Going to the Movies...or Not

It seemed like a miracle when Christopher Nolan’s new film Tenet was released in theaters a few weeks ago. As is usual for the director, his latest is an IMAX production, and despite early reviews indicating it doesn’t measure up to his last film, 2017’s Dunkirk, I was primed to see it as soon as humanly possible. But there was a dilemma. I live in New York State, and the governor hadn’t yet cleared movie theaters for reopening. And that’s still the case. Schools, indoor restaurants, bowling alleys, malls, museums, and gyms have been given the green light, but not theaters — even IMAX ones!

What to do? Theaters are open in nearby Canada, but the Canadian government has shut its border to travelers from the U.S. There are IMAX theaters in Pennsylvania and Ohio, but do I really want to travel that many miles to see a film? Sure, I’m desperate to take in a tentpole release from a director who consistently rewards viewers who trek out to theaters with epic visuals and immersive sound, but maybe I should sit this one out. Governor Cuomo would be pleased with that decision.

A clear entertainment industry trend to emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic has been straight-to-video release of big-budget films that would otherwise have seen a theatrical run. Some of these, like Disney’s Mulan and Bill & Ted Face the Music, weren’t on my radar, so seeing them routed direct to VOD is something I could personally care less about. And other releases like The King of Staten Island are ones that would likely work just as well on the small screen, so the fact they missed out on a theatrical run ultimately doesn’t matter.

But the question remains: Is this the new normal for the movies? I certainly hope not. Respect to Christopher Nolan for not caving in to the VOD trend and instead insisting that Tenet be exhibited in theaters, the way he intended for it to be experienced.

My gut feeling about the situation — one not at all based on science or research, I’ll admit — is that theaters will return full-force, because nothing beats that venue for certain films. Even with the expensive snacks and people talking and texting, going out to the movies can be a thoroughly worthwhile experience. (And that’s coming from someone who considers his home theater to be his true happy place.) A well-written, well-directed, well-acted film can seize hold of your attention in a way few other forms of entertainment can.

I distinctly remember seeing A Quiet Place, a horror-thriller notable for its near-silent soundtrack, in a crowded theater. Despite the setting, the audience was so engrossed in the onscreen drama that there was a barely a word spoken from start to finish. The silence was deafening. That film’s sequel is one of the many productions originally scheduled for a spring 2020 release that was pushed back by its studio for a spring 2021 release. I have high hopes for, and look forward to seeing, A Quiet Place Part II. And I expect to watch it in a movie theater amidst a group of rapt, silent viewers.

COMMENTS
WALTER BRAZIL's picture

The great advantage of a new 4k projector is that, unlike the current 4k or 8k TVs, these expensive and sophisticated TVs do not offer the necessary 3D feature for my more than 55 3D Blu-rays. Thankfully my fabulous Panasonic 65VT50b 3D TV works great. I wear prescription glasses but that doesn't stop me from watching my beautiful 3D movies, even if it is only occasionally. We welcome the next two AVATAR films in 3D, but I wonder if it is true that these films will be projected without the 3D glasses.

WALTER BRAZIL's picture

Excuse me. I posted this comment here wrongly, now I already posted it on the right topic, about the survival of the projectors. Disregard the unfortunate comment above. Thank you

allanmarcus's picture

First, unless you have active immunity to COVID, you would be an idiot to see a movie in a theater. Second, why? There is no movie worth the expense and hassle of seeing it in a theater when a person has a good home theater. I used to see blockbusters in theaters, but no more. I just cannot stand the noise, the hassle to wait for a good seat (when I have the perfect seat at home), the inability to pause, and the expense of snacks. Just not worth it when I can a wait a few months more to see it at home.

MatthewWeflen's picture

I'm with you, man, but I think the argument here is that the screen size and sound system make a theater superior. With the advent of good, inexpensive home projection setups, this has become less of a win for theaters and the bad things you mention start to carry more weight.

But if you don't have a projector at home, I could see the argument that some movies (e.g. Star Wars) are better in the theater.

dwa247's picture

I'm in the Columbus, Ohio area and went to see Tenet at the AMC Lennox IMAX theater in Columbus. I rarely see movies in the theater, but wanted to experience Tenet as Christopher Nolan intended it to be seen. I loved the concept behind the film, but did find it difficult to follow at times. It's another film that requires multiple viewings to understand it better. I did think the sound was too loud at times also, but overall I enjoyed the film and will purchase it on 4K Blu-ray when it's released.

As far as safety goes, masks were required in the theater unless you were eating or drinking something. Social distancing was also maintained. I think there were only about 10 or 12 people in the theater during the showing I was in.

My advice is be reasonably cautious, but don't let the current situation stop you from enjoying life.

MhtLion's picture

You can eat and drink in the Theater. Basically, the mask mandate is just for the show - it's as good as no one wearing the mask. I love movie theaters, but don't risk your life or the lives of people around you to enjoy something trivial.

Bujee1's picture

I haven't been a fan of going to the movies since I completed my theater. Now that theaters are closed where I live, I host a drive in movie at the end of my cup-de-sac for my neighbors once a month. I use a two speakers coupled with a projector, a 155 inch blow up screen, a receiver/amplifier and a iPad and I'm good to go! Bring your own popcorn, lounge chair and wear a mask!

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