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Have you (anyone) been to a movie theater since the coronavirus hit? Like in the last couple months or so? If so, what was your experience like?

The theater nearest me reopened in mid-August and I've been a number of times now since then. I've found it kind of a bittersweet experience. Here's a rundown of how my typical experience goes:

I arrive late in the afternoon. At this hour, there would normally be a good four or five full rows of cars in the parking lot already, but instead there are more like four or five other vehicles there grand total. There's basically Tenet, some lame-looking rom-com I have no interest in, and a bunch of old movies playing. I'm there for an old movie. Since the reopening, I've seen Jurassic Park a couple times, Beetlejuice a couples, and The Empire Strikes Back, The Goonies, and Hocus Pocus once each. Haven't seen any of those in theaters since I was a kid, so they all carry some special memories for me to see theatrically (except The Goonies, which I never saw theatrically before at all). Anyway, I walk in and get my ticket, then my ritual popcorn and Dr. Pepper for $3.50 less than usual because the theater is desperate these days. There's literally nobody there but me and the very bored workers. Everything is so clean that my shoes actually squeak when I walk on the hard floor of the concession area, for instance. Like I said, the employees don't have much to do besides clean. They're also all wearing not only masks, but gloves as well, unlike at most other institutions in my observation. Anyway, despite the relatively cheap prices (by theater standards anyway), I have to pay with my debit card because they don't accept cash now, as cash transactions would involve human contact. There's no ticket taker anymore either because that too would involve human contact so I just proceed directly to the screening room for my movie.

I enter the screening room. There's nobody there and nobody comes in. They literally screen the movie just for me. I get kind of teary-eyed somewhere along the line here at just the sight of the empty room. You can't help getting the feeling that you're supporting a dying institution. Although it's precisely the absence of other people that makes me feel perfectly safe to be there, the irony is that the sight always makes me nostalgic for the social experience of theater-going that's just gone now, maybe forever. It's just not there and it makes me sad.

There's five minutes of commercials for non-film products once it's show time, then 20 to 25 minutes of movie trailers. They're really stretching themselves on the trailers, clearly anxious to show you everything they've got on the docket. Which they can preview in 20 to 25 minutes. The duration keeps getting shorter though, as more and more movies keep getting pulled from planned theatrical releases in favor or streaming-based rental releases instead, or else delayed by many months. There are fewer trailers almost every time I visit. The movie itself is fun to see in that venue! It makes me nostalgic and happy for a while. It's what keeps me coming back. Then I leave. No trouble getting out of the lot.

AMC, the largest theater chain in the U.S. (my country), has recently warned that, unless significantly more people return to theaters or the company is able to secure a major restructuring of its debt obligations, they expect to run out of cash completely within two or three months. Few major films are expected to release within that time window and those that have hit theaters since the outbreak have seen anemic returns so far, and with the nation's recent uptick in coronavirus cases, even pictures like Wonder Woman 84 could very well yet be further delayed beyond the Christmas season or just moved to a streaming release.

It feels like this is the beginning of the end for indoor cineplexes. It really does. It feels like these institutions are on life support right now, clinging to life by a thread. I'm happy to be the thread, but it just makes me sad to think that in just a few more months there may not be any movie theaters anywhere near my area anymore.

Last edited by Jaicee - on 15 October 2020