Someday, we’ll be together.
Those words sustain me as I sit alone at this keyboard. The day will arrive, and I pray it’s soon, when we will again sit and laugh with each other again at restaurants and concerts and bars and backyards and playgrounds ...
And, especially, in big, dark movie theaters.
Since I was 5, going to the movies has been a steady part of life. Mom and Dad took me on Saturday nights to the cavernous Lewis and Clark Cinema in the south suburbs of Seattle where we watched Sidney Poitier and Charlie Chaplin.
Later, in Denver, I drove or walked to ancient, faded neighborhood theaters to watch old movies. I saw Marlon Brando bellow for Stella and Anthony Perkins invade Janet Leigh’s peaceful shower and Humphrey Bogart bravely decline to fly beside the beautiful-beyond-beautiful Ingrid Bergman.
You can imitate the moviegoing experience at home, but it’s only an imitation. The dog and the cell phone and the temptation to take a 15-minute break for some dumb reason all intrude on the purity of watching a movie in the dark.
About once a week, I walk down the hill from my Briargate home to the Chapel Hills AMC Theater to watch a movie on the big screen. These are grand times for those devoted to watching movies the real way. Screens are big. Audiences are generally polite and quiet. Admission prices, when adjusted for inflation, are cheaper than the 1970s. (Yes, popcorn prices are astronomical, somewhere around a dime a kernel, but no experience is perfect.)
It’s my hope movie theaters will experience a revival after we are liberated from the constraints of the age of coronavirus. For the past few weeks, we’ve been encouraged — OK, almost forced — to retreat to our homes. Most of you have spent hours staring at your video screens.
Streaming is so easy and there’s so much variety and it can be so much fun. You can’t wake up in a funky mood at 3 a.m. and walk to a movie theater to watch the latest episode of “Schitt’s Creek.” I get that.
But there’s something precious about watching a movie with a crowd in a theater. Perhaps one blessing from our days alone will be new hunger to watch movies together.
Kimball Bayles, a Wasson grad, has watched movies at Colorado Springs theaters for decades. He’s the owner of the Kimball’s Peak Three in downtown Colorado Springs.
“I like to think that, yes, people are just locked up and have cabin fever and kids are driving them crazy, and they’re thinking of the wonder of that experience,” Bayles said.
That experience, of course, is watching a movie at a theater.
“Once everyone feels it is safe to go out, I think they will crave that experience. They will see that being isolated doesn’t really quite cut it. I think there’s definitely going to be that kind of desire to be around people.”
I can hear, all the way from here, a few of you shouting about the terrors of movies at a theater. Prices too high. Dopes in the audience too loud. The volume, which you can’t control, too loud.
I go to 25 movies a year. Every eighth or ninth time, someone in the audience coughs too much or talks too much or texts too much, but the coughing and talking and texting soon end, usually because someone in the audience complains.
Come on. Focus instead on the upside. The screen is bigger with a sound so immense your seat sometimes shakes. Going to a movie vs. sitting on your couch? It’s not even close.
“You know,” Bayles says, “you can’t pause it, you can’t control it and there are no distractions. You can’t compare the experiences.
“There is something big about it. Hollywood has always been about larger than our life and in a theater that is exactly what it comes down to. You’re there and the story is unfolding and you’re responding and you see someone else responding to it. When you see someone next to you crying, it’s a shared experience. It’s what most people want and desire.”
Staring alone at this keyboard, thinking of that beautiful downhill walk to those big screens of my local theater, it’s what I desire.