As a socially-anxious, introverted millennial, nothing turns me on more than going to the movie theatre alone (don’t you dare judge me until you’ve enhanced your cinematic experience by removing your annoying, chatty classmate that blabs in your ear about not understanding what is going on at the best damn part of the movie). Pre-COVID, these moments of self-care were still spoiled by some bozo breaching my bubble of peace and forcing me to scoot my ass back so he could get to his seat, all the while spilling skittles and popcorn butter on my shoes. Do you hate strangers? I have some good news: COVID-19 has cleared out the theatres – providing us with enough space to pretend we are attending a private screening, meaning it was time for me to return to the theatre.
I approach the properly distanced virtual kiosks and make the difficult decision between seeing Spongebob: Sponge on the Run or Tenet. I decide to save Spongebob for when the government starts selling premade peanut butter sandwiches stuffed with magic-mushrooms. I purchase a ticket for Tenet, using my festering Scene points that I’ve been hoarding thanks to my pandemic SkipTheDishes addiction. I manage to score one of the better seats in the theatre, and I’m quite pleased.
Seats are distanced from others to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Seat D7 in theatre 4, the best seats in the house, with a whole row for myself without having to worry about some jerk crawling over my lap to get to the seat beside me. Even better, only four other people show up. I consider that maybe COVID-19 isn’t all that bad; I remember that just under a million people have died worldwide, the theatre industry is in shambles, and economies worldwide are facing major recessions. I briefly reflect on how the opportunistic conveniences of capitalism have turned me into a self-centred asshole.
But my rising nihilism can wait, because the advertisement-riddled preshow starts, remaining unchanged except for a couple of COVID-19 related segments, including a doctor reminding me to wear a mask. I’m no anti-masker; I would be fine with this were it not for the ironic operation of the snacks counter creating the dichotomy of telling me to gobble down some layered butter and, “to keep my mask on goddammit.”
Once Tenet begins, I’m able to forget about the real-world apocalyptic nightmare of climate change, pandemics, and authoritarian governments and instead drown myself in the paradoxical big-screen extravaganza of a Christopher Nolan flick depicting a potential apocalyptic nightmare. Tenet does not hold up to Nolan’s best work (Interstellar was one of my favourite Cinema experiences of all time), but the high-concept action scenes and mind-numbing time-travel twists make the two-and-a-half-hour runtime fly by.
So until the anxiously anticipated Dune hits theatres later this year, or Elon Musk surgically plants computer chips in our brain that let us have private film screenings from the toilet – put on your mask, buy a seat six feet away from your friend’s, and throw yourself into that sweet kind of escapism that only the movie theatre experience can provide.