As far as I’m concerned, we’re still in the midst of a pandemic. I know that those of us who are vaccinated have some protection against the virus; however, I still limit my activities to mitigate any exposure. Included on this list of places I’m not ready to visit yet is a movie theater.
When I had my kidney transplant in 2002, I was quarantined 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 left after the procedure, and they slowly rebuilt it to a safe level for me and my new kidney. When I was able to return to the world, one of the places doctors warned me against returning was the cinema.
The reason is that they are rarely deep cleaned. My first job was in a movie theater at Shady Brook Mall in Columbia, Tennessee. I worked at the concession stand and checked out the VHS tapes for rent in the lobby. Looking back on my time there, it’s true that while the floor can be swept or mopped, I don’t recall any of my colleagues vacuuming or scrubbing the chairs and armrests – ever – at unless they did when I wasn’t there. As all the employees were bored teenagers, I doubt that was the case.
This does not mean that I will never go back to the cinema; I like movies. I am content, however, with my film club, an activity that my friends and I started 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 log onto Zoom every Thursday to chat about the designated movie we all watched the previous week. We each take turns choosing movies from the platforms we all have, like Netflix or Prime, and watching it on our own allows everyone’s schedule to work. This proved to be a great way to get to know this diverse group better, as a pattern emerged of the genre that everyone is particularly interested in.
The latest offering, for example, is “My Octopus Teacher”. This documentary beautifully illustrates the unexpected friendship between the filmmaker and an octopus he discovers while snorkeling. I Care A Lot, Snowpiercer, Vertigo and Pride are also on our latest watched list.
We watched horror, fantasy, teen romance, and science fiction, among others. Over the course of a year and a half, my film club has been an opportunity to broaden my palette of films and to learn to see films as more than a few hours of entertainment. It has also proven to be an invaluable tool for mental health during a time of loneliness.
Like I mentioned, I’m excited to go back to a movie theater when the time is right for me. I just hope my band can maintain a remnant of the camaraderie we’ve established around this medium when life returns to normal. Otherwise, I’ll ask the stranger next to me for coffee afterwards so I can have someone to analyze the film with.