Movie theaters are still an essential part of our social lives

Illustration by Roe Gassett | The Signal

The phrase, “I’ll see you at the movies,” is starting to feel more like an ending to a eulogy, a goodbye, rather than a confirmation to your friends about plans for the weekend.

 It’s no secret that movie theaters aren’t doing well, and this past year was especially crippling. Theaters rely on high-grossing box-office movies throughout the year. During 2020, the films that would’ve kept companies like AMC and Regal Cinemas afloat went straight to streaming.

 Disney’s “Mulan” and Pixar’s “Soul” and “Onward” are some of the movies that would’ve grossed highly had they gone to theaters. When they went straight to streaming platforms, they might as well have signed movie theaters’ death certificates and nailed the coffin down tight.

 But taking these movies straight to streaming was the safest way to continue creating content without jeopardizing the lives of thousands.

 In this case, the means did justify the ends, albeit the end is the last shuddering breath of our favorite movie theaters. 

 Rush in the emergency ventilators because I am not ready to say goodbye to movie theaters just yet. 

 Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney Plus are great, but they aren’t movie theaters. There is something magical about the dark auditorium and the loudspeakers that you can’t find at home in your living room. 

 Like so many of you, I grew up going to the movies. It was my place to hang out with friends, a way to celebrate birthdays and generally a getaway for two or three hours. 

 Movie theaters encourage the unspeakable: they ask you to turn off your phone and turn your attention to the giant screen and state-of-the-art speakers for a few hours. They are a place to celebrate and appreciate the art of filmmaking. 

 Movies are a place of memories, culture and friendship. It’s one of the few places where strangers from all around are willing to sit together in a closed auditorium and respect each other’s boundaries and preferences to watch a film.

 Turning your phone off for uninterrupted entertainment while leaning back with your buttery popcorn is the best feeling. Everyone knows that the prices are highway robbery, but there is nothing like movie theater popcorn. 

 In August 2020, AMC made news headlines with 1920 admissions ticket prices, just 15 cents. But as tempting as 15 cents a ticket sounds, the safe allure of my living room and flat-screen won out. 

 But at home, for some strange reason, we are more inclined to watch TV shows than we are to watch a movie. So again, movie theaters are still a necessary part of American social life. 

 I feel like I am saying goodbye to Blockbuster repeatedly, but unlike Blockbuster, I don’t think it is quite the time to mourn for movie theaters. 

 Someday soon, I’ll see you at the movies.