The pandemic screwed up a lot of things for most everyone on the planet. Being on the fortunate end of most everyone on the planet, the biggest losses we suffered were dining out, going to concerts, traveling, wearing a mask outside the house, and seeing films in theaters. Needless to say, we didn’t suffer much, but the last film we saw in a movie theater was Knives Out on January 31, 2020, which I saw in preparation for the Oscars. I have a long-standing history of trying to see all the films nominated for Best Picture because that is how I geek out.
I love films. One of my earliest memories was seeing Live and Let Die in the big back of our station wagon at a drive-in in Buffalo when I was only 5. I was supposed to be asleep, but I wasn’t. For decades I had scenes from that film in my head, and it wasn’t until I rewatched it as an adult that I was able to verify that I did watch the movie that night. The first rated R movie I saw was The Survivors in 1983 starring Robin Williams and Walter Matthau. My friends and I bought tickets for Superman III, but snuck into The Survivors instead. In 1985, I got a part-time job at the Mann Theaters behind Southglenn Mall. I must have seen Back to the Future a dozen times that summer. That job was my first introduction to so many things and people that it’s nearly impossible to separate that experience from who I am today. I loved working at the theater in high school so much that I found a way to work with movies on campus at college. Wednesday nights I managed the box at the Forum Room and Friday nights I ran concessions at Chem 140 on the University of Colorado campus as part of Program Council. CU introduced me to myriad films from decades before I was born. I saw at least two movies in a theater every week while I was in college. It was simultaneously an escape and a way to stay tied into life in the larger world.
I worried when everything shut down that perhaps I might never see another film in a theater again. Tonight, though, after a 21-month hiatus, my family and I returned to a theater. Despite having had Covid and being fully vaccinated, I was still a little leery about spending a couple hours indoors with the Covid numbers increasing in our area. What could make me take the risk, you ask? Only one thing. A new film by Wes Anderson. Was it worth the expense and the potential exposure risk? Absolutely, if you love Wes Anderson and all his quirky films, which I do. I find his work exceedingly clever, fascinating, and entertaining. Tonight’s film, The French Dispatch, had an extraordinary cast containing most of his regulars (Owen Wilson, Bill Murray, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Willem Dafoe, and Ed Norton, to name a few) plus a few newcomers like Timothee Chalamet and Elisabeth Moss. Anderson pushes the boundaries of film, maybe a bit too much for some, by incorporating elements of theater and cartoon. I’ll admit there were moments when I struggled to keep up, but that is what I love. I like a movie that makes me think, one where I can’t zone out for ten seconds or run to the restroom because I will miss too much.
It was good to be back. The gargantuan soda and bucket of popcorn took me right back to my polyester-uniform-and-clip-on-bow-tie days working at the theater. As much as I enjoy the convenience of watching a film from the comfort of my own home with the ability to pause it for a minute to grab a snack or check a text message and not miss a thing, nothing will ever compare with seeing a movie in house. And if the day comes, which I assume it will, when movie theaters become part of our history, the world will suffer for the loss of shared experience, of sitting in a dark theater and melting into a story, a story so important that you can’t leave it to go to the bathroom or you risk destroying the magic.