Welcome to Back to the Movies, a special series of articles in which we’re exploring how we feel about returning to movie theaters after the pandemic. For this entry, Shea Vassar shares why she’s not yet ready to return to the cinema and would rather keep watching movies at home.
As the world begins to reemerge after shutting down from the coronavirus pandemic, movie lovers everywhere are ready to strap on their favorite masks and return to their seats at the cinema. But as someone who has always enjoyed watching a feature film in the comfort of my own home, I’m not racing to my nearest theater.
Don’t get me wrong. I am ready to return to public places and will always advocate for the support of local businesses. Further, I am not judging any of my cinephile friends for their enthusiastic reunions with those huge screens and the comfy stadium seats that I have fallen asleep in more than I would like to admit.
Instead, here are a few reasons that feed into my love of watching movies at home:
1. I don’t have to wear pants
As far as I know, pants or some sort of clothing that covers the bottom part of my being is required to attend a movie. Even if it wasn’t, I would dress in my winter clothes no matter the time of year because they keep those theaters ready for a penguin apocalypse. Maybe that’s just me since it is a running joke with my closest friends that I tend to get cold in even the warmest environments. However, there is something about watching a movie snuggled up in my own living room with as little fabric on my body as possible.
The minute it becomes socially acceptable to wear pajamas and/or bring a blanket to add to the comfort of those stadium seats, I will put on my favorite pair of jammies that are covered with little Eiffel Towers and cats in berets and be the first in line to see the newest Marvel movie. To show the extremity in this pledge, I should let everyone know that, of the twenty-three entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve only seen the three Iron Man movies and only recently watched the first Captain America film.
2. The menu isn’t limited to popcorn and overpriced nachos with artificial cheese
Snacks are quite possibly my favorite invention that has ever existed. When I meet new people, I love asking them what their go-to gas station or bodega snack is. The answer to that question can give so much insight into a person. My answer is double dark chocolate Milano cookies and BBQ chips. What does that say about me? Who knows? But I do know that neither of these is a regular item you find at the concession stand of a movie theater.
Sure, I can sneak them into whatever screening I’m attending by using one of the many tote bags that have been hanging on my wall since quarantine put them out of commission. In fact, this is something I would consider myself a pro at! After all, I have snuck an entire Taco Bell meal into the Regal at Union Square. Baby Driver wouldn’t have been the same experience without the crunch wrap supreme and cinnamon twists!
Thankfully, my own kitchen is stocked with all my favorites. It has been carefully curated to be the concession stand of my dreams. It even has the ultimate ice cream selection in full gallons of yummy goodness! Those movie theaters just can’t compete with Shea’s Extraordinary Cabinet.
3. Social anxiety is a whole different monster
While my other reasons have been saturated with humor, which is how I prefer to deal with any sort of topic when coping with the current status of the world around us, this detail is different. So many events have added to the natural anxieties of being in public. My personal anxiety about being in a movie theater is still rooted in the tragedy from Aurora, Colorado, in 2012. This terrible event showed that even the places that feel the safest and offer so many a place of comfort are vulnerable sites in today’s society.
While I try not to allow fears from past events to alter my decision-making, the possibility of a violent event I am completely unprepared for, while I am experiencing the pure bliss of cinema, is scary. This anxiety is something I have coped with in the past, but the added layer of COVID-19, and all of the unknown that is still surrounding the current pandemic, holds me at home.
I would like to apologize to those who read that and thought, “Wow, that was dark.” But let’s be honest: we live in an odd time where anxieties of the unknown are not just my experience, and I wholeheartedly believe we need to be more open about their existence.
4. The collective experience is just not the same right now
Have you ever had that one cinematic moment that you will never forget? Mine happened just a few years ago. October is a beautiful time of year for many reasons. The air is crisp, New York City is a little less crowded, and scary movies are programmed for every theater. My boyfriend and I decided to go on a little date to the Village East Cinema to see the iconic Vertigo. Despite being a self-proclaimed cinephile, I had never seen this Hitchcock favorite.
Before the screening, we ran into people we knew and did some catching up as the former Yiddish Rialto theater filled to complete capacity. If you have never had the chance to see a movie in this lavishly decorated gold and blue room, I recommend it. One step into this specific auditorium and it is as if you are transported back into the golden age theaters of classic cinema.
This aspect really played a part in my first experience seeing Vertigo. The film originally was released in 1958, and I imagine it was seen by audiences in similar circumstances: a swanky room with all of the hundreds of seats full. There was a kind of collective respect as the audience engaged with Jimmy Stewart as an obsessive man longing for the stunning Kim Novak in the incredible Technicolor hues.
I’ve seen quite a few other movies, including new releases, in this same exact theater. Every time I step into that room it is magic, but nothing has come close to that Vertigo night. The full theater was an important part of this memory and I am not quite to the point where I would be comfortable being inside with a crowd that big. Is this motivated by my anxiety, or is it common sense after the amount of loss we have experienced over the past year?
There will be a day I return to the movies, and I hope that day comes sooner than later. Until then, these are the four reasons why you will find me on any given afternoon cuddled up on my couch with my stuffed buffalo named Gus rewatching Rogue One yet again. For now, I have my favorite snacks seated on either side of me, and unless aliens decide that I am the human they want to abduct, I feel safe.