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Screens of Silver

Updated: Dec 9, 2021

by Julia Peavey

Over a year after initial closure, theatres have at long last widely reopened and multitudes of movies are being released once again. Like water spilling from rusted floodgates, delayed films have finally set dates on the silver screen, the holidays bringing torrents of releases begging for viewers and profit.

The novelty of moviegoing still shines through the chaos: theatre sound and theatre resolution, dimming lights and buttered popcorn, collective gasps and stunned applause - but has the cinema lost its appeal?

It's undeniable that our hyper-sensitized worries now see ultra-violet lights, searching for bacteria and flinching away from strangers. But in reality, for the vaccinated individual, the risk of the theatre is no different than that of a day at school or work. Reduced crowds, sterilized showing rooms, and masks have all been required at various levels to provide security. The greater lure away from theatres of old, however, is the ease of the simple push of a button.

Streaming services have risen as the core of pandemic media, offering the comfort of couch and home as well as new releases. Over 80% of American households possess streaming subscriptions, and even as the movie theatre industry loses billions, large corporations release films directly into homes, eyeing where the money is. The monumental decisions of Disney (whose Premiere Access service allows viewers to see newly released movies at the moment they drop in the cinema) and Warner Bros. (which has simultaneously released all of its 2021 films on HBO Max and in theatres) have drawn audiences even farther from public outings in the name of releasing films they have produced.

There is the looming question of cost too, as theatre tickets in San Diego cost an average of $12 to $15 - oftentimes more. This compares to only the most expensive monthly fee of a streaming service, which offers a myriad of seemingly limitless media. Even without paying more for premium levels of viewing, one only has to wait a few weeks or months to see a film for “free,” without extra hassle.

But this is not just a story of defying all logic and donating to local industry out of pity. Theatres are undeniably not the same nodes of community they once were - and they may never be again. However, there truly is a difference between a home television of blankets covered in snacks and a vast screening room brimming with excitement.

Whether it be Denis Villeneuve's Dune, shaking the seats with the power of sound and scale, or Wes Anderson's The French Dispatch, vivid in its idiosyncratic and ever-charming cinematography, the movies we love deserve to have their achievements offered on sacred screen.

If the pandemic is to end we must learn to normalize, not just reinstating daily necessities, but also celebrating culture. As movies race into the open, we are faced with the deceptively complex decision to stream, to attend theatres, or even to watch at all. Yet the revolution of scene after glorious scene unfolding before our eyes has not lost its appeal - the thrill of the cinema shouldn’t either. It is beyond worthwhile to remind ourselves that there is effervescent beauty in the new, that art does live outside our own homes, and that we can finally experience it once again.


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