A Night at the Movies

The world really is getting back to normal, I hope I am as well.

“In a movie he could dream without effort; all he had to do was lean back in a seat and keep his eyes open.” ― Richard Wright

I recently went to the movie theater again. This was a big “hobby” for my wife and I. We have one of those sit down in a recliner and order dinner theaters a few blocks from our house. We could walk to it. Why didn’t we? It was great to be able to check in online, reserve a seat and make a whole date night out of one trip. Talk about lazy romance.

I think it worked so well for us because for years and years we went at odd hours, when no one else was really ever there. Sometimes we almost had the whole theater to ourselves. We never went at night or when a film first opened. That would just be asking for trouble.

“It’s funny how the colors of the real world only seem really real when you watch them on a screen.”  ― Anthony Burgess

When I went back to the movies recently it was a spur of the moment decision. I had to cancel my outdoor plans due to rain. So, I turned around and headed indoors to my local theater. It was a weekend night. I barely got a seat once I got in and saw the reservation screen. That should have been the first sign that this was not going be what I had grown accustomed to in all the years of movie watching with my wife. But I trudged ahead anyway, anxious to see a new film I had been awaiting for over a year.

This is the kind of theater where you need to arrive early to place your order, like being at a restaurant. Well, for movies that are filled to near capacity, that means that most of the people will arrive right at show time. Don’t ask me why. These people will be talking out loud to their waiter and using their cell phone flashlights to read the menu. It doesn’t matter that there are other people all around or that the movie has started. I need to order my nachos right now. It’s a tragic comedy occurring simultaneous to the real show.

Then there’s the lady behind me who for some reason needs to explain the film to her companion. There’s a constant narration going on for all the rest of us to experience. Is this other person just very confused? Does the lady feel like she’s a tour guide for the evening? Does she not realize there are other people all around her?

“The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder.” ― Alfred Hitchcock

Grandpa was sitting next to me and he waits until the most still, tense and quiet moment in the film to begin his origami practice on the large popcorn bag he had emptied. It’s just impossible for me to ignore all of this, I feel like an anthropologist from another planet observing everyday behavior of the native population. 

I’ve noticed in large groups like this that its very normal for some people to engage in an ongoing dialogue with the film. They talk back to the characters. Expressions of strong emotion are made aloud. Questions are raised that aren’t ever answered.

This may be why I started sitting up toward the front of movie theaters long ago.  Siting with just a few rows between myself and screen limited the chances of too much commotion in my periphery. Maybe there will be a lower probability of someone around me providing a narration?

Despite the larger and larger television screens in our homes, I hope the movie theaters don’t disappear. That experience is unique. With or without the overactive audience. I just saw Nicole Kidman doing an ad for AMC theaters, beckoning us all back to the romance and thrill of going to the movies once again. I notice that she does the whole commercial while sitting alone in a very upgraded theater. Hope mine got modernized like that. See, there is something to watching without a crowd.

“You live by yourself for a stretch of time and you get to staring at different objects. Sometimes you talk to yourself. You take meals in crowded joints. You develop an intimate relationship with your used Subaru. You slowly but surely become a has-been.” ― Haruki Murakami

Sometimes I go to the movies with friends. But now I’m starting to go alone. It’s very convenient and my wife bought a gift card to our theater with lot’s of money still left on it. I’m a cheapskate at heart. When I go now I think about a new way of living, new rituals and all that’s still so much fun. I promise myself to find an odd hour to attend, with as few people as possible in the auditorium.

But, to be honest, going to the dark theater, filling up the grocery cart for one, making every trip with just one in the car, watching whatever you choose on TV, doing laundry in just one load, longer walks in the dusk, never finishing the leftovers…it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be.

Get out of your pandemic rut. Go sit outside at a cafe. Take a walk with friends. When’s the last time you went to a mall (what are those?)? Go to church. What about a sporting event? Find some friends to reconnect with – that’s what matters – and laugh at everything that drives you crazy.

We are meant to be together with others. Even if it means someone narrating the film right behind you all night long.

“How long is forever?
Sometimes just one second”  ― Lewis Carroll

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