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Cinema in lockdown – a big change for us?

I have always been someone prone to re-watching episodes of Friends for the hundredth time – especially the one where Ross and Rachel take a break, we all know how that ended. When they finally hand over their keys in the penultimate episodes gets to me every time. I’m happy to cozy up at home and indulge in some old classics, but during lockdown, I missed going to the cinema, sitting down in front of a big screen, making plans with friends and eating junk food. The last movie I saw in our local cinema was The Rise of Skywalker. We can happily discuss the quality of the plot and Star Wars’ future again and again, but sitting in front of that life-size screen with a group of excited people then strolling outside to turn the story over and over again has been tradition ever since the first cinemas opened.

During lockdown, we were suddenly catapulted back to the 50s and 60s. Drive-in cinemas were reintroduced, and people had the chance to watch movies like Grease, only with closed doors and face masks. There were things we missed, others we didn’t: having to stand up to let others get to their seat; not being able to eat crunchy snacks out of a crackling bag; not daring to ask your friend to explain the entire plot without being embarrassed. In Germany, at least here in the South, it was quickly embraced with great enthusiasm and has become a popular trend.

Credit: Allocine

I believe there are different types of 'cinematic appreciators' that emerged before and during lockdown. We have the ones like me – the ‘re-watchers’ – who re-watch their favourite episodes they know off by heart, scroll through endless inside joke memes. Then there are the hardcore ‘series-bingers’, those who have the ability to watch five series simultaneously at record speed and recount the plot perfectly. They were at the top of their game during the lockdown and probably helped Netflix gain 25 million subscribers in the first six months of the year 2020. Lastly, we have the ‘movie romantics’ who watch specific movies at a specific time of year – Independence Day on the 4th of July, Love Actually at Christmas and of course Star Wars on May 4th. It won’t be long before there’ll be a docu-film about corona, if not a sci-fi version of it, to re-watch every March.

In order to get a bigger picture of how Netflix and Amazon Prime was used during the pandemic, I quizzed several people in my area. I mainly got the interesting response that people hadn’t changed much of their routine in watching series and movies at home. Many of course told me how they missed their family and friends during this crisis which I believe is at the heart of the issue. One of my friends also made me conscious of this thought: “What do movies and series mean to us?”. In my opinion, movies and series give us a chance to escape reality, to fantasise, or identify with a particular character or situation. Asking people this question, especially during the lockdown, gave me the following responses: movies and series elicit feelings within us, they can make us forget and they give us the opportunity to experience something that we might never get the chance to do. I recall Brad Pitt’s acceptance speech during the SAG Awards, which took place just before the corona storm: “You know, we know pain, we know loneliness, we bring that to the screen, we know moments of grace, we’ve had moments of wisdom, we bring that to the screen, and goddamn, I think that’s a worthy endeavour”. We will always have movies and shows we can turn to. Whether it’s something new or the usual, it doesn’t matter when we’re in a crisis, as long as we can “switch off from reality”, knowing that one day, we’ll return to the cinema seats with our friends and families and be confused about movie plots.

Graphic by Maria Makurat, Font by Ella Mae-Earnshaw

Edited by Juliette Howard and Andriani Scordellis, Film Editors

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