I just remembered the last movie I saw in theaters was Color Out of Space

Reflecting on movie theaters during the COVID shutdown.

I just remembered the last movie I saw in theaters was Color Out of Space

For a while, I thought the last movie I saw in theaters was Uncut Gems—for the second time, at Cobble Hill Cinemas—but this was wishful thinking, or an attempt to fit my memories into a larger metanarrative about early 2020.

@drewcshannon on Twitter: "it's jan 23, 2020. you're seeing uncut gems for the 2nd time in an alamo drafthouse. your TL is mostly 'this is how I win' screengrabs and iowa canvass launch pics. this is the high point of your year"

In any case, the actual last film I saw in theaters was the science fiction horror film Color Out of Space, adapted from the H.P. Lovecraft story of approximately the same name and starring the one-and-only Nicolas Cage. If you know anything about Cage's career, you can probably guess the type of movie this was: pure B movie schlock, messy, slow, goofy, grotesque, and for some reason halfway through Cage starts doing his accent from Vampire's Kiss, but dialed up to eleven.

A selfie of the author, a young man with glasses, with the film poster for Color out of Space.
The selfie I sent to my friend Tyler while I waited for him to show up.

I went to see it with some friends at Cinema Village, one of the last truly independent theaters in New York. It’s a tiny, old-school three-screen theater. The screen we saw Color Out of Space on is upstairs, and the staircase comes up through the middle of the theater right under the screen. While it's just two blocks away from Regal Union Square, it's about as far away from that experience as possible; you won't find gimmicks like 4DX at Cinema Village. Tickets are also much cheaper at Cinema Village than at the big chains: an adult ticket is $12 and students can go for $8, while a ticket at Regal can easily run over $20 for the splashiest new releases.

@bobby on Twitter: "i miss going to the movies so bad. i would pay a hundred dollars to watch a two and a half star foreign film with no good nudity in a room full of geriatrics who can't shut up at the fuckin angelika and the subway is rattling the building the entire time. and i dont have any snacks even."

I’m harping on about the specifics because I would do a lot of unsavory things to go to the movies right now, and even just writing about movie ticket prices is soothing to me. A lot of people really miss going to the movies, even though being stuffed into a room with anywhere between ten and a hundred other people, all with different understandings of movie theater etiquette, can be a frustrating, grating night that you’ll pay good hard cash to experience. Not going to the movies has truly broken some people spiritually, as evidenced by this tweet going semi-viral:

@duneho on Twitter: "What's your biggest 'I watched that movie in theaters' flex? Mine are probably interstellar, raw, and mother"

I cannot comprehend how seeing a movie in theaters—particularly a film that played on thousands of screens across the US alone such as Interstellar—could possibly be a "flex" on anyone, but I sympathize with the desire to just talk about going to the movies, even if the prompt to get there is absurd. Like this tweeter, I also saw Raw—alone, at Angelika (the theater was mostly empty, with minimal geriatrics, which I guess could count as a niche flex), and I would rather be talking about that than wondering when the next time I'll see a movie in theaters will be, and which theaters will even survive.

An aside: last October, my girlfriend and some friends and I went to Skyline Drive-In in Greenpoint to see Rocky Horror Picture Show. We don’t have a car, but luckily they did have some folding chairs for the walkers among us. I'm not counting this as a movie theater experience—no roof, for one, and by the time Meatloaf showed up I couldn't feel my fingers—but I did at least get to buy some overpriced chips and guacamole from the snack bar. When I handed over my credit card to spend $7 on an anemic serving of dime-sized corn chips and a spoonful of store bought guac, I smiled and thought: Aah, the magic of the movies.