Online movie groups keep fans engaged while they await a return to theaters

Chris Hewitt, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Entertainment News

With most theaters closed since March, intrepid fans are finding ways to keep moviegoing alive, minus the "going."

The simplest way is a Netflix watch party. The streaming service supplies a link to start your chosen movie simultaneously on multiple computers and a chat function. (Note: When theaters are open again, let's remember not to chat.)

"It's not really a temporary replacement for going to a theater -- getting snacks and being able to (sit) with your friends -- but we can watch at the same time and share reactions," said Lucy Johnson, 16, of Minneapolis, who has had several movie parties with friends while isolating in their homes during the pandemic. "It's a better experience than just renting a movie by yourself."

Dan Gardner, 68, of Belle Plaine, is one of nine men in a movie club hatched on a golf course four years ago, when the golfers realized they all wanted to watch films that their wives didn't. Mostly retired and in their 60s and 70s, the members used to gather for breakfast, then go to the multiplex as a group and kibitz afterward.

Gardner says their experience has deepened as a result of meeting via Zoom, which brings the movie buffs into each others' homes.

"It's certainly brought us closer together, because some of us knew each other only from golf or maybe only because he was a friend of somebody else," said Gardner. "Now, we get to know about each others' families. It's an incredibly unique group and really a lot of fun."


While their prosaically named "Movie Club" is as much about socializing as it is analyzing movies, some clubs swing wildly in the other direction.

Terry Serres, who may be the local champ of online movie discussion, is involved in several groups, including his esoteric Club Varda/Denis/Akerman, laser-focused on the films of three French-language directors: Agnes Varda, Claire Denis and Chantal Akerman.

"I'm exploring for myself and if anyone else wants to, too, that's great," said Serres, 59, a restoration ecologist who lives in Minneapolis. A few cinephiles have joined to watch and pore over related articles and films, and more have commented on the group's Facebook page.

Serres' other ventures are more accessible. Even before COVID-19, he often set up virtual movie dates with overseas friends, which have continued. Also, he has gathered film buffs for synchronous viewings of streaming titles such as "The Handmaiden" and "Bringing Up Baby," with intermissions for refreshments and Facebook Messenger discussion. And he's part of the public Online Cinema Group of Long Island, whose members from across the country operate like a book club: They watch the same title individually, then discuss it on Zoom on Saturday afternoons.


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