Going to the movies is a hallmark tradition for dates, hangouts, and any rainy day of the year. Getting everyone in the car on time so you don’t miss the previews, sending someone out to get snacks for everyone, being first in line so you can get good seats for opening night are just some of the things you keep in mind when on your way to the movies. There’s an air of familiarity and warm feelings associated with the whole experience whether it’s with your friends or your family. However, due to the Covid-19 lockdown, movie theaters have been empty for months and avid movie watchers have needed to find a few alternatives. Both drive-in theaters and streaming services have been a fantastic placeholder for traditional theaters, and they may be outshining the classic movie experience in more than a few ways.
There are as many things to love about going to the movies as there are to absolutely hate about it. I personally love going to the movies with my friends and catching up on all the latest blockbusters coming out, but I always find myself running into the same problems no matter which theater I go to. A spontaneous trip to the theater is going to be a rough experience because chances are that all the good seats have already gone for the prime viewing hours and no one wants to see a movie premiere at 1:00 AM no matter how good it is. Without a proper plan, going to the movies can be a huge headache especially with most theater chains like AMC establishing reserved seating. If you can get tickets reserved for your whole group, then that’s great but taking a trip to the movies nowadays means that you’ll be lucky if three people can sit next to each other even in the front row. It also goes without saying that the prices of snacks and other treats at the concession stand have always been outrageous. It feels like a waste to buy an entire bucket of popcorn for a two-hour movie when you know it’s going to be gone by the fifteen-minute mark. As someone who genuinely still loves going to the movies despite all these small drawbacks, I still understand why the need for a new viewing venue is needed. Being forced to look for alternatives for closed movie theaters is just one of the unexpected bonuses that has come out of the lockdown for me.
Drive-in theaters are a perfect substitute for having a safe date night during quarantine and I cannot recommend them enough for people who haven’t tried them. You maintain a safe distance from everyone else while enjoying classic movies all within your own vehicle. While this option is prime for many, it may not be as convenient as it appears. There is always the issue of spacing depending on the lot that you enter and there is a slim chance that you’ll be able to catch any new releases wherever you go. It’s a great plan for the weekend and it always delivers a great time whenever I go, but if you go in expecting a typical movie experience you won’t be satisfied. Although, where drive-in theaters don’t reach your expectations there are always streaming services to pick the slack.
I also enjoy the new trend that we are seeing of worldwide premieres first airing on streaming services instead of in theaters. Hit movies like El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie and the critically acclaimed The Irishman that premiered on Netflix are great examples of streaming services doing just as well as theaters. Having the option of seeing the movies in select theaters is also a nice plus, but I really enjoy when movies are released as conveniently as these were. When you want to see the newest movies at the box office but can’t seem to find a good outfit to wear out then you can always rely on these services to come through for you. An additional bonus is that the snacks in the pantry are significantly cheaper than the ones you’d find at concession stands and you don’t have to fight for a seat on your couch (normally). I see streaming services as having the potential of running movie theaters into the ground with the amount of convenience that they provide. One of their shortcomings would be that you would need to pay for a subscription for a period of time instead of paying just for the film you want to see, but I can look past that still since there are insane amounts of bonus material that come with a subscription service.
I am excited for theaters to open again because I really do love going to the movies even with all the extra hassle. I love the smell of popcorn and the previews that come before your movie, letting you know what to look forward to. The giddy excitement that comes from the people around you as they quiet their phones and get ready to be entertained for just a few hours of the day really makes me happy whenever I remember going as a kid. Movie premieres have always been a staple in cinema culture because it feels like everyone is coming together to appreciate or criticize something as a whole viewing community. I always felt a small connection to the people walking to their cars, overhearing them as they laugh about how bad the effects were or how they almost cried when their favorite character died. You get to hear how the movie was for everyone else and not just how you feel about it, and that’s the real value that I see in the theater.
However, I do hope that streaming services eventually start replacing the theater as the de facto viewing option. Going to the movies is a plan that requires a bit more thought, whereas streaming a movie takes almost no effort. I would love to catch up on the newest movies and see everything that they have each week, but like most people I just don’t have the time. If new movies came out for streaming services and then were offered for viewing in theaters, I would have my calendar filled for the rest of the year due to all the time I would spend inside.