BIG SCREEN IS BACK: What to expect now we can go back to the movies

It’s been 120 long days since I last sat in a cinema and watched a movie.

The last cinema movie review I filed was for the appalling Downhill, so I’ve waited patiently for movie theatres to re-open so I could file a new review.

For anything. Any movie.

Even (and I can’t quite believe I’m about to type this) a Disney musical. I just didn’t want that review to be my enduring legacy.

And so yesterday, the long awaited day arrived. Cinemas in NSW re-opened and I found myself walking into a movie theatre for the first time in almost four months.

For about the same amount of time, I’ve listened as a certain streaming company try to convince me the ‘at-home cinema experience’ was as good as the real thing. As they tried to convince me to part with $20 per movie. As they tried to make me forget what I was missing.

Now, as a regular cinema goer – and I do feel going to the movies at least once a week more than qualifies me as a regular – there’ve been times when actually going to the movies was a bit of a pain.

When the burning summer heat or the freezing winter rain made me stand at my front door, keys in hand and wish I could just watch the movie I needed to review from the comfort of my own home.

It would be sooooo much easier, much less hassle, to simply plonk down on my lounge to watch.

Be careful what you wish for

Then I got the chance to do just that as coronavirus forced us all into lockdown. Cinemas were closed and new release movies were suddenly available to me from the comfort of my own home.

But it wasn’t the same.

There wasn’t the smell of the salty popcorn as I walked into the theatre foyer.

The chatter of friends, kids, couples as they waited in line to buy tickets and food.

There was no ‘but it’s all part of going to the movies’ self-rationalisation as I purchased a big tub of popcorn, a too large sugary sweet drink and a choc top.

There was no spilling half the popcorn (that’s why we buy the big tubs, right?) as I manoeuvred to my allocated seat.

There was no ‘shhhhhhing’ into the dark at the people who continued talking as the movie began.

There was no inner monologue with my bladder as it demanded a trip to the loo, just ten minutes before the credits rolled.

Now, I found myself sitting in the comfort of my own home, snuggled under a soft blankety, toasty warm as the wind howled outside, watching a shiny new movie I’ve been waiting to see.

It was everything I always wanted.

Except it suddenly wasn’t.

I want…

I want popcorn and a choc top. I want the noisy foyer, the rowdy kids, the loved up couple smooching in line ahead of me.

I want the slightly uncomfortable cinema seats, the annoying local ads and the trailers I don’t want to watch.

I want the surround sound and the huge screen in front of me.

I want the sounds of people around me enjoying the same movie I am.

I want to go back to the movies.

Going to the movies in a post COVID world

And yesterday I did.

Sure, things are a little different. But that’s the same for every business in our post COVID world.

The lounges in the foyer are gone. Maybe not forever, I was told, but for now.

There are hand sanitiser stations, social distancing signs and reminders for patrons to wash hands.

As with most places, you’ll be expected to leave contact details. Just in case.

I couldn’t buy my favourite boxed popcorn and there were no choc tops. Again, this is temporary but it’s the way it is for now.

There’s new cleaning rosters and inspections. Bathrooms will be cleaned every thirty minutes, cinemas cleaned after each session. These will be strictly enforced.

There’s even a seating layout showing how we’ll be seated inside the cinema so we can all maintain social distancing at the movies. The days of sold out cinemas are a thing of the past. Maybe forever but absolutely for now.

How will this be monitored, you ask? Great question.

We’ll be expected to sit in our allocated seating and behave like adults in the cinemas. There’s no more enforcement of seating than there was before COVID, when patrons were politely requested to take the seats they purchased.

Any new movies?

With no major new release movies expected before October 2020, cinema programmers are constantly rethinking what they can offer movie lovers.

As always, the American seasons and market dictate what the rest of the world sees and when. It has always been that way.

But with the United States struggling to deal with the virus and cinemas unlikely to open anytime soon, this may change.

For now, there’s a few movies that were due for release anyway that are finally seeing the light of day. Some went straight to streaming but there’s still a few new ones to watch. There’s also talk of sending some favourites, such as select Disney and Avengers movies, back for another round of big screen showings.

With these changes, it was suggested to me that before heading into the cinema, to check the website or apps for updates. What may have been scheduled on Monday may not be the same as Thursday.

It’s not ideal but it’s just the way it is for the time being.

My hope is some smaller Aussie movies may get some major big screen time. Now wouldn’t that be amazing?

If, like me, you’re keen to see movies back on the big screen, show your support by heading into your local cinema. Check out the apps and websites for movie sessions and for COVID updates.

And remember to be kind, patient and considerate. With staff and with your fellow movie lovers.

I for one don’t want another 120 days without a big screen movie.