Prior to covid, my escape from my anxiety was usually going to the movies. I’d remove myself from my reality by getting lost in the reality of a film in a dark theater. Obviously, due to Covid-19, this has not been possible for many months. And, arguably, should still not be possible.
I traveled to another county to have that “movie theater experience” again. Now, prior to going, I did my research. The theater I went to was a Cinemark theater. I looked into their covid protocols and read reviews of people who have been to the theater in recent weeks. I decided to go for two reasons: 1) if I decided that I felt uncomfortable, I would just leave and 2) the movie ticket only cost $5.00. My friend and I saw the original Nightmare on Elm Street.
When I purchased my ticket, automatically, the seats around became unavailable, which was nice. So, there was no chance you would be sitting right next to a stranger who’s been god only knows where.
Upon entering the theater, the floor was clearly marked with “6 feet apart” stickers, to reinforce social distancing among the patrons.
The concessions were being done in a way that I felt very safe. There was a person to get your popcorn, and a person to get your drinks (this was at one of the Cinemark’s that have a “serve yourself” set-up, so it was nice to see the theater adapt). They did not accept cash, only card, thus limiting hand to hand contact.
Outside each theater there was hand sanitizer and seat wipes which, with my diagnosed OCD, I would like to see remain a staple. Especially the seat wipes. I worked in a movie theater for years. I know what gets cleaned when.
The theater is cleaned, as usual, but with more disinfectant, while also spraying down all the seats, which made me feel good.
The theater was filled with, maybe, ten people. The policy is that your face mask can be removed when you are actively eating or drinking, but otherwise it must be worn at all times. Now, there didn’t seem to be anybody coming in and enforcing that policy, which was only troubling because I was in Orange County and their track record right now with Covid is not great. There’s a lot of stubborn people in that county. Stubborn and entitled people. But, in picking out my seat, I chose a row that was closer to the screen, where there didn’t seem to be any tickets already purchased. Thankfully, the seats in this theater were recliners, so being close to the screen wasn’t as troubling as it could have been.
My friend and I ate our popcorn, and got excited over movie trailers we had not yet seen. We ate nearly all the popcorn before the film started, and enjoyed watching a horror classic because, well, it is almost Halloween.
All in all, the experience was pretty good. Obviously, it was nothing like pre-Covid, but I don’t think anything will ever be exactly like it was pre-Covid ever again. Going to the movie theater right now is not something I see myself doing very often. I still don’t feel 100% about going out, as we are still very much in the midst of a pandemic. If anything, some friends (ones that I have already been around throughout Covid) and I may rent out a theater for $99.00. We’ll see.
As weird as it was to sit in a movie theater again, it was also a much needed mental health break for myself. Now, I can’t speak on all theater chains, but Cinemark seems to be doing a pretty good job with keeping the safety of their employees and customers in mind first.
It makes me sad to think that in a few months, the theater business could be completely dead. Because, even after months of watching new films at home with my own setup, nothing beats the feeling of sitting in a theater with surround sound, popcorn in hand, and getting excited as the lights dim for the feature presentation.