My husband and I went to the movies last weekend. I can’t remember the last time we did that.
Pre-pandemic, this was something people would often say either as an expression of delight over a proposed plan — “Yes, let’s; I can’t remember the last time we went to the movies” — or, sometimes for couples, as an accusation: “What kind of relationship is this? I can’t even remember the last time we went to the movies.”
Either way, it was usually an expression of “it’s been too long” rather than “I honestly cannot remember.”
But I honestly cannot. I go to a lot of movies, sometimes alone for work but often with one or all of my children. I love the movie experience so much that I don’t even care if the actual film disappoints. Good or bad, it will have wrenched me from daily life and my own overcrowded head, ushered me in through the soothing popcorn-scented murmur of the lobby, burrowed me deep into darkness and returned me, dazzled in one way or another, to sidewalk and car with a thousand new thoughts.
Even if those thoughts run along the lines of “how on earth does [fill in the blank] still get to make movies?” I am almost always refreshed.
My husband is a bit more picky. After two decades of taking children to movies he would otherwise have never seen in a million years (“Brother Bear” comes to mind), Richard is really only interested in the genre once known as “art house.” And while he will sit, rapt, through a live theater performance so awful that half the audience bolts at intermission, he would rather skip a movie entirely if there’s the slightest chance he will not like it.
He must be convinced that a superhero movie is somehow more than a superhero movie (which is how we got him to see “Black Panther” and “Wonder Woman”) and will not see a horror film unless it is subtitled. He definitely hard-passed on “The Turning,” which may have been the last non-festival film I saw in a theater.
I recently found, in my coat pocket, tickets to “Bombshell,” which the whole family saw at the Cinepolis Luxury Cinema as a holiday treat. (Did I ever think a ticket stub for “Bombshell” would make me weep? No I did not, but neither did I imagine “The Turning” would be my last commercial theatrical experience for 14 months.) Probably “Parasite” was our last date-night movie, but honestly, I’m just guessing.
This made selecting the film to see on our fully-vaxed return both thrilling and daunting. If “The Turning” was my last, I definitely wanted my “first” to be a good one, and that’s a lot of pressure to put on any movie. Especially since there haven’t been any big openings yet aside from “Godzilla vs. Kong,” which we would not be seeing under any circumstances.
We wanted to go to the Laemmle in Pasadena, the site of so many date-nights past, which narrowed the options to 11. Would we be judged by the first movie we saw after the great pandemic? What if our choice wasn’t cool enough? More important, what if we picked one we didn’t like? What if all, as so many theater owners fear, these months of total control, in which we could simply switch to another movie if the one we were watching failed to captivate, had ruined us for the theatrical experience?