Back to the Movies

The last time I went to a movie theater was early March. 2020. I saw Bloodshot, the Vin Diesel superhero movie that was supposed to launch an interconnected universe but was so bad that it shut down movie theaters for a year. I used to see two movies a week. I love going to movies. Not in the Martin Scorsese “sanctity of cinema” way. I mean, let’s be honest, TV is better than movies and that first time Ant-Man gets really big is better than all of The Irishman. But still, I love going to movies. I love presenting my membership card and getting in free, buying garbage concessions, sitting in a theatre where the air conditioning is running too cold and during allergy season it dries out my sinuses and I get a couple hours of relief. It’s an experience that I enjoy and I haven’t had it for 14 months.

To be clear, theaters in Michigan have been open on and off since July. It’s been a mess. You need to understand that Michigan has been working very hard to be Worse Florida. We had white supremacist militias before Trump, if you can believe it. We have a governor who wanted to prevent people from dying, and this made people so mad that they planned to kidnap her, bring her to Wisconsin, and try her for treason. We were two days into the mask mandate before an anti-masker shot a security guard in the face for turning them away.  Oh, and so many police departments announced they would not be enforcing the mandate amd you are not to call them. It’s a bad place.

And so I didn’t go anywhere until two weeks after my second shot. And even then it’s been tentative. I mean, the next variant is going to be known as the Michigan Variant. And the current guidelines are just weird.  Vaccinated people don’t have to wear masks unless specifically required by a business owner, but also you can just say you’re vaccinated. And honestly, after a year, it’s hard to shake the idea that people in masks are doing their best and people without are selfish dicks. I’m sorry, but you are. You have to know by now. If me wearing a mask for five minutes makes somebody else more comfortable, it’s worth it. 

As long as I’m tangenting, I want to note that I’ve been completely punched out on movies since the lockdown. I couldn’t tell you a single Oscar winner. I saw Wonder Woman 1984 and Godzilla vs. Kong on HBO Max and neither of them were as good as they should have been. I haven’t done a single VOD the whole time because that just seems like a wild one-percenter indulgence. My celebrity crush had two movies last year and I didn’t see either of them anymore. I don’t know what happened. Am I too old for celebrity crushes? Have I refocused priorities after a year? Is it that my real-life crush is farther out of my league than my celebrity crush? All of it? None of it? All I know is I didn’t see either The Rental or Promising Young Woman

I went to a mall theater that seemed like it would be ill-attended. It’s near my office, so I used to go there every Friday. This was my first time since maybe last February, and it sort of felt like coming back after a coma. The stores were different. A lot of them. Ordinarily I’d have seen the slow disappearance and transition to a new shop, but this was all at once. Like a parallel universe where things are just a hair different. “Claire’s Boutique? You must be from Earth-1. Here on Earth-3, we have Complex. Also Batman is evil and he’s named Owlman.” In the Food Court, the mega chains were gone, replaced by knock offs with similar menus. Taco Bell is gone, but we have a different burrito place with no branding. Who needs Subway when you have Grand Rapids Sandwiches?

The theater itself spaced out showtimes to keep the lobby from getting crowded, which is admirable but also, there was nobody there. I don’t know how theaters come back from this. Even in the underpopulated lobby, there were two people who walked past no less than five signs explaining that masks were required and assumed that couldn’t possibly apply to them. Because Michigan. They were escorted out by management, and I have to be impressed that they were so confident in their right to ignore the rules that neither of them even had a mask in their pocket just in case. I heard an employee say that you can remove your mask once seated. Some signs and the pre-roll contradicted that, but the rules are changing daily so I assume the most current information is what comes out of a human face.

It was amazing how bare-bones everything looked. The arcade was still taped off, there were no cardboard displays where you take a picture next to the Fast 9 crew. All the coming attractions were posters I’d never seen, except for Black Widow which has been coming soon for more than a year. The concession stand was still selling reusable No Time to Die popcorn buckets advertising the original April 2020 date. The Bond movie was maybe the first big release to be pushed back for the pandemic and those buckets are the “Dewey Defeats Truman” of branded concession promotional items.

The theater itself blocked off every other row of seats. I don’t know how they handled adjoining seats since the only other people were two groups of three that arrived together, (You guys, movie theaters are not going to make it.) but I assume they blocked off a seat or two in either direction. I felt pretty secure and, as background, last summer at a gas station somebody ripped my mask right off my face and screamed insults at me, so I haven’t felt secure anywhere. It was so surreal, just a few beats off of what used to be the most familiar thing in the world to me.

And then that pre-roll kicked in. You know, the parade of ads and trivia and branded content brought to you by one of several different companies that exist to make things that people ignore before the trailers start. I don’t pretend to understand their business model.  And that’s another thing that used to change so gradually. They switch out an ad here, replace a fluff interview there and so it’s always kind of familiar. But the second longtime pre-roll host Maria Menounos appeared and said a more-sincere-than-you’d-expect “Welcome back to the movies”, I lost it.

I know Menounos comes from Entertainment Tonight or something similar. I recapped her on Dancing with the Stars a decade ago, but mostly I know her from movie theater pre-roll. I saw her at least once a week for years and then she was out of my life for a long time. I didn’t think I had strong feelings about Maria Menounos one way or another. But when a suspiciously low-res Maria, as if maybe they used Zoom video because they recorded it early in a fit of optimism, even obliquely acknowledged that this was weird for all of us, it was more than I could handle.

There are a lot of things I haven’t done in well over a year. I haven’t been in a car with another person. I haven’t gone more than ten miles from my house. I haven’t gone to a store for anything that wasn’t urgent. I haven’t bought a piece of clothing from anybody except Tees By Summer. I haven’t hugged anybody. And all of those things are going to be weird when they eventually happen again. Except maybe the hugging, which may just never happen again but that’s more due to my anxiety and emotional unavailability than anything. For a lot of us, it’s going to be a bunch of normal things happening for the first time in fifteen months and that will be varying degrees of weird. We’re going to think through every step of regular stuff for a while.

And I’m not ashamed to say that when Maria Menounos welcomed me back to the movies, I teared up. I missed the movies. I missed Maria Menounos. I missed that part of my life. And this trip was really my reward for holding it together when I didn’t think I could. I spent a lot of the last year-plus not knowing how to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and I did, and Maria acknowledged that it’s been a while and if that’s all the affirmation I’m getting, I’ll take it. Glad to be back, Maria Menounos. We’re going to take this slow for a while, but eventually this will be our regular thing again. Thanks for being patient.

Oh, the movie was Nobody, which was fine and fun. Good action scenes elevated by the fact that it’s Bob Odenkirk. Re-cast him and it’s straight to video. Put Nicolas Cage in there and it’s going to make the rounds of the bad movie podcasts. But also, after all this time, it was like if Citizen Kane and Crank 2 had a baby.

Contact us at the link below. And pick up an Ape Hive shirt in the gift shop.

Share Button


  1. OJ McDoogle

    “it was like if Citizen Kane and Crank 2 had a baby.” Sold.

  2. Pingback: Catching Up With Marvel Studios | The Ape Hive

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *