Biolans enjoy movies back on the big screen

Students share their experiences returning to movie theater screenings during a pandemic.

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Courtesy of Alex Litvin on Unsplash

Joshua Flores, Staff Writer

In May 2020, movie theaters said their farewells to audiences, closing their doors for the entire summer, a crucial box office season for theaters globally. But as COVID-19 restrictions  continue to decrease in severity, movie theater chains, including both AMC and Regal, have begun opening back up for indoor screenings, showing many highly-anticipated movie selections. But as theaters reopen, safety comes into question. Biola students who have returned to traditional movie watching at their local theaters share their thoughts on the inevitable changes to the experience during a pandemic. 

SOCIAL DISTANCING 

The concept of social distancing is one of the biggest concerns of returning to theaters. Whether it be purchasing tickets or navigating concessions, movie outings are a questionable activity during the current pandemic. While some are ready to take a risk and spend a day at the movies, others are hesitant to spend time indoors with others with the possibility of infection. 

“When I bought tickets with my friend we did it through the Fandango app,” said senior cinema and media arts major Kyle Venberg. “The theater was not full of people, [though] they did have precautions, but it didn’t need to be implemented because it was pretty bare bones. We weren’t really six feet of anyone; it was definitely a different experience.

With the assistance of apps such as Fandango, and contactless or even mobile ordered snacks, cinemas have adapted to social distancing and found the means to accommodate viewers eager to return to the big screen to watch this fall’s latest releases. 

SANITATION AND SAFETY 

While social distancing makes a significant impact on audiences choosing to return to cinemas, sanitation is also highly expected of theaters. From hand wipes to sanitizer, theater chains across the country are using any means necessary to keep their spaces clean and safe. While restaurants have access to outdoor dining, indoor spaces like theaters rely on customers to maintain safe distances, using the provided sanitation equipment and ensuring they keep their masks on at all times, with the exception of enjoying a handful of their favorite movie theater snack. Senior cinema and media arts major Andy Brewster detailed his experience with sanitation while seeing “Tenet.”

“Everyone had to wear masks. [The theater] installed hospital grade air filters,”  Brewster said. “I saw crews cleaning more thoroughly than before, but otherwise things felt as normal [as possible].”

Wiping down seats or using a handful of sanitizer before the film may seem like a hassle, but theaters have implemented simple ways to provide the most normal experience possible, almost nostalgic to pre-COVID-19 movie watching. 

WORTH THE RISK 

Theaters may be providing some normalcy for movie fans, but audiences may still be conflicted about the risks of going to the movies, raising the question: is it worth entering into a movie theater during a pandemic? According to Biola students, the experience, the social interaction and the great films are certainly reasons to go back. Brewster described the return to the movies as something similar to “a religious experience,” a memorable way to make the most of days spent in isolation and quarantine. 

Not only is it a way to get out of the house for entertainment, but also a return to the past ways of life that feel so distant. Others will see the movies as a chance to reinvent their passion for cinema on the big screen after so many months of binging Netflix on both laptops and televisions from home.

“It was like reliving the first movie going experience that I had,” Venberg said. “All of those things you take for granted came to the surface after not having watched a movie in a while.” 

The most at-risk consumers may want to avoid the theaters altogether, but it seems that avid movie goers and those in need of pure escapism can find a relatively safe experience at their local theater.

PROCEED WITH CAUTION 

In many ways, theaters feel safer than ever with masks on faces and wipes in hand, though there are still concerns and many unknowns. Each theater is different, making research an important task to complete before going to the movies. Ideally, theaters that provide the proper sanitizing measures and offer leather over felt seating which are recommended. The demand of certain movie times is another important factor to take into consideration. 

Some may find the cinemas to be an escape from isolation and others may see the looming errors of theaters as a reason to continue supporting the film industry through streaming and drive-ins. Brewster and Venberg agreed that they would be likely to return for more fun at the theater. While the movies are a fantastic escape during quarantine, the return is a risky one and a choice each and every audience member must make for themselves and their families.

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