Seeing a film in a theater for the first time since the pandemic started was at first an unsettling experience. 16 months ago I took my son and his friend to see The Call of the Wild starring Harrison Ford. Little did we know at the time, that would be the last film we saw in a movie theater for a long time. Even when theaters slowly began opening again, we faced the prospect of going back to the movies with trepidation.
Let’s face it – before the pandemic, movie theaters were not exactly the cleanest places around. The sticky floors, the icky hand rests, and the not so well maintained bathrooms were something we got used to but never really liked. However, once the pandemic happened, the concept of going to see a movie in a theater was gone, and I doubt we would have seen a movie even if it was possible.
Because all of us were home and needed diversions, many people turned a space or room in their houses into a mini movie theater. I’ve seen some people who made substantial investments to turn ordinary spaces into extravagant viewing rooms with enormous screens and state of the art sound. We were more modest in our approach, turning our family room into our viewing room and putting our largest TV in there.
Over the course of these last 16 months, we have watched seemingly hundreds of movies and binged on TV series after TV series. We got used to being at home for our entertainment, and the streaming companies went with that seemingly popular practice by debuting big films slated for theater release on the small screen instead.
You could say that we became somewhat complacent during the pandemic, taking on a “this is the way things are now” approach. Everyone was calling it “the new normal,” but in truth it was anything but normal. We were walking around wearing masks everywhere we went, bars and clubs were closed, hair salons, and restaurants were limited to outdoor dining. There was absolutely nothing normal about that time, and yet we dealt with it and adapted to the situation.
So, after all these months, we talked about finally going out to a movie. We had all had seen A Quiet Place at home during the pandemic, so the sequel was something everyone wanted to see, When we got to our local AMC, it was very quiet. We went to see a 4:15 pm showing last Saturday. This is a time that we like to go because it is not too early or late, but in that past it was always very crowded in the lobby at this time of day.
Now we waltzed in and noticed a few people at the counter. I had bought our tickets online, and there were no lines for the self service kiosks. Our tickets were printed out and we were on our way to see the movie in a matter of seconds.
The auditorium was at first completely empty. Before the pandemic, it would have been hard to get seats together at this time of day, but now there were so many to choose from. After we sat down, some people started coming into the auditorium – in total there were about ten people spread out far apart by the end of the movie.
After the trailers – a mind numbing 25 minutes of them – the film’s writer and director John Krasinski came on screen and welcomed us back to the theater. He noted how important it was that we were watching this movie in a theater instead of at home, and he thanked us for being there,
I thought about what he said, and it was good to be back in a place where we have gone to see many films over the years. When the kids were small, this was the place where they went to see their first movie in a theater. The good smell of popcorn filled the air just like before, but now the floors were not sticky, the armrests were clean, and the floor in the lobby sparkled. Also, happily, the bathrooms were being cleaned when we came in and again as we were leaving. I guess some good things did come out of the pandemic.
As expected, A Quite Place Part II was a painstakingly scary experience. Emily Blunt does a spectacular job playing Evelyn Abbott, and Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe are back as her brave children Regan and Marcus. Cillian Murphy is on board as Lenny Miller, a friend who has lost his entire family but decides to help them.
Afterwards, as we left the theater and were walking to the car, the kids and I all agreed that the sequel was better than the original. I explained to them that doesn’t happen often, and my son said, “Yeah, like Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, right?” Yes, he was right, and that is the case here too.
Going back to the movies was a wonderful experience for us, and it was one we needed. There was no more “pandemic” or “new normal”– this was the real normal. Man, did it feel good!