When audiences return, we should examine what it means to be back in theaters.
After spending a few years at home, I think we’ve underestimated what it’s like to be in the movies. What it means to enter a common space with hundreds of people and really focus on the images and stories we see on screen. It’s a transportation experience that offers things larger than life.
Recently I watched this experimental piece that attempts to contextualize what it means to return to cinema. The video essay was called “Back to Theatres” by Victoria Oliver Farner, and it was published by MUBI.
MUBI says of the film: “In cinematic language, the narrative is articulated according to the size of the human in the composition of the plan: full length in the context of the landscape, then only the eyes, which appear before us with an unknown magnificence. ‘Back to Theaters’ brings the viewer back to an unprivileged place.”
So watch this experimental piece and let’s talk about what it means to return to the cinema afterwards.
What does going back to the movies really mean?
This video is really about the time we’ve spent watching things on laptops and bedroom TVs during the pandemic, which isn’t a true cinematic experience. It reminds us that the filmmakers organized their thoughts and feelings to present them in the largest format available. And how limited it can feel to watch it at home, alone.
I have to admit, it has been very difficult for me to watch a movie during the pandemic. I looked at my phone, did chores, or even washed the dog during a movie. Every day was spent multitasking. When you go to the cinema, you are forced into a singular event. You are there for a reason, and so distractions can be pushed aside.
Another thing that I’m not sure we talk about enough is the scale of movies on the big screen. Even as someone with a 55-inch TV, I think it’s hard to really get wrapped up. Plus, I have noisy neighbors, a dog, and lots of other distractions. Going to the movies is really like going to church. It’s a ritual, best spent connecting deeply to the material in a deep way.
As the theatrical experience returns, it is important to support and remember all of this. As filmmakers and even as fans, we always vote with our tickets, and we also support places where we go to worship works of art. If you are able to go back to the cinema, go for it. Hollywood has changed so much since the pandemic, and it’s frightening to think that our beloved places and places of worship could disappear in our lifetime.
Let me know what you think in the comments.