meet me at the cinema

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Big screens, red seats, lighted stairs, the smell of popcorn in the air. Movie theaters have a special magic.

Much like their counterparts, theatrical theater, cinema is a space where you can let go of expectations and reality. Suspend your disbelief for a few hours – yes, this man can really fly and this car really jumped from one skyscraper to another, and the couple in this romantic comedy had a beautiful happy ending after all their fights and troubles.

Whether you’re sneaking in for takeout in an oversized purse or stocking up on candy at the concession stand, the theater is one of those weird spaces where you can be alone with other people. Your thoughts in your head in silent darkness, but a shared experience of story and adventure on the big screen.

Unlike live theater, the movie on screen will play out as it would without you. It doesn’t require your energy in the room, your expectation and anticipation, and it doesn’t return your energy to you. This perhaps makes it a little less magical than live performance. But the movie theater can offer feats of refined impossibility. A boy wizard, an animated adventure, a shell with shoes or a multiverse of possibilities. (Marcel the shell with shoes will apparently make an appearance at Loma tonight and “Everything Everywhere All at Once” will also air this weekend).

Now, I’m a person with a smartphone and a Netflix subscription, and I’ve been known to watch movies on my tiny phone screen curled up in bed. I’ve watched more than my fair share of YouTube videos and social media reels — those short clips of random lives, advice, or humor. But all that video doesn’t have the same magic as a carefully scripted, carefully edited movie. Viewing on a six by three inch screen will never offer the same size as a screen that spans 30 or 40 feet.

Movie theaters seemed to be on the verge of extinction just a year and a half ago. The window of time when movies only stay in theaters has been shrinking for decades. Streaming makes it easy for movie studios to make new movies available on a home TV without forcing anyone to buy a pesky DVD. Then, of course, theaters had to close because being in a room full of strangers isn’t the best idea when a contagious respiratory disease is spreading.

But cinemas have reopened and are continuing to do business, defying the darkest predictions of their demise.

And for my part, I am grateful. I know that a good story is a good story is a good story, no matter what screen size you’re watching it on. But going to a real movie theater makes a movie an experience, an exciting and memorable one. You get cute before you go, buy the tickets, meet your friends, eat snacks together, and ideally have a late night dinner afterwards to dissect the movie’s highs and lows. What special effects seemed corny? What plot points didn’t make sense? How emotional were you when the hero failed? Someone better google who wrote this score, because it was so good.

I’m not about to cancel my Netflix subscription, but passively accepting the next episode’s play will never have the glamor of a trip to the theater.


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