The Best Way to Watch Movies: Can Home Viewing Really Ruin a Blockbuster?

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It started, as so many things do these days, with a tweet. Over the weekend, IndieWire’s own Anne Thompson took to social media to share a recent interaction regarding the consumption of Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi epic, “Dune,” which finally arrived in both domestic theaters and streaming on HBO Max after a year of pandemic-pushed delays. Thompson tweeted, “A friend of mine admitted he stopped watching Dune on @hbomaxafter 90 minutes and I lost it. That’s only one part of what’s wrong with watching a $165-million space epic shot in IMAX with Dolby sound at home. You have to be immersed in something from start to finish.”

Inevitably, the tweet set off a firestorm of reactions, from those who agreed with the sentiment to those who very much did not (one recurring theme: if a film is good enough, the manner in which it’s first seen doesn’t really matter). Villeneuve has been one of the most vocal proponents of seeing the film in theaters, and the film’s big-time box office take over the weekend assures us that he’s not alone in his thinking. People wanted to see “Dune,” and they absolutely wanted to see it on the big screen.

But is that the “best way” to see a film? Is there any “best way” to see a film? And, perhaps most importantly, can a good film be ruined by the manner in which it’s shown? We took the question to some of IndieWire’s film staff to see if, beyond the wild milieu of Twitter, any sort of real consensus could possibly be reached.

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