Over the last few months, I have posted reviews of some movies on the days they opened in theaters. I have mixed feelings about this.
In no way do I mean to encourage you to sit in a movie theater during a pandemic. I haven’t, and won’t, until a sufficient number of my fellow Americans has been vaccinated against COVID-19. Don’t ask me how many that is, because I don’t know. But my current policy is to not stay indoors at any establishment for more than fifteen minutes, which is about how long it takes me to shop for food in a supermarket or pick up new light bulbs and windshield washer fluid at Lowe’s.
There’s too much danger involved in spending ninety minutes to two hours in an enclosed space with my fellow Americans. Even if I wear a mask — which I always do in the presence of other humans I’m not married to — I have no guarantee that they’re doing the same. And if they had one when they walked into the cineplex, but stopped at the concession stand for popcorn and drinks, their masks aren’t going to be in place the entire time as they munch away while spewing respiratory droplets into the common air.
Thus, you can be assured that, for every movie I’ve reviewed since March, I have watched it either via a virtual screener link on my TV (still good) or on my laptop (not as good). The experience is nowhere near as satisfying as seeing films projected onto large screens in big theaters, but it’s the best available option.
So, why have I been adding “now in theaters” to the end of some of my reviews? To alert you to the fact that this is not something you can watch at home yet. If one of my reviews makes you interested in seeing a particular movie, I hope you’ll keep a list. Then, when all these titles do eventually make their way to Netflix or Prime Video or some other streaming service, you can enjoy them in the safety of your own home.
What amazes me is that, while theaters are mostly empty, they’re not entirely so. The number one movie last weekend (11/13-15) was “Freaky,” which sold $3.6 million worth of tickets. If these were normal times, we’d write that off as a pittance, the kind of numbers arthouse movies pull on their opening weekends. Of course, all the big tentpole movies have been moved to next year (think James Bond and superheroes) or moved to streaming platforms (Pixar’s “Soul” on Disney+ and “Wonder Woman 1984” on HBO Max, both next month), so no one’s expecting to see eye-popping box office numbers.
Still, let’s do a little arithmetic. If the tickets for “Freaky” averaged $10 apiece, that means that 360,000 people felt it was so important they see it immediately they were willing to sit in a theater to view it. I haven’t seen the movie — and won’t, as I’m not a fan of the horror genre — so I don’t know if it’s any good, but my point is that there is no entertainment, on screen or on stage, worth risking your life for.
Bottom line: I’ll keep reviewing movies regardless of their distribution strategies, and leave it up to you how to consume them. But remember, they’re all rated COVID-19.