I know someone who quite firmly believes that a movie watched on TV is not a movie, it's TV. This person is quite adamant in the belief and can summon arguments to back it up. I, on the other hand, watch movies mostly on TV and they feel like movies to me.
I grew up watching movies both ways. My childhood coincided with the introduction of television in my native Cuba -- we were pioneers of Latin American TV, but I was too young to know that or care. Though there were a number of locally produced shows I remember with fondness, quite a bit of broadcast time was filled with movies. Thanks to that, I saw, at an early age, the classics of Mexican cinema -- lots of singing-charro movies, as well as more serious stuff that haunted me even if I didn't know why. Spanish comedies. Argentine melodrama. But also old American cowboy stuff, like Westerns starring the very young John Wayne. And the Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon serials, the memory of which I relished when I saw the first Star Wars.
However, I also went to the movies. Once a week, religiously. MGM musicals, which were OK. But mostly adventures: South seas, Westerns, sci-fi, period epics, and anything swashbuckling. Boy movies. The movie-going experience was unique, this I grant. To begin with, it was air-conditioned, a blessing in the tropics. The movie palaces were swell. And in some of them there was a live show on stage after the screening: magicians, comedians and so on. Never mind that TV sets were small, black and white, tinny sound, while the movie screen got bigger (CinemaScope!) and sometimes invasive (3-D!), and in stereo. Still, movies were movies no matter how I watched them. They still are. To me.
Today TV screens are bigger and their sound is stereophonic. Visually, it is intensely detailed. You can have 3-D (I don't). Plus some films are made on video these days. And there are no movie palaces. The lines blur.
The movie purist's adherence to a theater seems like a version of Dogme 95, a movement that insisted on an ascetic approach to movie-making, such as using only natural light and natural sound. Except from the spectator's side: see movies only in movie houses.
I admit some films beg for the big screen, some even for 3-D. But the suburban multiplex is a long way from the movie houses of my childhood and there's no live show afterwards. My living room is only marginally less shabby. Do I miss being with a crowd in a big hall? No. The opera and the symphony fill that gap more elegantly. I'll tell you what I miss, though.
For one brief year I was the editor in charge of the movie reviews at a New York publication. That meant I got invited to press screenings. In the provinces these are held at regular multiplex houses, but in New York there were screening rooms. They were relatively small but the screen was big. The prints were flawless, so were the soundtracks. And the seats were big easy chairs, not unlike what a well-off suburbanite would have at home. In other words, the best of both worlds. I miss that year.
I seldom go to the movies these days, even as I feed my film addiction voraciously in front of my moderately sized flat screen. I know I'm missing something, mostly the grandeur of my beloved adventure films with all the works, like 3-D IMAX. But no Dogme for me. I watch movies at home because I like it like that. Or any other way.