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Cinema during the pandemic: How independent movie theatres bring joy and a good laugh into uncertainty

By Jen Sidorova, November 2 2020 —

How does it feel to visit a movie theater after the extended isolation? This year, the Calgary International Film Festival (CIFF) proposed two options for their viewers — streaming movies online, at home or watching the film at the Globe Cinema. I absolutely adore the Globe for its old scarlet vintage chairs, standard cinema screens and salted popcorn with a bit of butter. 

Our choice was the locally filmed movie — without the most imaginative title — The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw. The tickets for the swankiest independent Hollywood movies, including Ammonite with Kate Winslet and The Father starring Olivia Colman were sold out a long time ago. Yet, the lack of tickets for movies with festival buzz was not a big deal. CIFF had quite a long list.

Booking the tickets online was a mental exercise as many seats were unavailable due to social distancing. Unsurprisingly, the number of seats was significantly limited in comparison to the pre-COVID times. 

Despite being a low-budgeted class of the Albertan horror, the story of Audrey Earnshaw was quite thought-provoking. Though, I found myself thinking that I could watch almost any video on a large screen with great enthusiasm, including YouTube ads, instructions on how to use a washing machine or even educational training videos. Thank goodness, popcorn wasn’t banned. Masks were allowed to be taken off “in case you are actively eating.” 

These moments of paradise did not last for long. After fifteen minutes, the video and sound became asynchronous. The calls to a movie crew didn’t result in any success. Yet, almost no one left the theater, except for a couple people. Like most viewers, I was charmed by the atmosphere of the cinema and the magic of the big-screen. I remember my first time in a movie theater. I went to see Titanic with my parents when I was seven. I had similar impressions from the Dolby Digital sound, the gigantic screen and the vivid colours.

Meanwhile, instead of DiCaprio and Winslet, we could only observe resident movie actors whose mouths were screaming silently. The sound was about three seconds later than the video. The CIFF managers offered us free complimentary tickets for another movie, which was very kind. Even though the local horror was not terrifying, the whole night was so post-apocalyptic, including the anxious apologetic organizers, sound/video asynchronization, the very few viewers in the theater with masks on everyone. 

The next movie was French, as I suddenly missed seeing strange films with ladies in a bar, who might look like Isabel Huppert or Emmanuelle Beart. These ladies would be constantly sipping red wine, smoking an enormous number of cigarettes and discussing their lovers. How to be a Good Wife with Juliette Binoche seemed like an amazing choice. 

Skipping the movie’s details, How to be a Good Wife expressed the magic of France in the 1960s with retro cars, secret phone calls between lovers, runaways in Paris, vinyl discs and… no social media. This French film showed what normalcy is and how people usually live their lives without adjusting to the quarantine rules. The boarding school’s comedy turned out to be a real movie that transferred the viewers into a different place. The wonderful cinematography certainly helped. 

Independent movie theatres such as Globe Cinema give the chance to their viewers to genuinely value in-cinema screenings. Unlike mainstream movies, art-house films slightly lose their attractiveness while being watched at home. The emotions and colours of these movies are better expressed through cinema sounds and larger screens. Not to mention how the pandemic has changed our perception of cinema.  

The quarantine brought back uniqueness and singularity to movie screenings. Back in the old days, a visit to a movie theater was a big event, not many people, a limited number of tickets, very few movies were screened in  a cinema hall. After watching a good film, the audience usually walked outside of the building. The viewers would stand, smoke and discuss their impressions. It would be wet and windy in Fall. This is how CIFF felt this year — fall and retro. Time to pour Earl Grey tea with a slice of lemon and listen to the Gainsbourg-Birkin duet songs. Maybe, next fall the pandemic will finally be over, but because of these nostalgic undertones, the COVID-19’s CIFF will be remembered for a long time. 

For more information regarding future events and screenings at the Globe Cinema, visit their website .

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