There are lots of things to miss while self-quarantining in your home during the Coronavirus pandemic: Your shameless restaurant habit, seeing the faces of your coworkers (if you’re lucky and you like them), your daily Starbucks run, the feeling of being able to go wherever you want, whenever you want… the list goes on! But there’s one thing that’s put me in my feelings more than the rest. It is the loss of movie theaters.
I know, I know. There are bigger things to worry about than not being able to go see the 3:30 showing of Emma. And I know you’re probably ready to pull out your “Kim, people are dying” GIF and throw it in the comments. That’s fair! You’re completely right! But I also think every person gets to evaluate and grieve the many ways in which this pandemic has changed the way they live their life, and for me, this is a big one.
This weekend, I rewatched 1917. It’s a movie I originally saw in theaters, and I came out of it feeling absolutely blown away by how good it was. My friend and I literally held hands during half the movie because we were so nervous for the main character. It’s an absolutely relentless two hours. I was so obsessed that I wrote about it for this very site more than once. But when I watched it this past weekend, it just wasn’t the same. Obviously, knowing how it ends is part of what makes it less impactful the second time around, but aside from that, it’s a movie you want to watch on the biggest screen possible with the best sound system money can buy.
I also watched Top Gun this weekend for the first time (yes, I know I’m 30 years late), and while Tom Cruise flew a literal fighter jet across my screen, I found myself saying, “Wow, I wish I had seen this in a theater.” The same can be said for Portrait of a Lady on Fire, a very different film I rewatched recently that is so aesthetically beautiful, you do yourself a major disservice by watching it on anything other than the best screen you possibly can. That certainly isn’t the TV in my parents’ living room, where I’m shacked up at the moment. No offense, Mom and Dad!
And it’s not just that your technology at home isn’t as good as it is in a theater. It’s that when you’re sitting on your couch, it’s almost impossible to avoid distractions. In the two hours you’re watching something, maybe you take one break to go grab ice cream from your freezer (v important), or you see an actor onscreen that you don’t recognize, so you Google them, and then you take a quick look at Twitter while you’re at it. Suddenly five full minutes have passed and you missed the Pivotal Moment. Maybe your dog needs to go out, so you pause the movie with 15 minutes left. None of this seems like that big of a deal, but it disrupts your movie-watching experience. You lose something with every little break you take.
Which is why I so miss being able to walk into a movie theater and sit in a dark room without those distractions. You’re forced to put away your phone for two hours and focus solely on the film in front of you, shutting out whatever else is going on in the world. (And don’t even get me started on the snacks. There is literally nothing quite like movie theater popcorn.) You can enter a theater in a terrible mood, and watch 90 minutes of someone’s movie and come out of it feeling like you just got a hug. That’s escapism in its purest form, and frankly, we need that. At least I know I do.
The phone thing is only part of it, though. Moviegoing is about experiencing a work of art in real time with other human beings who are also giving it their full attention. It’s hearing the woman next to you gasp at the plot twist, or catching the sniffles of the person in front of you during the heart-wrenching breakup scene. It’s that moment after an absolutely chilling ending when you all just sit there for a beat or two, collectively trying to wrap your minds around it, before stumbling out of the theater en masse and exchanging “Wow, that was good” nods.
Not to get all emotional about it, but there’s something about that group experience that makes you realize that we have more in common than what separates us. There’s such a true sense of togetherness and community, and maybe that’s what I’m really missing. That, and an excuse to ignore the real world for a couple of hours, because that shit is scary right now. But until I can return to my favorite form of escape, you’ll find me here, on the couch at my parents’, making the most of my microwave popcorn and “Do Not Disturb” phone settings. Movie theaters: We shall meet again.
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