What I miss the most: going to the movies

As part of a new series, we asked our writers what aspects of pre-quarantine life they miss the most.

Music+Box+Theatre+will+show+popular+Christmas+movies%2C+as+well+as+singalong+versions%2C+to+help+Chicagoans+get+in+the+holiday+mood.+%28Courtesy+of+Music+Box+Theatre%29

Music Box Theatre will show popular Christmas movies, as well as singalong versions, to help Chicagoans get in the holiday mood. (Courtesy of Music Box Theatre)

“Please post, talk, and text after the show. Don’t ruin the movie.”

I can hear that message echoing through the theater but don’t remember the last time that I was seated, popcorn in hand, getting ready to “enjoy the show.”

With COVID-19 taking over many aspects of the routines we were used to, I find myself thinking about the things that I miss about pre-quarantine life, and going to the movies is one of them. 

Several companies have released movies-on-demand since they can’t be released in theaters, but it isn’t the same. Although I’ve spent plenty of time in my apartment streaming movies and TV on several different platforms it doesn’t capture the experience of going to the movies. 

There’s no way to recreate the movie theater in my apartment. Watching a movie in the theater makes it a more heightened experience. First, the big screen. I don’t get the same visuals and sounds while sitting on my couch that I can get from the massive theater screen. With sounds coming from all around you and giant visuals spanning across the front of the room, it’s easy to imagine yourself in the shoes of the characters on screen. 

My favorite part of the movie theater experience is the people and crowd response. Streaming endless amounts at home can get lonely, especially during this time of isolation. There’s a sense of togetherness when a room full of people is watching a film, with music playing around you giving way to the emotions that everyone in the room is feeling. 

I miss the sounds of laughter, tears, and surprise coming from the tops of heads that you can barely see. While sitting in a theater, there’s a collective feeling sweeping a room full of strangers that brings everyone together, even if just for a second.

Something that I didn’t think much about until quarantine was the lack of distractions in the theater, compared to the many I have at home. When I’m watching something at home, the TV sometimes just ends up as background noise and I’m not focused on the screen because of the many other things going on in my apartment, specifically my phone, to distract me. Sitting in a dark theater, you’ll quickly be shunned for having the bright light from your phone shining from your seat. I like being able to place my phone in my bag, under the seat, and forget about it for a couple of hours.

I miss telling myself that I won’t get any food at the theater, knowing I’ll end up indulging. I miss the excitement in the room as trailers for new movies roll on the screen. I miss the reactions of other people in the theater. I especially miss teasing people who clap after the movie ends, since they’re almost as bad as those who clap when the plane lands. I miss the experience. 

What hardly seemed to matter a few months ago is impossible now.  What about once this is all over? What’s the future for movie theaters? 

Sitting in an enclosed space with people all around is out of the question right now, but hopefully, people will be just as excited as I am to get out of the house and enjoy the movie theater experience. Whatever’s to come, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.