Of all the things I miss, movie attendance is high on the list. I long to pay for a movie ticket, then get a giant popcorn and head into a darkened room filled with strangers. Oops! There I said it, that scary word, “strangers.” The very thing I found so seductive before Covid, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder in the dark with all kinds of people, now sounds almost unimaginable. Of course, there is social distancing, but I’d still be in an enclosed space with folks, some of whom might be bearers of our current and lingering plague. What makes matters a little trickier for me is that right before Covid rolled in I was diagnosed with a condition that renders me immunosuppressed; that’s another story, involving getting an antibodies test to find out if my shaky immune system actually took the bait. Maybe then, all masked up, I’ll finally see Nomadland on a screen worthy of it.
In March I happened on a post, “I Miss Movie Theaters But I’m Still Afraid to Go,” by Jonmaesha Beltran (The State Press, Arizona State University), and, despite the fact that we all have carte blanche, according to the CDC, as long as we’re fully vaccinated, I don’t feel any different about going to the movies or getting my hair cut, and I noticed that people at the local farmer’s market were still masked, 100 percent, last Saturday, so I’m not alone. I guess we all have to unkink slowly.
Meanwhile, here’s what Jonmaesha (whose partner is apparently named Tom) had to say in his March post. They were weekly moviegoers until the Pandemic:
“Movie theaters were a place where Tom and I could leave our worlds and be transported into someone else’s for an hour or three. The only thing that mattered was what the director had in store for us on that 72-foot-wide screen.
But now? The thought of going somewhere nonessential makes me feel uncomfortable and guilty. Since the beginning of the pandemic, I haven’t left my house unless it was for groceries, work or school. It’s always weird to see people continue to act like things are normal.
Does this describe you? On the meaning of “normal,” Amen. Otherwise, it’s not me, not exactly, although I was intrigued — by guilt felt at the thought of doing something nonessential. I assume that guilty feeling originates in the thought of an activity that’s just for fun, that might endanger the health of others.
Having lived as the equivalent of a cloistered nun for better than a year, fun sounds downright essential! Anyhow, fun or no, it’s not what’s keeping me away. My problem is trust: who’s been vaccinated and who hasn’t? Who will sit for the better part of several hours maskless, hand in popcorn, only six feet away and indistinguishable from the bloke who really got his (or her) shots?
Here’s a little more of what Jonmaesha had to say. It’s really a marvelous post, tip of the hat, and it points up what’s missing when you do battle with the far-from-perfect streaming services – and your own distractibility:
It wasn’t until I watched The Little Things that I started to miss seeing a film in the movie theater. It took me three days to watch a two-hour film with one of my favorite actors. I was on my phone, distracted by other things the entire time. Watching a movie at home differs from watching it in a dimly lit room with a big screen and surround sound speakers, and sometimes filled with strangers.
From the time you purchase a ticket to exiting the doors, movie theaters are an immersive experience. I miss it. I miss going out to eat before seeing a movie and laughing when I took the leftovers out of my bag during the previews. I miss seeing children dressing as their favorite superhero and hearing their parents cheer over them once a superhero appeared on the screen. I miss hearing people shout, urging others to stay for a teaser hidden in the credits.
I miss going to the movies on a Tuesday morning and hearing a white-haired woman repeatedly asking a white-haired man wearing a Vietnam hat what’s happening. I miss wearing those black 3D glasses that used to be cool to wear outside of the movies, ages ago. I miss cheering with a room full of strangers when something good happened. I miss movie hopping and losing track of time.
So if you miss all or some of that the way I do, let’s all go, first to the lobby of course, for M&M’s, popcorn, whatever, then right into the inner sanctum, and sit down and face a big white screen. Back in 1976 it was as big as a small playing field, but I’l take 72 feet.
Speaking of my year at the St. George Theatre, there were a cool one thousand tattered red velvet seats on the ground floor, under the giant saucer-like chandelier, but, at any given time only one in six of those seats was actually occupied by someone who’d purchased a ticket. This distressed us management folk greatly, because we couldn’t pay the electric bill or the rent. These days, we’d just be socially distanced, and happy to be open at all.
1. You can buy 3D movie glasses for as little as 30 cents, but half the fun was sitting shoulder-to-shoulder all duded out in them at a theater. Did you know they were invented in 1922?
2. Movie hopping didn’t exist in the mid-seventies, or was greatly limited, as the most screens a theater had was likely two. Our patrons contented themselves with trying to walk into the theater backwards, when the crowd was walking out.