Every release is a risk, and there’s always the fear that a misguided decision to re-issue Cats could ruin UK cinema for ever.
Have you been back to the cinema yet? I have, though not nearly to the extent that I used to go. Partly this is due to the lack of films I want to watch – studios are constantly pushing back the big films into late 2020 or 2021, because so many cinemas remain shut in the US, and because those that are open aren’t generating enough revenue to make it worthwhile. But what will tempt us back if not new films?
It”s a horrible line to walk. And though it does mean some indies that might not otherwise have had the chance have been able to fill the scheduling gaps, every release is a risk – and there’s always the fear that a misguided decision to re-issue Cats could ruin UK cinema for ever.
Admittedly, I do know several cinema-goers whose first visits post-lockdown have been to watch re-released classics, though personally it would take a lot to make me pay to see something that I’ve got at home. I also can’t see re-releases being a long-term solution (though they should help around Christmas time, where going out to watch established classics is often a family tradition. I dread to think how much I’ve shelled out on Elf and Muppets Christmas Carol since I had children).
My wish not to leave my lair for a re-release (festive filmgoing notwithstanding) is because I’m tight rather than nervous though. My attitude to COVID-19 and cinemas is, I think, entirely sensible, for me: I start getting out there, which is higher risk than staying at home, but I do what I can to minimise those risks. If it looks like I’m doing too much too soon, I retreat. I’m basically a human balloon, expanding then deflating again, only without the fart noises.
I don’t have any known health conditions, and I live within easy walking distance of a small cinema that was always mostly empty during the day, which was when I mostly went. I like going to the cinema on my own, and when, pre-COVID, I did go with another adult it was almost always another school mum – so if I start that up again, our children are in the same class bubble anyway.
Not everyone is in that position, and I can completely understand people who don’t want to venture back yet.
But maybe, if I can, and other people can’t, I should. And my worry is that by me not going as much as I did, I’m breaking the habit, and I’ll never get back that mindset: looking at the local cinema listings as soon as they’re released; going anyway even if nothing grabs me, because I like going to the cinema; checking running times to see how fast I’ll have to leg it up to school pick-up afterwards; cursing if there’s a mid-credits scene I need to factor into that run. (Actually there will be no post-movie race back in the next few weeks, as having finally remembered to check the local listings I found that nothing starts til about 4pm now. Time to start offering playdate swaps I guess.)
I was thinking about this after reading Robbie Collin’s persuasive comment piece in The Telegraph yesterday. His arguments are aimed at the studios. It’s behind a paywall, so to briefly summarise he talks about the absence of infections emanating from UK cinemas, the hard work cinemas have done to keep patrons safe and how customers feel about it, and how in return studios need to start providing new, big films for us to watch there. He’s also recently returned from a busy Venice Film Festival – a safe and well-run event, thanks to the (expensive) safety measures they put in place.
If it looks like I’m doing too much too soon, I retreat. I’m basically a human balloon, expanding then deflating again, only without the fart noises.
When I finally went back, my local cinema had hand sanitiser, a re-jigged refreshments / ticket lobby, disposable coffee cups and regular checks by staff during the film. (Just their appearance reminded me to put my mask back on, which I’d taken off to dig into my first popcorn since February.)
It’s the new normal (I hate that phrase so if anyone can think of a new normal “new normal” that would be great) and didn’t feel odd. Even the blockbuster trailers with those early 2020 release dates left on didn’t seem that strange, probably because we were there to watch TENET.
The most annoying aspect was the one way system from the auditorium out of the building, which meant there was no post-film loo trip (will no one think of the pelvic floors?)
I was probably at more risk when I popped into the supermarket on the way home (and am fully expecting Waitrose magazine to have a Q&A on how long the virus lives on sourdough any day soon).
Obviously part of the conundrum is that I feel safest in an almost empty cinema, but almost empty cinemas won’t be profitable. I said in my TENET review that it was a film to be watched after plotting a graph with the biggest screen possible against numbers of other patrons, until you get to a compromise you’re happy with.
I’ve been back to the cinema with one of my children too, and it was so empty everyone there had the equivalent of two rows to themselves. Hopefully I’ll be taking both boys for a kids’ movie soon, though I may tell them that legally they’re not allowed to sit next to me. Let something good come out of this pandemic.
I’m not *not* watching movies in the meantime. There are so many classics to catch up on, some of which I haven’t seen, some of which I have seen, some of which I genuinely can’t remember if I’ve seen them or not. (Full disclosure, for the purposes of this article Anaconda counts as a classic.)
Plus Netflix and Amazon Prime offer up enough oddities, new releases, dystopian-futures-that-now-look-like-documentaries, and creature features to keep me going forever. I’m also lucky enough to get screeners for some films that are being released (on digital and/or in cinemas) for me to review.
But I do need to get – and let me apologise now for the approaching Whoopie Goldberg Sister Act earworm – back in the habit.