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How the global pandemic impacted the culture of movie watching.

How the global pandemic impacted the culture of movie watching

Art mirrors life and vice versa, so although it’s ironic, sad and scary, it’s also logical that only something out of a sci-fi disaster film could have such a devastating global impact.

Along with the tourism and hospitality industry, venue-based sectors have been hit hard by social distancing measures. Cinemas closed their doors, festivals were cancelled or postponed, as were film releases, concerts, plays… The list goes on.

Not to delve too deep into the human and economic cost of this nightmare, which has been substantial to say the least, I’d like to focus on the emotional consequences this has had on me.

We take things for granted

That, dear reader, is a fact. Realizing and then internalizing this fact, however, is another matter. As an avid performing arts enthusiast, I, first of all, hated seeing how my friends in the industry were suffering, and secondly, the idea of suddenly being unable to enjoy attending concerts and movies was truly daunting.

Going to watch a movie at the cinema has always been a wholesome experience. It was never just about the movie itself. It’s a tradition spanning my entire lifetime. I went to see Disney pictures with my family as a kid. We’d get sweets and popcorn, treats that I normally didn’t get to snack on at home. As a teenager, I would snuggle with girls in the back rows to whatever happened to be playing on the screen. Right up until the virus struck, I enjoyed the banter we shared with friends before and after a movie: geeky reviews accompanied by beer and “professional” commentary.

It was all gone. Sure, there were places trying to revive the drive-through gimmick, but I’ve never been a fan. You sit in the uncomfortable confines of a car, all-the-while wishing you were lying on your sofa at home. Not a great substitute if you ask me. Anyhow, the cinema form of movie watching was absent just long enough for us to realize how much we missed it once the measures were lifted. The whole process of picking a movie, buying the tickets, meeting up for pre- and post-movie drinks, you know, the social aspects of it. The positive side we’ll hopefully take away from this is that we might start cherishing the mundane more.

The granted things we take

Meaning we make use of what we have, and fortunately, modern technology presents us with cool back-ups. I’m talking about streaming. Netflix, Apple TV+, HBO Max, Hulu and the likes were the go-to subscription streaming service providers practically everyone got hooked on during the pandemic. I confess, I too was a member of the streaming crowd. Not everything on offer was of the best quality, but there were some fantastic options to binge-watch, providing a nice escape from reality on a daily basis. 

But is that what it boils down to? An escape? I believe having the possibility of watching movies anywhere in certain respects transcends their entertainment value. I’m convinced it must have given countless families a chance to spend quality time together as well as offered a desperately needed break from one another, thus easing household tensions during lockdown. Not to mention the educational bonus. After all, it’s not all blockbusters and cheap shows, we’ve also seen a rise in inspirational documentaries and on the mark stand-up performances that unquestionably juggled minds and broadened horizons.

As the otherwise public nature of the cinema may transform into an activity shared in the privacy of limited or closed circles, smaller viewing parties might become a trend within the scope of curated community gatherings, which could result in stronger social bonds and healthier interhuman relationships. And with the growing divisionary effect COVID-19 has been having lately, that could only be a plus. Just a thought.

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