Op/Ed: Why I’m not going to the movies anytime soon

Any enjoyment I might find in the film would be taken away by my anxiety.

Select movie theaters all across the United States are opening their doors again for social-distanced crowds of viewers. Seeing this as a welcome vestige of normalcy is natural. The world is up-side-down and, when not frightening, frustrating. The cars parked outside the theater elicits a wave of relief that anything ordinary brings us now. There are also movies being released now that have been much anticipated and cinephiles such as myself feel the urge to view these films on the big screen, as soon as possible. And scientific consensus on whether or not these theater visits are big disease-spreaders has not been made yet. But with this piece I will explain why I will do what was once unthinkable to me, forego the cinema, and implore you to do the same.

             From the beginning, health experts have told us not to interact with others beyond our immediate family or home bubble, not to hold gatherings of more than 10 people, and on the whole to avoid confined, indoor spaces. Movie theaters disregard every one of these criteria. But they remind us of the maskless times, so we feel like they’re an exception. They are not.

             Right now, you want to be thinking about ‘time, space, people, place,’” said Dr. Anne W. Rimoin, professor of epidemiology in an interview with the A.V. Club. “You want to think the about the amount of time you’re spending, how socially distant you can be, who you will be around, and what the ventilation is like. And it’s not just one of those boxes you should check; you need to be checking all of them.”

             “Being in a room for two hours with a bunch of folks who are laughing at a movie, and where air is not being circulated in an efficient way, and where you don’t know who has been in there before you, that’s really hazardous exposure,” said physician and epidemiologist Dr. Abdul El-Sayed in the same interview. “I just don’t think it’s worth it.”

             My six-year-old self comes to mind when I observe our current societal attitude. As a child when I was put into timeout on my bed and was bursting with energy bridled by my parent’s discipline, I sometimes thought it would be smart to leave my bed and play quietly with my toys on the floor in defiance of my elders. But inevitably I would get caught and, having disobeyed instruction, would be sent back into a now much longer timeout. I was a child; sitting still did not come easy and my momentary pleasure seemed more important than the foreseeable consequences of it. But we are not children anymore.

             To be clear, I’m talking to myself here as well. Most all of us are guilty of defying the safety standards set up to safeguard us and our loved ones. We’re a rebellious race, humans. But the corporations controlling our existence rely on our money. And if we give them said money while we do things that endanger human lives, we set a precedent. We also get sent back to bed for a longer time. Other countries around the world have earned a laxer set of rules by staying in bed. They sat out their time and lowered the cases. Meanwhile, almost 500,000 Americans gathered for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and a Smash Mouth concert in August and potentially caused as many as 260,000 cases.

             At this point, America’s inability to lower its cases and react in a way that isn’t wantonly irresponsible is just absurd. I want to go see movies on the big screen too. But I want to do it without a mask and with no fear of catching or spreading a potentially deadly disease. Right now, I can’t do that. So, I will wait. This is my choice. It needn’t influence yours. Just remember, time, space, people, place.