When COVID-19 officially shut everything down in March of 2020, it felt like there was a pause in life. There was hardly a movie theater open, a play to attend, or concerts to go to. Movie release dates were pushed back, and band tour dates were postponed until further notice. Streaming services’ profits skyrocketed as everyone stayed at home, trying to find ways to occupy their time.
Now, it feels like there has been a reset. People are surging back to their old hangouts, ready for a chance of normalcy. Artists are announcing their tour dates, and people are starting to fill the seats back in the movie theaters. It’s a very strained return to ‘normalcy’ — whatever that might mean anymore. With COVID-19 lingering in the back of our minds, it’s difficult to feel fully at ease.
The first movie I saw in theaters since 2020 was Godzilla vs. Kong. The theater I went to was somewhere in San Francisco. It was one of those fancy theaters, where they come to take your order before the movie starts, and can serve you alcohol as you’re in there. The theater requested that all the guests wore their masks unless they were eating or drinking—and most people in that theater were definitely drinking. Everyone was so spread out that it hardly felt like it mattered; I had nearly the whole row for myself, and there were only a few other groups that were scattered throughout the theater. Social distancing was no problem when everyone was content to stay in their seats. I ate $6 nachos as I watched two giant monsters attempt to kill each other on screen, with some subpar acting from their human co-stars. Godzilla vs. Kong was by no means a masterpiece, but it was certainly entertaining. I had been uneasy about going into a movie theater for that entire day, but I had hardly come into contact with anyone in that theater, making me feel a little more comfortable about how they had attempted to handle it — to the best of their abilities.
The second time I went to the theaters, it was with my father to go see A Quiet Place 2. He had dragged me to see A Quiet Place in 2018, though I quickly came to enjoy the movie. Movies are our bonding event; we would pick out movies we wanted to watch, and would bring the other for company. We had been looking forward to A Quiet Place 2, but the film, like many others, had to delay its release date due to COVID-19. The Hawkins Movie Theater in Redlands, Calif. was much closer to home now, and only a few weeks after I initially went to go see Godzilla vs. Kong. The theater was far more packed this time, with only a seat to separate us from other people. That sense of uneasiness had returned, though perhaps that coupled with the suspense that was going on screen. My mask remained firmly on the entire time.
The third time I went out, it was to the Pantages Theatre in L.A.; Hamilton returned to the stage, and my dad, as a major theatre nerd, had been wanting to see it in person for years. The Pantages Theatre now requests that all their guests be vaccinated and show proof of vaccination at the entrance of the theatre. There are designated spots for eating and drinking, and everyone inside the theatre was required to keep their masks on for the entirety of the show. While the actors on stage sang and performed, the audience whooped and hollered behind their masks. This time, the demand for seats was outrageous. Everyone was packed into the theatre, and I was shoulder-to-shoulder with another attendee. The lobby wasn’t much better — the lines for the bathroom circled all the way back to the entrance of the theatre, and people were constantly bumping into each other as they tried to navigate their way through the crowd. There was hardly room for social distancing, especially when attending such a popular show. There was no whisper of social distancing—only crowds of people as they attempted to run back to their seats before the curtain rose again.
As more time passes, there continues to be a growing idea that we no longer need to protect ourselves or the people we claim we are supporting. Venues are demanding their guests to show up vaccinated, but, with the rise of the Delta variant, it feels like a hollow requirement. The concert industry lost around $30 billion in 2020, having had to refund those tickets, or attendees having their reservations stuck in limbo. Other concerts are continuing to forge ahead with their plans, but, with the Delta variant on the loose, it is difficult to say if those artists will keep their venues, or if they will simply become super spreader events. Who is to say that the entertainment industry — especially live entertainment — will survive another shutdown? We might have entertainment within this pandemic, but should everyone still disregard our safety measures again, we can’t say how much longer it’ll last.
Featured Photo Courtesy of Ellery Sterling / Unsplash