The traditional moviegoing experience has been shattered by the pandemic and moviegoers are finding different ways to watch the most anticipated films of the year.
Despite concern from health experts and closures in massive theater markets like Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco, some people are still seeing movies in theaters. In some cases, people are willing to go the extra mile to do so, or the extra 600-plus miles for that matter.
Last weekend, Josh Greene, a junior majoring in cinematic arts, film and television production, and a group of his roommates and friends drove a single day round trip from Los Angeles to Tempe, Arizona in order to see Christopher Nolan’s mind-bending espionage flick, “Tenet” in IMAX.
“Christopher Nolan films particularly, they’re meant to be seen in IMAX, the biggest screen possible, because they’re shot that way. So, it’s only right to see it in its [truest] form,” Greene said.
The choices for viewing the film at an IMAX screen were between a theater in Las Vegas and one in Tempe. Tempe was farther, but according to Greene, the screen was the largest one currently in operation within the southwest, so they headed east. The caravan of 11 cinephiles, all of whom tested negative for COVID-19 prior to the trip, also chose Tempe because they believed it to be safer in terms of population and reopening guidelines.
Greene, who posted a video of the road trip on YouTube, said watching the film and taking the trip were worth it because both were completed in a safe manner.
In response to an Annenberg Media post on USC’s subreddit, user IAmIronMan2023 said that they watched “Tenet” in Orange County after theaters in the county recently opened back up.
“[I] kept my mask on the whole time, but overall it felt quite safe with lots of social distancing. I wouldn’t be comfortable doing this on a regular basis however,” wrote IAmIronMan2023.
Another theater-going user, squid224, shared that they are getting together a friend group of about seven people, all of whom have tested negative for COVID-19, to travel to an Orange County Cinemark where they will each pay about $21.40 for a private showing of “Tenet.”
The health-based safety and security provided by drive-in theaters has proven to be successful in bringing in moviegoers.
Jordan Evans, a junior majoring in narrative studies, decided to see “Tenet” this past weekend. Impressed by the trailer for Nolan’s film, she watched “Tenet” at her first ever visit to a drive-in, where she felt safe and relaxed.
In accordance with state and county guidelines, drive-ins operate at 50% capacity and enforce social distancing, on-site sanitation and face coverings among other COVID-19-conscious measures.
A theater manager at the Paramount Drive-In, Manuel Padilla said people are enjoying drive-ins because it gives people the opportunity to get out of their homes and enjoy movies in their own way.
“Some people like the fact that they have their privacy and can just show up in pajamas, bring in their own food and not deal with people talking behind [them] and ruining their experience,” Padilla said.
The Paramount Drive-In has been selling out on the weekends according to Padilla, who encouraged future visitors to show up early to screenings to avoid being turned away.
Evans does not see a justifiable or worthy reason to see movies in a conventional movie theater, at least not until the state of the pandemic significantly improves.
“Being in a closed room with strangers (even at lowered capacity) doesn’t seem worth any movie I could go see at a drive-in instead” Evans wrote in an email to Annenberg Media. “Also, the lights are low in a theater and people would likely be eating/drinking, so I’m not confident that other audience members would feel compelled to wear a mask.”
Annenberg Media’s subreddit post also elicited a response from a user that said they have resorted to piracy.
Compounded by the isolating effects of the pandemic in the United States, piracy has become a legitimate concern for studios pushing out movies right now.
Disney’s live-action remake of “Mulan” was downloaded on BitTorrent, a peer-to-peer file sharing site, more than 250,000 times in China during its first weekend. It managed to rake in an estimated $23.2 million at the Chinese box office. In the U.S., “Mulan” has been released on Disney+ as a premier access title with a $30 fee.
As for “Tenet,” an anti-piracy veteran told Variety last month that in some ways, the film is “a perfect storm for piracy, in that it has raised expectations, both about the film itself and the cinema experience.”
The veteran also mentioned that the film’s staggered release and limited availability would not help its case. Tenet was released in a number of foreign countries (i.e. Germany and the U.K.) before it reached the U.S. on Sept. 3. The film made just under $30 million domestically in its first two weeks.
Though not a means of seeing the newest releases, Reddit user cherryflavordrops shared that the USC School of Cinematic Arts has conducted live showings of movies on Zoom that are “usually followed by a Q&A with the director.”
USC Students have free access to Kanopy, an on-demand streaming service that offers documentaries, world cinema, book adaptations and even festival films such as “Moonlight,” “The Lighthouse” and “Under the Skin.”
Students also have free access to HBO Max, which can be accessed by visiting https://www.hbomax.com/, clicking “sign in” and finding USC under the providers list. From there, the website guides students on how to complete their registration/sign-in.