Cinema doesn’t matter. Ask around and you will hear this feeling expressed over and over again. For many, it’s just a place to watch movies. No, it’s more than that – it’s considered an inconvenient and uncomfortable place to watch movies amid annoying popcorn munching audiences, a lesser alternative to the ease of home streaming.
But I do not agree. In my many years watching movies, I have visited giant movie chains and tiny arthouse theaters, watching blockbusters and independent films. Through these many experiences, I realized that the cinema is not just a place to watch movies – it is a place where some of life’s most memorable, magical and formative moments occur.
Santikos Palladium, San Antonio, Texas
Like everything in Texas, the Santikos Palladium is huge. Huge auditoriums can seat hundreds, buckets of popcorn are filled to the brim, towering screens give the front row a sore neck. It was the first cinema I visited. I was eight years old and I was more excited about my bucket of popcorn than the movie itself. Bubbling with energy as my parents and I entered the cavernous building, I freed myself from their hands and ran through the carpeted hallways, looking for the right room, ticket stub in hand. . Snuggled up in my seat, I quickly marveled at this 2000s movie classic: Beverly Hills Chihuahua. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, going to the Palladium in 2008 planted the seeds of my budding love for film and film.
Angelika Cinema Center, New York
Ten years later, I moved to New York to study film. While cinema had not been an integral part of my life until then, that changed when I discovered the Angelika Film Center.
Nestled in SoHo, the Angelika is an intimate arthouse cinema. My friends and I went there to watch the latest indie darlings, chatting extensively from the moment the credits rolled. There is no shortage of precious memories: a Halloween screening of Lighthouse; watching A hidden life with a new friend, our friendship cemented by the shared quasi-spiritual experience. There was a time when, after watching a movie, a friend and I decided to see another movie at a cinema a few blocks away. We sprinted out of the Angelika, laughing as we made our way through town, a neon haze, wet streets and camaraderie. Here, I discovered cinema as a creator of friendships, of magical moments that are remembered years after they have passed.
Months later, I returned to the Angelika for one last time. I didn’t know it was the last one then – I just wanted to see a movie with my family. We watched Emma in an almost empty cinema, huddled together. The next day, NYC became the country’s Covid epicenter.
The living room of my house, San Antonio
Ok, so it’s technically not a movie theater. But when you’re stuck at home for months on end, you’re happy with what you have.
The monotony of pandemic life has brought me to a historic low. I was sleeping constantly just so that there was one less day to endure, and I suffered from panic attacks and mood swings. I needed an escape and found none.
“A night at the cinema reaffirmed and strengthened not only our love of cinema, but for each other”
Then I remembered the cinema. I remembered the warm, dark embrace of the auditorium and recreated it at home. Late at night, when everyone was asleep, I would turn off the lights, have snacks, and watch a movie on the large living room TV. I ran away in the Italian summer of Call me by your name, the fantastic kingdom of Labyrinth, the gothic excess of Crimson woodpecker. My home theater reminded me of the cinema’s ability to provide comfort even in the darkest of times. During these months, I can honestly say that the cinema saved my life.
Village East Cinema, New York
A year and a half after I left, I returned to a somewhat normal NYC to visit friends. A summer downpour made our plans impossible, so two of my friends and I bought tickets to The green knight instead of.
The Village East cinema is even smaller than the Angelika. Featured films are advertised on a black-and-white marquee, and auditoriums rumble as a subway train passes underneath. Upon entering the auditorium at the end of the previews, my friends and I fell into our worn out seats and were instantly drawn into the immersive fantasy. Three people who hadn’t seen each other for over a year were now laughing, panting and crying together. After the movie was over, we ran down the street enthusiastically shouting out the masterpiece we just witnessed. We didn’t care who was watching; we were electrified by our shared experience.
After such an eventful year, a night at the movies reaffirmed and strengthened not only our love of cinema, but for each other.
That’s the power of cinema – bringing people together, inspiring new passions, providing an escape in the darkest moments. Although the movies are available at the push of a button, the magic of the big screen still calls out to me. And despite changing tastes and the passing of time, when I walk into the cinema, I still feel the childish excitement that I first felt years ago. I buy the biggest popcorn and sit in the best seat (middle row, slightly to the right), ready for the start of the movie: ready for memories to be created.
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