As cinemas are reopening, I find myself questioning whether my fear of returning means I need to denounce my film lover status.
There are few things I love more in life than going to the cinema. Sitting in a big plush seat, the lights going down and being ready to escape for at least 90 minutes of storytelling magic. Just like the majority of film lovers, I’ve missed the cinema over the last year. I’ve watched new and old films at home, invested in a home projector for a mini cinema experience (even a pick and mix bar!) but there is nothing like the full immersion of the big screen experience.
Why then, am I so apprehensive to return next week, and does it make me a bad film fan?
It’s been a funny year for everyone in various ways. For me, I’ve spent the last 14 months almost entirely alone. I live on my own and so aside from a fortnightly visit to a couple who were my support bubble for a few weeks, I really haven’t seen that many people, especially since October. The thought of suddenly rushing out to a multiplex, sitting not just with a group of people, but a large group of strangers? I feel my throat closing up already just thinking about it.
I did return to the cinema for the brief window it was open last summer, I saw Tenet, New Mutants, Unhinged and Soul on the big screen. I was apprehensive about each visit, obsessively refreshing the seating plan and waiting until the last minute to book my seat, the furthest away from the door and other people. Gone are my back row, middle seat, week in advance bookings. I never felt completely comfortable in the screens, twitching when I saw people coming in, acutely aware of those removing their masks. I couldn’t get lost in the experience.
Now that cinemas are re-opening and the film slate is stacking up to be quite spectacular, I’m faced with the terrifying choice of going back and hating the experience, or missing these wonderful adventures on screen.
Can I still call myself a film fan, a supporter of the arts and independent cinema, if I’m too scared to move past my precious Netflix and iPlayer apps? It’s been joyous watching everyone get excited about bookings opening, trailers releasing, my inbox full of new releases again. I want to feel that joy and excitement too. But I can’t feel the anticipation as I’m still busy trying to imagine walking in the screen and not jumping out of my skin.
We’ve talked about accessibility on the site before. There have been so many negatives to the last year that it’s easy to forget that there have been massive strides towards accessibility of films and art. Those who can’t easily leave their homes for physical or mental health reasons have had more access than ever before to films, not just the big blockbuster packages you find at the till in the shops. But also small arthouse films, new releases, straight in to their homes. With cinemas reopening, will this new found ease of access disappear?
I can’t and don’t want to imagine a world without the cinema and I know I’ll sit in my favourite back row seat one day again, but is it wrong to also want the same access to these vast worlds from the safety of my locked flat?
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