In 2010 I saw 100 different movies in 100 different theaters. Here are the details.

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Goal, The Rules

The Goal
In 2010 I will see 100 different movies, each in a different movie theater.

Here is the genesis of this goal. There was a particularly hot week in Oakland, July 2005. To refuge myself from my over-heated apartment, I would stop by the Grand Lake Theater each day on my way home from work, enjoying a movie in one of their cool spaces. There I saw seven movies in seven days. It occurred to me that this viewing rate was above average (for me), not only for a single week, but perhaps for a single year as well. At the time I had no concept of a per-year record, but a quick check in my movie database revealed that in 1998 I had been to a movie theater 37 times, and not that many times since. With that as my goal, and having already been to a theater 19 times by mid-July, I set out to break my record. By the end of 2005 I had been to a theater 53 times (29 of those visits were to the Grand Lake).

But I hadn't formulated my goal until mid-2005, so the next several years I made it a year-long mission to see as many movies in a theater as I could. I broke my record in 2006 (75 movies), then again in 2007 (79 movies).

At that point, a bit exhausted, I decided to take two years off (2008 and 2009), and to see 100 movies in 2010. (Late in 2008 I realized I had been seeing enough movies that I might actually be able to break my record again, but I came up short at 70.) In 2009 I saw only 28 movies, meaning that come January 1, 2010 there would be plenty of 2009 movies still in theaters that I had not yet seen.

Here's the thing about goals. Many are fun to have achieved, but not to achieve. That is, the destination is rewarding, but the journey is hard work. Losing weight, for instance; it feels good to have lost weight, but the dietary and exercise choices one must make to lose the weight aren't necessarily fun in themselves. What I've found in trying to break my per-year movie record is that although the destination is arbitrary, the journey is quite a lot of fun. It still takes discipline to work toward something over the course of an entire year, but each step toward the goal is fun.

The Rules

In the past, for my per-year record, I counted each viewing in a theater, even if I'd already seen the movie. If I saw multiple movies in a theater in a single day, I counted each. The film's year of release was irrelevant; I only considered the date I saw the film. A film counted whether it was fiction or a documentary, in wide release or limited release. I even counted as a single viewing a collection of shorts I saw at the Oakland Museum of California for the Short-Attention-Span Environmental Film Festival. (I waffled a bit on a pre-recorded telecast of This American Life, since it was intended to be a live performance; ultimately I didn't count it.) So, the old record counted theater viewing experiences.

For 2010, each movie and each theater must be different, each time. If I see the same movie or visit the same theater twice, it won't count toward my goal. I can count each theater only once, even if it has multiple screens. This will force me to branch out to many different theaters, most of which I've never visited, or at least not for quite some time. Like in the past, I can still see multiple movies on the same day (provided they are at different theaters). I don't care if the movie is fiction or a documentary, in wide or limited release, or what year the film was released.

A few people have already asked me if there are enough movies released per year and enough theaters near me to make this goal feasible. I'll discuss both points in more detail at a later time, but the short answer is yes. Hundreds of movies are released in the United States each year (including those in limited release). I might end up scraping the bottom of the barrel in terms of film quality to meet my quota, but so too might I end up seeing good movies that I would have otherwise skipped. As for the different theaters, I am fortunate to live in Oakland, in one of only a handful of U.S. urban areas with a theater density high enough to make this possible without driving so much that I burn off all of Earth's remaining fossil fuels. There are approximately 100 theaters within 50 miles of my home.

However, I won't limit myself geographically. As I write this, I am spending the New Year holiday with my best friend's family in Morro Bay, CA, and plan to kick off the goal down here before I head back north.

During the year I will post comments about each movie I see and theater I visit, as well as other cinema-related topics that I find interesting. Here's to a great year to come!


  1. Ummmmm.. what's with not counting This American Life? That was like the best theater viewing of anything ever. I am also concerned about the see every movie only once rule. I feel that this will really limit you when choosing movies to see with other poeple, who shall remain nameless. But other than that, bravo:) Mica

  2. I like the fact that you also talk tot the proprietor of the theater as I think some of these people have quite a story to share. I remember going to see the latest Star Trek movie with my fried Andy in Montreal. We went to a theatre that managed to keep the price of the tickets really low for various reasons which I can't remember now. But I remember Andy telling me that this person was doing something really good in the community as well. Reminds me of the proprietor at the Grand Lake theater. WIll maybe you can do some video interviews as well. That might be interesting.

  3. As an added bonus, for this quarter-year[-ish], we can be assured that years from now we will not need to reconstruct a theater visit through Winnie-the-Pooh-esque thought-poking, file diving, and satellite imagery of distant cities.


  4. Wow, what a great goal! I look forward to following along.