Like many, it had been some time since I had entered the doors of a cinema foyer. The last movie I watched in a cinema was actually The Invisible Man, which recently released for VOD — well, $6.99 rental, it has been available for that $20 rental for some time. It’s an odd period to be in. The last movie I watched in the cinema is available to rent at home, but nothings come through the cinema screens since. No movies are backed up in the system. “What’s coming out this week?” I used to think. The answer nowadays, of course: nothing.
Tonight I attended a screening for the first time in nearly 5-months. The longest I believe I’ve gone without seeing a flick since I was old enough to afford my own tickets and catch a bus. What’s the COVID-19 cinema experience like? Not bad at all – well, at least for me. There’s a case-by-case basis to this scenario and in some places, the mention of attending any public gathering should just be outlawed. All of America. Victoria. But I’m in little ol’ Tasmania, and although there are *knocks wood* currently no active cases in the state, the cinemas are rightfully still implementing rather rigorous routines to minimise the risk of patrons and staff.
Walking through the front doors there’s a barricade set up to guide you to either the counter to purchase confectionary or towards the person who’ll scan your ticket. The arcade section of the cinema is shut down completely. The gacha machines have been removed. The toilets are still accessible but like most public places every second sink is blocked off to help promote social distancing.
You’re greeted on your way in and are told politely to sanitize your hands before moving on. I went straight to get my ticket scanned, but from what I could see all normal items were for sale at the confectionery stand. Popcorn, of course. Lollies, ice creams and a variety of drinks.
You may be wondering what I even came to watch since I said no new movies are coming through the pipeline at the moment. Which is true. There are six movies on show at my local currently, one of which is still The Invisible Man, and the rest is a random assortment of old and new. Harley Quinn, Frozen, The Thin Red Line make up some of the titles. It’s kinda all over the place.
I approached the little greeting tower where staff wait to scan your ticket and the kind young man looked up and happy to see me and a couple of others behind me trailing in. Cinemas are obviously doing it rough; they’ve been closed for months. I greeted him with a warm welcome as he did me, and why should I not. I have missed him and he has missed me — even if we don’t know each other by name.
“What are we watching tonight then?” he asks as I extend my phone to let him scan my digitally purchased cinema ticket.
“The Dark Knight” I respond with gleeful enthusiasm.
I am genuinely excited. Not just to see this random face whom I probably wouldn’t recognise outside of his cinema uniform, but also because I’m getting a chance to watch The Dark Knight on the big screen again. I own this film on DVD, twice on Bluray and again on 4K, but there’s nothing like seeing a film on the big screen, and definitely nothing like seeing Christopher Nolan’s Batman films on the big screen. Do I wish it was IMAX? Yes, obviously. But it’s still the stunning big cinema screen and atmosphere I’ve missed.
He scans my ticket and looks up at me and says, “I take it you’ve seen this before?”
“Yes,” I respond. “Yes, I actually watched it at this cinema! I came for the midnight screening when it released back in 2008.”
By pointing out yes I had seen it before in the cinema and then mentioning the correct year it released, I have secretly scored a point from Scott Mantz.
I head up the stairs into cinema number four and it’s – well, it’s the cinema as I remember but with sections cut off. Every second row has been taped off with a sign explaining that due to COVID-19 and social distancing patrons can’t use certain rows. They also encourage you to leave two seats between yourself and anyone else in your row. There’s currently no rule of in place — at least in Tasmania — that would stop a full row of eight people sitting together, but it’s nice to know they’re still encouraging it.
The movie is fantastic. I’m not here to tell you about The Dark Knight because I’m sure you’ve aware or you’ve somehow never watched it before. If so, um, how?
Behind me, I had a young couple who are sitting and watching the movie quietly. At the back of the cinema however are about five young kids who I think are watching Tik-Toks during the quieter moments of the film. At one point one of them lets out off a sound of surprise as it’s revealed that Jim Gordon doesn’t actually die about an hour into the film. I don’t think they’d seen the film before. I guess it’s not on Tik-Tok.
The funniest thing to me about all of this is that I honestly didn’t care. For the most part, I couldn’t hear them — a reason I sit closer to the front of cinemas — but even when I did I couldn’t help but laugh. Of course, my return to the cinema would be marred by young kids watching Tik Toks. I started drawing some parallel in my head about how I was having an almost religious experience returning to a place I’d missed so much and these young kids weren’t appreciating where they were properly by watching Tik-Tok videos, but then I thought, no, enjoy the movie and save all of that for a funny tweet.
I’ve now dragged that funny tweet into this entire article for the same reason the joker burns the big pile of money. Because I can.
As I exited cinema number four I saw several cleaners waiting at the ready with what looked like enough tools to cleanse a recently found mafia dumpsite. I’m going to be having no worries about returning on the cleanliness side of things.
“Enjoy the movie?”
“Yes, it was great. Thank you.”
Please put The Dark Knight Rises on next week I begged inside my head as I pushed open the doors to exit the building.
If you’re lucky enough to be able to enjoy the cinema experience again, please do. Please support your cinema and enjoy that special experience you simply can’t get anywhere else. The smell of popcorn, the gasps of audience members. The kids watching Tik Tok videos. Enjoy.
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