At the best of times, the world can be a chaotic and difficult place. But in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, things get that much more challenging, and even scary. The tragic loss of life, economic uncertainty, poverty, and health insecurity all weigh heavily on our collective hearts. Even our most elemental and simple pleasures have either been erased or are at serious risk. 

For example, think about the last time you saw a movie in the theater. Think about that magical time when the velvet curtain rises and the cavernous room goes dark. (Okay, okay, maybe the velvet curtain has been replaced with an annoying pre-movie slideshow with ads and trivia, but you get the idea.) There you are with your brothers and sisters in film, awaiting the opening scene and all the delicious plot twists and turns that will surely follow. The distinct aroma of buttered popcorn and fresh Coca Cola fills your senses and a palpable impression of anticipation permeates the room. And if you’re lucky enough to be sitting in the sacred grounds of a lavish old-time theater like the Orpheum or the Egyptian or the Vista, the experience is that much more epic and eventful!

Unlike streaming movies at home, once you’re in a dark cinema, there’s no pile of dirty dishes calling to be cleaned, no bills that need your immediate attention, no urgent phone calls to tend to. Rather, it’s a place to suspend regular life and become absorbed in someone else’s story.

Historically, going out to the movies has been a special event to be anticipated and celebrated and honored. First dates, long weekends, graduation gifts, mom-and-pop date nights, family outings would often feature a movie or double feature as the defining moment.

Remember in the AMC series Mad Men when Don Draper would routinely take off work to check out a matinee? Ostensibly, the mad man himself did this to recharge his battery and to refresh his creative spirit, but we all know old Don was escaping the mad, mad world he had created out of whole cloth. The poor guy needed respite from all the booze and ad pitches and affairs that challenged his sanity and weighed on his prodigious energies. Don and his business partner Lane got drunk and giggled through a really silly B movie called Gamera: The Giant Monster in season four; he took his son, Bobby, to see Planet of the Apes with Charlton Heston; and wasn’t it sweet when he joined Peggy to watch Casino Royale? Let’s face it, we all shipped them at that point. And remember in Hannah and her Sisters when Woody Allen’s character Mickey tried to kill himself but found solace and joy in watching the Marx Brothers’ Duck Soup? And what about the time Ponyboy, Johnny, and Two-Bit got a little time to talk with the Socs’ girlfriends, Cherry and Marcia, at a drive-in theater in The Outsiders? This is what movie magic is all about! 

It is true, we’re all very grateful for Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Disney Plus, etcetera. These technological marvels have afforded us great movies and TV shows of all stripes and patterns throughout the quarantine of 2020. Let’s face it, many of us have taken the opportunity to tackle our Netflix queue, and that’s a wonderful thing. But there is nothing like seeing a movie as it should be seen: as a shared experience in a crowded theater.

Eventually, when cinemas reopen, will the experience be the same when people are likely wearing masks, maybe a pair of gloves, and the theater smells of Purell and Lysol? Can you really relax in such a setting and surrender to the story? What are your thoughts?