Photo by Emily Perry
Last summer, I worked at a movie theater during one of the hottest premiere times in cinema. I witnessed the opening weekends of It: Chapter Two, Toy Story 4, the “live action” Lion King, even Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. I really loved working there, and not just for the discounted snacks and free movies. One of the strongest memories I have is when I worked as a door usher and the theatre was suddenly filled with many people coming to see Spider-Man: Far From Home. Even though not everyone knew each other, they all had one thing in common, they were all there to see a movie, to come together and escape from the world for a while.
However, during COVID-19 and social distancing, gathering with a group of strangers is not really an option. Of the many things this pandemic has changed for us, movies—the way we see them, experience them, and even interact with them—has changed. An NPR article, published earlier this month, stated that Regal Theaters announced they would be temporarily closing all 536 of their U.S. theaters since movie studios are delaying many giant blockbusters as “cinemas [sit] empty or [are showing] films only to limited audiences.”
According to a Business Insider article, Patty Jenkins, whose own film Wonder Woman 1984 was pushed back three times due to the virus, said that “large movie studios may focus on developing films straight for streaming, pulling back on theater releases.” Like Jenkins, many directors have refused to put their film on demand and instead wait until theaters reopen to release them.
The way many studios have been distributing their films has also been a subject of controversy, particularly Disney, who released the live-action Mulan remake on their streaming platform Disney+, only for it to cost upwards around $30.
Yes, it sucks that movie theaters are shut down for the foreseeable future. Yes, it sucks that many anticipated movies have been pushed back from being released or even canceled. And it sucks that studios are bumping up video on demand prices just to rent films. But, and this isn’t just me trying to force a happy ending, there is a bright side. Several, actually.
For one, having movies being released at home has made films more accessible for those who have a disability that makes it difficult to attend the theater. Releasing the pictures at home also allows people who may have a noise sensitivity to watch with closed captions or control the volume. If they are mobility impaired, they don’t have to worry about not being able to get to their seat since most movie theater rows and seats are notorious for being cramped (this is coming from the girl who went to see Star Wars: Rise of the Skywalker in a boot and crutches). It also makes movies have less of a time restraint, where if you have to go and do something, you can pause and come back to it.
Movie theaters are slowly, opening up, with plenty of safety precautions. Both the Varsity Theater in downtown Ashland and Cinemark Tinseltown in Medford have opened back up, with the former only open a few days of the week. On both the Cinemark and Coming Attractions’ (which owns the Varsity Theater) websites, you can see the different health and safety guidelines the companies are implementing, from required masks and social distancing to reduced capacity.
Another silver lining in all of this is the return of drive-ins. “Social distancing is automatic when everyone is in their cars,” Jodie Valade wrote in an article for WFAE, spotlighting Preston Brown’s North Carolina drive-in theater. “In the last few months, business at Hound’s Drive-In has quadrupled over the previous year.” Not only has the drive-in been showing movies, but bands have requested to play there as well.
Even though there aren’t many new movies coming out, this can be an excellent time to revisit old favorites and reconnect with classics. According to an article in The Lily, “There are fewer and fewer opportunities to enjoy fresh entertainment, making it the perfect time to enjoy new favorites.” It’s the perfect time to watch comfort films and even explore older movies you’ve missed or a genre you have yet to try.
Yes, it sucks we can’t see movies in theaters right now. But as always, we adapt, and we find new ways to enjoy the things we love.