By Erin Waks
With the end of lockdown in sight, lots of us are very excited for things to start re-opening. Bars, cafes, restaurants and museums amongst them. But one thing, in my opinion, has gone rather underappreciated. The re-opening of cinemas.
It’s a little ironic, I appreciate. We’ve spent the last year ploughing through many a Netflix series, or binge-watching old films. With little else to do, it seems as though many of us have had enough of films and television. We may want to go outside, have drinks in bars with our friends, even perhaps go to, dare I say it, a nightclub. The beauty of cinema, though, is the way in which it takes a remarkably ordinary event – watching a movie – yet becomes so much more than that. For me, at least, going to the cinema represents a dedication to my love of visual art. It’s also, I guess, a form of socialising, during which you share an experience, albeit with far less chatting than usual. Cinema can be whatever you want it to be. And no, it’s not the same as watching a movie at home.
I think one element of film-making is often overlooked, nay, ignored, when we watch movies at home. Directors, and the rest of the crew, are making their film for the big screen. Whilst they are not naïve and know their films will be streamed continually through platforms such as Amazon Prime and Netflix, visual art is, always has been and, in my opinion, will always continue to be, initially screened in huge cinema halls around the world. The industry, the artistic elements of it especially, depend upon the encapsulation of their audience. I just don’t believe you can have that same, all-encompassing experience at home.
Take the James Bond franchise, for example, a firm favourite of mine and an undisputed British classic. Of course, we can re-watch the films time and time again from the comfort of our own homes. But nothing beats the drama, the adrenaline, the excitement of witnessing one of the iconic chase scenes play out from the comfort of your seat, popcorn in hand, everyone in the room engrossed.
There’s a reason the cinema industry, despite increasingly having to compete with new technologies, is yet to die out. The re-emergence of drive-through cinemas in the last year has been an amazing flashback to the 1950s, and one I know my friends and I are hoping sticks around. In London, but even more so in other European cities such as Paris, the art cinema scene is still going strong. Independent cinemas often screen a combination of classics and brand-new films, creating an ambience of intellectual visual stimulation, an appreciation of historical film culture and a fabulous place to share a love of cinema.
The other thing that cinema allows which is perhaps less present in home-screening, is the diversity of the industry. Whilst many online platforms offer international films, it can often be difficult to locate a less well-known but incredible film. Film festivals and cinemas, especially international or independent ones, allow you to access worlds and cultures that you may never have even considered. This year, for example, I enjoyed an online Moroccan film festival, the Prix des Dionysien·ne·s, and watched films I would never have even considered. The festival, albeit online, reminded me of the power cinema has to transport you to a different time and place, and I can’t wait to compound that rush with an experience in a real cinema hall.
Personally, I can’t wait to get back to cinemas. I have a list of films I’d like to see as long as my arm, and am particularly excited for some of the international film festivals slowly making a non-virtual comeback after the pandemic. Some highlights this summer include the British Arabic Institute’s SAFAR Film Festival, the reopening of the Institut Francais’ cinema, live cinema screenings of Shakespeare at The Globe, and Film4 Summer at Somerset House. Most of these will take place partially in real life and partially online, allowing a gentle reintegration into the magnetic world of cinema.
Whatever kind of films you like, there is no denying that the cinema offers something for everyone. This year has really shown us the value of our cultural institutions. I hope we can all make the most of cinemas this summer, and truly appreciate the beauty of the big screen.
Image: Jake Hills on Unsplash