Why we need cinemas

Lead Image Credit: GR Stocks via Unsplash

By Cameron Macpherson

You’re sitting in a darkened room full of strangers. You may have come with one or more friends. You may have come yourself. You may have come with a loved one or significant other. But regardless of the company, no one is talking or sitting on their phones for the next two to three hours. Everyone is suspended in silence, in a shared engagement. In unison, you all laugh, cry, scream, and cheer as projected images dance softly above your heads and towards an awaiting screen. It’s a bit of a strange pastime, the cinema, isn’t it?

It’s not exactly an overly sociable act. Essentially, you are sitting down, shutting up, and closing yourself off from society and the outside world for a short period of time. However, if the unfortunate advent of Covid and subsequent lockdowns that followed have taught us anything, it’s that we severely underestimated how much we take even these little things for granted.

If asked three years ago, what activities we would miss as a society if a global pandemic were to occur, most of us would just scoff loudly from our unmasked faces and bitterly say ‘that would never happen’. However, many of us would be surprised how much we would miss the cinema-going experience, not just as a form of escapism but as a social activity.

While recent statistics seeing families and friends was cited as the thing most people visited most, followed by holidays, and going to restaurants and pubs, nearly a fifth of those questioned said going to the cinema or theatre was their most missed activity.

As we all crawled wearily out of the last lockdown, things began to seem hopeful. Cafes and restaurants opened up, then cinemas and theatres and gyms and pubs followed but there still remained some doubt about cinemas. With so many people becoming accustomed to streaming during the lockdown, James Bond was really an acid test for testing cinema’s utilisation. Would people take to it? Would people attend? The answer was a resounding yes.

Since then, we have seen a string of big titles hit the big screens from Dennis Villeneuve’s epic sci-fi Dune, to Wes Anderson’s quirky, off-beat, and ever-symmetrical The French Dispatch, to Edgar Wright’s dark twisted trip to the swinging sixties in Last Night in Soho. The verdict is in and cinema was dearly, dearly missed and the attendance for cinemas is always going to be there, providing there are ample films to choose from.

So, as we all emerge from our covid-imposed hibernation, bat our eyelids, and try to readjust to the world. Because let’s face it, we are all still adjusting. As we all flock merrily to shops, swagger boisterously into pubs, and violently kick down the doors of our favourite restaurants and demand a table. As we all gulp greedily from a fluorescent, frozen, sugar-laden refreshment and are guided to our reclining, plush leather seat to watch the latest blockbuster, we should remember – it wasn’t always like this.

We took all this for granted and even still do. We only know films as a means to an end. To relax, to switch off, to escape. Don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s crucially needed in today’s society.

But if we have learned anything from these last two years, it’s that none of us realise how good we have it. We should cherish these places that make us happy because we truly never know when they may be ripped from us again.