These days, people watch movies on their iPhones, their tablets and laptops, and of course in the cozy confines of their living rooms— nestled in couches underneath warm quilts, a spot of wine within reach. Before the pandemic, Chicagoans still went to the Music Box, the Davis, the Logan and a slew of megaplexes that dot the city. Even in pre-covid days, however, the siren call of the couch and a movie on Netflix had become increasingly irresistible.
Will that siren call win out, even after the pandemic? Maybe. Like other movie lovers, we’re trying to wrap our heads around Warner Bros. Pictures’ decision to stream all of its releases in 2021 on Warner-owned HBO Max at the same time they play in theaters. After a month, streaming will stop, though movies will cycle back into HBO Max and other streaming vehicles once interest in a given release at theaters drops.
Movie fans have reason to worry.
Until the pandemic eases, it’s safer to keep microwave popcorn stocked and watch your favorite flicks at home. During the pandemic, you can even support cinema icons like the Music Box by renting their releases online.
But with vaccine distribution underway, Chicagoans and the rest of the country can imagine what post-pandemic movie viewing will look like. Will it include a wholesale shift in movie-watching from theater to living room, on a scale that threatens the future of cinemas?
We hope not.
There’s no substitute for watching a movie inside a cavernous room packed with people bursting into laughter in unison when Jim Carrey’s face contorts, or gasping collectively when the great white clamps its jaws around Quint’s torso.
The thing about moviegoing is this—it gets you out. Out of the house and with people eager to collectively revel in Streep or marvel at Eastwood.
So don’t give in to the couch. We know it’s a siren song, and its pull is powerful. The pause button is a wonderful thing; the kitchen and a fridge full of leftovers are just a few feet away; and your dog, cat or guinea pig can hop on your lap as you settle into movie night.
But you can’t replicate movie theater popcorn with a few pumps of warm butter and shaker salt. Fountain soda is much tastier at the movies. And that wide wondrous screen? All of that, we hope, is more than enough to keep the movie theater experience alive and thriving.