When I was a girl, there were movie theaters. Before the collapse of the film industry, before the COVID-19 pandemic, there were brick buildings lined with vinyl posters as far as the eye could see. I remember crushed velvet carpet beneath my sneakers and the lingering scent of well-buttered burnt popcorn in the lobby. If I cuff my ear, I can hear the murmurings of a ghost crowd excited for what could have been a summer blockbuster. Children are screeching at the top of their lungs and ducking in and out of the stanchions separating the queues as their parents hurry to purchase tickets to Pixar’s latest animation. Do you remember Pixar? That animation company famous for making adults cry like little kids and little kids understand adult emotions. Films had a way of doing that to people, especially when crammed into a small room of staggered recliners cloaked in darkness before an enormous screen of moving images. I miss that. I miss feeling things in synchrony with hoards of strangers: how we all screamed together at cheap jump scares or collectively cried at the death of a beloved character. Films had a way of bringing people together.
But, that was in my girlhood: a time before masks, social distancing, and an extremely contagious respiratory disease to people within six-feet of each other. Such conditions are counterintuitive to the movie-going experience. Covid-19 arrived quietly, but didn’t leave without causing a grand commotion. The world had lost more than one million people and the survivors forgot how to socialize. Fearful of another outbreak, large gatherings became a thing of the past. Rambunctious children no longer terrorized lobbies of crushed velvet carpets; instead, an eerie silence perforated desolate theaters across the nation. Struggling to acquire new film properties, movie theaters experienced devastating deficits and were eventually bought out by streaming services such as Netflix and Disney Plus. Movies became a casual affair of PJs and laptops. Red carpets were rolled up and old Hollywood turned in its grave.
When I was a girl, there were movie theaters; but today, I’m a woman shuffling through an empty lot of peeled posters, muddy carpets, and rubble.