As far as I’m concerned, we are still in the middle of a pandemic. I know those of us who are vaccinated have some protection against the virus; however, I’m still limiting my activities to mitigate against any exposure. Included on that list of places I’m not yet ready to visit is a movie theater.
When I had my kidney transplant back in 2002, I was under quarantine for a few months in my home following the surgery. That’s because my immune system was purposely manipulated to test how strong it could be without recognizing the foreign organ in my body and attacking it. In other words, I had no immune system after the procedure, and they slowly built it back up to a safe level for me and my new kidney. When I was able to go back into the world, one of the places doctors cautioned me about returning to was the movie theater.
The reason is that they are rarely deep cleaned. My first job was at a movie theater at Shady Brook Mall in Columbia, Tennessee. I worked the concession stand and checked out VHS tapes for rental in the lobby. Thinking back on my time there, it is true that even though the floor may be swept or mopped, I don’t remember any of my colleagues vacuuming or scrubbing the chairs and armrests — ever — unless they did it when I wasn’t there. Since all the employees were bored teenagers, I doubt that was the case.
This doesn’t mean I’ll never go back to a movie theater; I love movies. I am, however, content with my movie club, an activity my friends and I created when the pandemic began that we anticipate continuing even when this phase of life is finally over. A handful of us connect on Zoom each Thursday to discuss the designated movie we all watched the week prior. We each take turns to pick the films on platforms we all have, like Netflix or Prime, and watching it on our own allows everyone’s schedule to work. It has proven a great way to get to know this diverse group better, since a pattern has emerged of which genre each is particularly interested in.
The latest offering, for instance, is “My Octopus Teacher.” This documentary beautifully illustrates the unexpected friendship between the filmmaker and an octopus he discovers while snorkeling. Also on our latest watched list is I Care A Lot, Snowpiercer, Vertigo and Pride.
We’ve watched horror, fantasy, teen romance and science fiction, among others. Over the course of a year and a half, my movie club has been an opportunity to expand my film palette and learn to see movies as more than just a couple hours of entertainment. It has also proved a valuable mental health tool during a lonely time.
Like I’ve mentioned, I’m excited to get back into a movie theater when the time is right for me. I just hope my group can maintain some remnant of the camaraderie we have established around this medium when life goes back to normal. Otherwise, I will be asking the stranger beside me to grab a coffee afterward so I have someone to analyze the film with.