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Mandatory Masks Or Not, Why Would Anyone Want To Visit A Movie Theatre Right Now?

The conversation around the planned reopening of American movie theatres devolved into a ridiculous debate over face masks – how did a simple precaution (during a global pandemic, no less) come to be considered “political?” 

The answer is, as usual, breathtakingly stupid; President Trump told the WSJ this week that he believes some Americans are wearing face masks to “signal disapproval” of him, rather than protecting themselves, and others, from infection. 

But a better question might be, why on earth are movie theaters reopening in the first place? 

Disney’s Mulan is the first blockbuster on the horizon, currently due to be released on the 24th of July, the live-action remake offering an opportunity to entertain, and potentially infect, the whole family. 

The success of Mulan will likely be a good indication of whether or not people are ready to return to the theatre – think of it as a “temperature check,” of sorts. 

For more mature audiences, Warner Bros.’ Tenet is due to be released July 31st, reportedly at the behest of Christopher Nolan, who recently described his film as an experience made for the cinema:

“I think of all the films that I’ve made, this is perhaps the one that is most designed for the audience experience, the big screen experience. This is a film whose image and sound really needs to be enjoyed in your theaters on the big screen and we’re very very excited for you to see what it is we’ve done.”

Is the global pandemic over, or did I miss something? 

Nolan is an incredible filmmaker, dedicated to the shared experience of watching movies in a poorly ventilated room, but he might want to take a step back and consider the fact that the highly contagious coronavirus that continues to spread across the planet is more important than Tenet

Don’t get me wrong – I’m sure Tenet will prove to be another Nolan masterpiece – but tempting people back into the theatre with the promise of a fantastic film, designed to be seen on the big screen, doesn’t seem particularly responsible. Not right now.  

Personally, I love everything about the cinema experience, and miss it dearly, but the thought of sitting in a stuffy, sticky movie theatre isn’t particularly appealing at the moment. Imagine laughing at a shared joke, muffled through face masks, as every member of the audience sits far apart, trying not to inhale too much air.

Movie theatres are, of course, taking plenty of precautions, dedicated to providing a safe experience, for the sake of their industry; the smell of warm, buttery popcorn will soon be replaced by the stench of bleach, and disinfectant. 

But sitting in an enclosed room with an audience, masked, separated and sterilized, simply isn’t a good idea right now, and despite the fact we all desperately want the pandemic to be over, it isn’t.

Precautions are good, but staying away from non-essential indoor gatherings is even better. Health experts are divided over the reopening of movie theatres, but the uncertainty doesn’t seem worth the risk – China’s cinemas remain dark, for the time being. 

Not to mention, the cinema experience is all about immersion, and the deadly contagion is sure to be more distracting than any fiction, regardless of how good the presentation is. 

Legendary director Spike Lee said it best, stating in a recent interview:

“I know I’m not going to a movie theater … Corona is a bitch. Corona is not playing. You f**k around you’re going to get killed, you’re going to die. I’m not ready to go.”

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