :D.

  5. Interesting observation. To me, it’s more a case of.. why not go to the cinema alone? It’s liberating in the sense of freedom available to absorb the story, immerse oneself in the experience, be transported to wherever the film has the potential to take the viewer. It’s listening to an album, or reading a book. I’m guessing women go to the cinema solo for the same reasons men do.

  6. Now to think about it, I’ve never gone to a cinema alone. Not that I can recall with any certainty. As a child it was always with my parents. As a teen and young adult it was either a date or part of a grand social outing with friends. Now at this age it is always in the company of my daughter.

  7. Yes, it’s lovely. No negotiation is required about which movie. No one else’s hand is in the popcorn. One doesn’t have to wonder if the other is enjoying the movie. It’s great. I don’t do it all the time but once in a while.

  8. I don’t. In fact, I don’t go the movies very often since I can watch them at home without the rustling of candy wrappers or the worst, someone kicking the back of my seat. I have no idea why some go alone!

    1. Sounds like one needs courage to enter cinemas in Colorado. I too watch most films at home, but since I don’t have a TV (and am resolved not to buy one), I find the tablet/computer screen a bit tiring after a while. Cinema projectors are a bit more friendly on the eyes, and then there’s the distance from the screen. 🙂

      1. Definitely! I’m spoiled in having a great TV and can watch uninterrupted. I guess if there was a movie I really wanted to see on the big screen, I could go by myself. My sister has. I just have to put on my Big Girl Panties. 🙂

        Have you seen The Girl on the Train? That might be a good one for the big screen.

  9. I’ve gone to the movies by myself a few times. Sometimes I can’t find a friend to come with me. I don’t think it matters too much. Of all the things to do by oneself, sitting in a dark theater and watching a movie quietly seems pretty okay.

  10. I have always wanted to go to the cinema alone, but never managed to. Something always stops me, it’s strange. Like once I met my friend there and she was with her family, we were going to watch the same film so we went in together, at her insistence. Another time I got there only to find that they were closed for some reason. Another time I was on my way when my mother called asking for the service of my car to take her shopping. Another time I was walking to the cinema when my friend called and asked what I was up to then invited herself along. All this is true and very odd! I would like to go alone purely because I like to watch movies un-hindered, which is why I watch them alone at home mostly, when everybody is out.

    1. Do you go to concerts alone? I mean the open air sort. Some praise the experience, but I have not yet managed to do it. Being exceedingly shy doesn’t help.

  11. I’ve gone to a couple of concerts alone – I definitely felt awkward at first (I’m quite shy as well), but once I got into the music, that feeling melted away. And it was nice to immerse myself in the music and not worry about whether someone else was enjoying it!

  12. Back in the nineties when I served as chairperson of an English Department, I would very often go to early matinee movies on Sunday. It was heaven. I’d sometimes be the only one in the theater. Sitting there with my popcorn and drink I’d have that wonderful feeling–not of isolation–but of liberation. I was liberated from the world of necessity and expectation. I could disappear into that projected world and allow myself to fully experience for two hours another place, another existence.

  13. I have never been alone although I imagine it to be liberating. Once the light dims in the cinema you might as well be alone, hidden in the dark from prying eyes and left to relax and enjoy the entertainment. Sounds heaven!

  14. I do this, yes. — > “and then fade into the crowd just at the right moment.”
    I sometimes go to the cinema alone. But not very often. Usually when I’m sad or bored or when I badly want to see a movie right away and have no time to ask for company. 🙂 But usually it’s for the film to keep me company for a while and because a film is sometimes better company than a friend. Just sometimes…

  15. I watch movies almost every night with my best friend (husband of 40+ years) at “cinema delfino” (our place) and we give each film a score out of five. That’s how we relax and get together. When we go out to the theatre, it’s like a special treat, followed by dining out as well. Very rarely do we give 5 out of 5. I like to have sub-titles if possible, especially for foreign films.

  16. I haven’t always been going to the movies by myself. But once my love for cinema grew, it became less of a “date” or “going out” and more of passion, like going to the gym- working out my film brain, sort of speak.
    Now, I actually enjoy going alone. Like mentioned before, it’s so convenient. It’s getting to the point that going with others feels as if someone is slowing me down, if that makes any sense?

  17. What a great post/musing I’m glad you brought it up. Yes it’s oddly liberating and a great hideaway 😀

  18. I LOVE going to the cinema alone. I love early morning weekend cinema, getting up and just seeing whichever film is showing first. The reason I like going alone is that I can just submerge myself in the film, I don’t have to worry about if the other person will like it, it’s just up to me to make up my mind about the film. Big blockbusters are great to see with friends but I always tend to lean towards going to see films alone!

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