As far as I’m concerned, we are still in the midst of a pandemic. I know those of us who are vaccinated have some protection against the virus; however, I always limit my activities to mitigate any exposure. Included on this list of places I’m not yet ready to visit is a movie theater.
When I had my kidney transplant in 2002, I was in quarantine for a few months at home after the operation. This is because my immune system has been deliberately manipulated to test its strength without recognizing the foreign organ in my body and attacking it. In other words, I had no immune system after the procedure, and they slowly rebuilt it to a level safe for me and my new kidney. When I was able to return to the world, one of the places the doctors warned me about returning was the cinema.
The reason is that they are rarely thoroughly cleaned. My first job was in a movie theater at Shady Brook Mall in Columbia, Tennessee. I worked at the dealership booth and checked out the VHS tapes for rent in the lobby. Thinking back to my time there, it is true that although the floor can be swept or mopped, I don’t recall any of my colleagues vacuuming or cleaning the chairs and armrests – ever – at unless they did when I wasn’t there. Since all of the employees were bored teenagers, I doubt that was the case.
That doesn’t mean I’ll never go back to the movies; I like the movies. I am, however, happy with my film club, an activity that my friends and I created at the start of the pandemic and that we plan to continue even when this phase of life is finally over. A handful of us tune into Zoom every Thursday to discuss the designated movie we all watched the week before. We each take turns picking the movies from the platforms we all have, like Netflix or Prime, and watching it on its own keeps everyone’s schedule running smoothly. This has proven to be a great way to get to know this diverse group better, as a pattern has emerged of the genre everyone is particularly interested in.
The latest offer, for example, is “My Octopus Teacher”. This documentary beautifully illustrates the unexpected friendship between the filmmaker and an octopus he discovers while snorkeling. Also on our latest watched list, I Care A Lot, Snowpiercer, Vertigo and Pride.
We’ve watched horror, fantasy, teen romance, and sci-fi movies, among others. In a year and a half, my film club has been an opportunity to broaden my range of films and to learn to see films as more than a few hours of entertainment. It has also proven to be a valuable tool for mental health during a time of loneliness.
As I mentioned, I am delighted to return to a movie theater when the time is right for me. I just hope my group can maintain a vestige of the camaraderie we have established around this medium when life returns to normal. Otherwise, I will ask the stranger next to me for a coffee afterwards to have someone with whom to analyze the film.