The pandemic and its impact on human interaction has changed the way many people do things—how they shop and how they socialize. But there is one area that California State University, Northridge film professor Nate Thomas is not too worried about, and that’s the movie-going experience.
“At the moment we’re skeptical about what other people might be carrying, with how easily the COVID-19 virus can spread,” said Thomas, who heads the film production option in CSUN’s Department of Cinema and Television Arts. “When this is all over and things return to normal, how we watch movies isn’t going to be that much different than it was before the pandemic began.”
The ultimate movie experience, he said, cannot be found at home, sitting on the couch and watching something on a television.
“It’s about the live experience,” he said. “Sitting in a theater with other human beings — sharing the tension, the laughs, the scares, the ‘wows’ — is what makes ‘going to the movies’ so special. Viewing a movie or show at home versus seeing things live and in person, there is no comparison.”
Especially, he said, when it comes to visual effects.
“Those explosions, those crashes, those amazing stunts, they just aren’t the same on the small screen,” Thomas said.
Thomas that what might be different in post-pandemic movie going is that there may be less showings per day to choose from.
“In addition to the usual tidying up the theater and cleaning up spilled popcorn between showings,” he said, “the theaters are needing extra time to disinfect and wipe down some areas. This, of course too, will make audiences feel more secure in attending a movie.
“Watching movies is important to the psyche of people,” Thomas continued. “It is an art form and people often find in art what is lacking in life itself. There will always be a need for movies.”
He noted that Delta variant of COVID-19 has made people leery of going into crowded indoor spaces where there is no assurance that everyone is vaccinated or, if not, at least wearing a mask.
“But at the same time, we’re all itching to get out of the house,” he said. “Being ‘locked up’ in quarantine for about a year and a half was hard for a number of individuals, and it’s an indication of how people thrive in group settings and through shared experiences.
“The prognosis is good,” Thomas said about the movie-going experience. “People are slowly returning to movie theaters, but it’s a slow process because the virus has everyone worried. If we follow the rules, wear masks and get vaccinated, we’ll be able to help get this virus under control, and, before you know it, we’ll all be back in the movie theater, munching on popcorn and enjoying the next big blockbuster release.”