When Will You Go Back to the Movies?

drive in

I miss going to the movies.  But I didn’t think seriously about returning to theaters until last week when I watched Da 5 Bloods at home. It was the first movie I’ve seen since quarantine started that seemed to be crying out for the big screen.

It was also a movie that I watched over the course of two evenings because I got tired halfway through. I wish that hadn’t been option and I would have been forced to sit through the whole thing, despite my sleepiness. More than that, I wish I’d had to leave the house and to view it at a particular time, rather than firing up Netflix after the kids were in bed and the kitchen was cleaned up and the toys were picked up off of the living room carpet.

The ritual of going out to the movies, like the ritual of going to the gym or to a yoga class, means a lot to me. Yeah, you can watch at home and get as much, or possibly more out of a film, but you miss all the experiential context of being out: the weather, the season, the person you saw it with, the theater, the mood you were in when you entered the theater and the mood you were in when you left. There’s nothing like leaving a movie in a transported state, walking home to the subway and feeling that your senses have been tuned; it’s like everything has a new texture, the colors are more meaningful, the air is crispy. Sometimes you just fall in love with a movie. I remember after seeing a revival of Fanny and Alexander at Film Forum I impulsively bought two dozen yellow roses at a bodega. Who were they for? Myself? The movie? All movies? Maybe I knew I’d just seen something that would stay with me for a long time and I wanted to commemorate the moment.

I’ve been going to the movies every week or so since I was sixteen years old. Obviously, there have been times when I haven’t gone as much, because I just had a baby or because I was living in an isolated place, but I’ve mostly lived in cities and I’ve mostly found the time to go out. After having kids, it was a special treat, a way to leave all the housework behind and be young again. It was also a chance to have some time to myself.

I could use sometime to myself right about now. Which makes me think I’ll probably be one of the first people back in the theaters. When I was reading the guidelines for “socially distanced” movie-going I realized that I’ve been going to movies in a socially-distanced way for some time, because I tend to go on weeknights after 8 p.m. or before 11 a.m. on the weekends. The Mom Hours. I also gravitate toward indie films directed by women. There’s not a huge audience for those movies. I can’t remember the last time I went to a packed theater. Maybe Once Upon A Time in Hollywood. Or when my sister and I went to revival of A League of Their Own. But in general, there’s always six feet between me and my fellow filmgoers.

I need to do some a little more research, but as long as infection rates in my area remain low, the audience is sparse, and everyone is wearing a mask, I feel okay about going back to the movies this fall, and possibly earlier, if the right movie comes along — and if our local theaters open up, of course. Until then I’ll be sitting at home, wondering if I should order a larger television set.

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