It’s been forever… Chapter 1: Movie theaters

It seems like COVID-19 has taken over every part of our lives. Even though things are slowly returning back to normal, there are a lot of new safety measures in place at newly reopened public places like movie theaters, one of America’s favorite past times. Nothing beats the feeling of walking into the theater and getting slapped with the smell of popcorn and hearing the excitement of other fellow movie-goers discussing the newest blockbuster. Since shutting down last March, movie theaters have remained closed on and off to the public for almost a year. When Illinois moved into Mitigation Tier 2 in late January they made their most recent comeback, but is going to the movies in a post COVID world anything like we remember? We decided to check it out.


When we first walked into one of Naperville’s favorite theaters, Hollywood Palms, it felt as if almost nothing had changed. The walls were still covered in movie posters and the lobby was still full of fake palms trees and tacky carpeting. Even through our masks it had the classic movie theater smell. However, the silence was deafening. Besides the two of us, three employees and a small group at the bar, the lobby was empty. Another surprising difference was the lack of new movies available to see; many of the movies in theaters came out months ago. We saw Wonder Woman 1984, a movie that came out Dec.25, exactly two months before we went.


That being said, the feeling of being in a theater was just as refreshing and immersive as we remembered. Watching a movie on a big screen is an unmatched experience compared to the months of streaming the newest options while sitting on the couch. When you’re at home there’s always going to be distractions. You’re bound to give in to that familiar urge to check your phone or simply fall asleep. Before you know it, the credits are rolling and you feel like you’ve missed the entire thing. When you go to see a movie it’s different: no tiny screens, just one big one.


Logistically, many things about Hollywood Palms and the entire movie experience started the same. You are still allowed to eat in the theaters and the menu they offered still contains many of the favorites from before they closed their doors. We had to reserve our seats before entering the theater to ensure that everyone would remain socially distanced, but the process was extremely easy. Instead of eating with regular plates and silverware, our food was served in a to-go box and our drinks in disposable cups. Despite the difference in presentation, it still tasted great. When the movie was over our server handed us the receipt without a checkbook to avoid the spread of germs. 


The hardest part for both of us was staying off of our phones. It didn’t help that we weren’t very interested in the movie and both of us were stealthily checking our messages when the plot seemed to slow down. Grace even caught herself checking twitter during a fight scene. We think that over the past year, all of the free time to go on our phones has given into an addiction that was always there. We don’t think this is something unique to us, we feel as if many others feel much more addicted to their phones after going through quarantine.


Overall, we would say that much of the movie theater experience has stayed the same with a few safety adjustments. You just can’t beat a dark theater and, in this case, a mediocre movie to spend some quality time with your friends. In a crazy period of time, it’s good to do something that makes you feel normal.