The Movies

Photo by Nathan Engel on

I love movies and I’ve watched more than my fair share of them from the time that Blockbuster was a big thing to the present era of streaming. From the beginning of the pandemic I’ve viewed quite a number of films, particularly during the weeks of mandated lockdown. I haven’t been inside a movie theater in quite some time, and while I can get a quality screening in the comfort of my home, I find myself longing to return to the experience of sitting in one of those luxury loungers with a tub of popcorn and an icy cold drink. Somehow the experience of being surrounded by sound that leaves a tingle on my skin while viewing the action on a gigantic screen simply can’t be replicated at home. 

Going to the movies has been a staple in my life. My mom used to drop me and my brothers off at the Santa Rosa theater on Saturday mornings for the Fun Club while she did errands around town. For twenty-five cents we got several hours of entertainment. With ten or fifteen cents more our adventure included a snack. I can still recall the feelings of excitement and pure joy of those glorious days. 

Mama often took us to the drive-in movie locations that were in abundance back then. Since we did not have air conditioning in our home we never seemed to notice the heat of the summer nights. The only thing that bothered us were the mosquitos, and we combated them with a coil of repellant that we lit and placed on our dashboard. I don’t have a recollection that our efforts actually worked but after a time we would become so enthralled with the features films that we hardly noticed the bites of those obnoxious critters.

Going to downtown Houston back then was a big occasion. Most of the time we did all of our shopping in malls near our home, but once in awhile my mother would announce that we were going to drive into the heart of the city to spend the day. We’d walk up and down Main Street visiting the different stores and even splurge for lunch somewhere. We always knew that a trip downtown would include an afternoon matinee viewing of one of the latest films at one of the luxurious movie houses. They were so beautiful that it felt as though we were sitting in a palace. 

My mom often told us about her own youthful experiences of going to the movies. She made her excursions sound enchanting. She and her siblings would sometimes visit a neighborhood bakery before setting out for the theater. They would purchase bags of broken cookies for a nickel and hide them in their purses to munch on during the film. Then they jumped on a city bus and rode the short distance to Main Street. For around twenty-five cents they paid for both their movie ticket and a round trip ride. 

Mama described the movie experience back then as the golden age of film. As a teenager she had fallen in love with several leading men and made it point to go to their latest films. Her favorites seemed like odd choices to me, but who was I to question the tastes of her times? Later my mother-in-law would also tell of those exciting moments traveling downtown to see the very latest movie. They both made the experience should enchanting. 

I suppose that I have the heart of a true romantic. I still get excited about going to see a movie at a theater, but it has been a very long time since I have been willing to venture into one of those enclosed rooms. The virus has chased me away, and made me cautious of doing such things. I don’t know who will be in the area with me nor what their health status might be. I worry that being confined for a couple of hours with strangers might somehow result in my becoming infected with Covid, and so I avoid such places like the plague.

I would love for a movie theater to offer a different kind of viewing experience for careful people like myself. I would actually be willing to pay a premium price if they were to institute my idea. I would purchase a ticket in a heartbeat if I were assured that certain measures were taken to ensure that any level of exposure to the virus would be minimal. I’d feel far more comfortable if they allowed us to sit in reserved pods far apart from one another. I’d like to see them checking our temperatures and creating a vaccinated viewers only screening. I’d even prefer that we forego the snacks and wear masks the whole time. Of course I would be willing to pay for such privileges just to feel the thrill of movie watching again.

I understand that my idea sounds both bizarre and undoable. The cost of such a thing would have to take into account the fact that most of the money made at theaters comes from the concessions. Having so many vacant seats would have to be considered as well. I also realize that not everyone is as concerned about the spread of virus ridden droplets as I am, so the whole concept might end up being a bust, but it would be great for someone to try the experiment just to see how many takers there would be. I suspect that I am not the only person in town who determines my shopping and entertainment habits by observing safety measures these days. Surely there are others would would appreciate such a situation. Afterall, most Broadway theaters are only selling tickets to patrons who can prove that they are fully vaccinated.

Perhaps what I propose is overkill, but if it were to happen I would be first in line to purchase a ticket. I long for that expectant feeling when the lights dim and the images appear on the giant screen. Being lost in a cinematic world for a few hours does wonderful things for the soul. I miss that and hope every single day that one day I will be able to experience it again.