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Pandemic theatre

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Only one name stood atop the Timeplay podium in auditorium 12 of Cineplex North Edmonton, and it was mine. Even though the pre-show trivia game wasn’t the same without now-former Cineplex host Tanner Zipchen reading off my instructions, it was nice to be back in a theatre again. 

As you already know, things shut down for a bit back in March. Due to the whole pandemic thing, my last few visits to a theatre included Cats and Sonic the Hedgehog; not exactly Academy Award contenders. It wasn’t ideal, but then again, not much has been these days.

Once Christopher Nolan remained insistent on his latest film, Tenet, getting a theatrical release, I knew I would cave eventually. Picking when I would go, however, was a process in itself, as even with reduced capacities and distancing guidelines in place I wasn’t going to take any more risk than I needed to. So, at 9:15 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020, I sat alone in the  auditorium. A late evening on a weekday was perfect, and on the first day of showings no less.

Overall, the cinema experience is generally the same with a few minor tweaks here and there: masks on, floor markings you’ve probably seen during visits to the grocery store, plexiglass separating customer from concession, the usual stuff. Seating is in groups of two, with every other row remaining empty. Another interesting difference was that my ticket wasn’t scanned, rather just given a quick glance on my phone screen before being let through. Whether the scanner just wasn’t working that day or not, this one puzzled me as to how it would streamline the process.

Anyways, I was in. It took me a little bit to shake that feeling of, “man, do I really need to be doing this right now?,” but eventually I settled. It’s a good thing I did, because Tenet is not something you should watch while distracted (think Inception-level concept with Interstellar’s rough-around-the-edges presentation).

Would I do it again?  It depends. I don’t think it would be worthwhile for something like Unhinged (sorry, Mr. Crowe), but for a work like Tenet, whose viewing is bolstered with a massive screen and blaring sound system, I think it should at least be considered providing you take the necessary precautions. Keep in mind that I’m someone that prefers theatre viewing, and wouldn’t mind if Disney’s video-on-demand release of Mulan fell short of convincing other studios to swap to it full time. Home viewing is fine, but if I can get a whole 60-foot screen to myself, I’m taking it.

So, take it from someone who has leaned further on the side of caution than most people he knows: if this has to be the new normal, it can be a worthwhile outing if you do it right. One thing’s for sure: with all of the cleaning, you’ll never see a shinier floor at a Cineplex.

Image courtesy of rawpixel.

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