Return to Theaters
My first cinema visit in 18 months was not what I expected.
Current Cinema: Last night, I returned to watching movies in theaters, and it was … OK.
I was expecting a transcendent feeling of joy to descend upon me, perhaps because I've seen more than a few giddy reactions on social media over the past few months among the film critics, professional and otherwise, and movie buffs I follow on social media, as they have resumed some form of their activity as weekly visitors to cinemas far and wide. Indeed, the prospect of seeing a fresh flock of summer blockbusters made me jealous of their activity, since I've always identified as a big screen devotee, and I've also been watching advance screenings since 2009.
True, this year's wave of sequels and reboots did not necessarily fill me with anticipatory delight, but I've always been happy to see what Hollywood has been up to, hoping to be surprised and/or captivated, or, at minimum, to keep up with what a favorite actor or filmmaker has been doing. Also, I love watching movies with audiences, even if they may squeal with laughter at something I don't find funny at all, because spectacular moments are always better when shared with others, even if it's strangers at a mall.
Last year, the major Hollywood studios began extending more private links to critics, including those who are members of recognized film-critic groups. Thanks to my acceptance as a member of the Dallas/Fort Worth Film Critics Association, in recognition of my reviews, I have also benefited from this largesse, which allowed me to (more or less) keep up with what was released last year and into the current calendar year.
That changed last year, as individual studios adjusted their release pattern. Independent distributors have long been more open to smaller outlets, even those of us based in Texas, so I am usually in the position of picking and choosing what I can and want to review.That makes me prize the independent gems that pop up now and again even more.
Of course, in my case, the stroke I suffered last November had repercussions that continue to affect me months later, delaying any possibility of returning to a theater and resuming that aspect of my daily work. But, while I'm not back 100% physically, and may never be, I have recovered sufficiently to be able to move around much better, and also to be able to drive.
Last night, I finally found myself with the time, circumstances, and desire to attend an advance screening at a local multiplex that's barely a mile from where I live. I felt a fair degree of anxiety: I walk with the assistance of a cane, so could I walk from my car to the theater? To give myself more time and with the intention of placing less pressure upon myself, I left 90 minutes in advance of the screening. (In the past, I left 45-60 minutes in advance, since publicists usually ask critics to arrive at least 20-30 minutes in advance.)
As it happens, I found a handicapped-parking space available near the mall entrance. It was farther than I realized from the parking space, through the mall entrance court, and then up an escalator to the second (theater entrance) level, and then walk further than I remembered to ascend yet another escalator to the third level. From there, it was much, much further than I remembered to the theater that had been arranged for the screening.
A word about escalators, which I forgot about completely: I briefly imagined catching one of my slowly-moving feet in the escalator, which would then snap me down to the machinery beneath the escalator, where I would be slowly ground into tiny, tiny pieces. Or, knocked over or shoved aside by impatient, rude kids/younger people, where my arms and legs would be severely bruised or broken into sharp pieces of bone for the young'uns to gnaw upon during the cinema screening.
Instead, I made it up the two sets of escalators successfully, and then walked down the hallway to the theater, which was much, much further than I remembered. (Did I mention I walked a lot last night? Because I did.) Happily, a friendly fellow film critic was already there, waiting patiently to gain entrance to the theater. The film's friendly local publicist was also there, so I felt welcomed.
I enjoyed visiting with the other film critic -- much more experienced than me, he sees everything -- and then we walked into the theater. As it happens, I saw maybe a dozen other critics in attendance, along with only a smattering of the public. In consideration of my very limited and labored ability to climb stairs, I sat in a reserved-for-handicapped seat on the ground level of the theater, which is one of the smaller auditoriums in the multiplex.
My friend and I chatted some more, the publicist made an announcement, and then the movie began. Perhaps because I was sitting much closer than in the past -- I like to sit in the upper third of the auditorium -- the film, shot digitally, played like a television show or movie without ads on a very large screen, much bigger, of course, than my 32-inch television at home.
I'm hoping that things will change as I grow acclimated to theaters again, and become more accustomed to the usual hike it takes to get to certain theaters. I'd love to forget about the physical limitations I now face, and just focus on the movie at hand, and not the prospect of clambering however many steps and escalators back to my car.
That's what movies have always done best for me, making me forget about everything else and get swept away with the story that is being told. At least, the good ones.
Upcoming: The only new wide release this weekend is James Gunn's version of The Suicide Squad, which doesn't intrigue me in any manner, and, in any case, will certainly not be suitable for family audiences.
On the streaming front, the first of the month brought many titles to streaming services, so I'm intending to catch up with a past, family-friendly release that I haven't seen before on Amazon Prime Video. Is Steven Spielberg's Hook (1991) really as woebegotten as everyone says? Is Bennett Miller's Moneyball (2011) as good as people have claimed?