Back To The Big Screen

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What’s it going to take to get me back to the movie theater?

Spoiler alert: It may turn out to be…

Spoiler Alert.

A gay male love story with, from what I’ve read, a not-so-happy ending. It sounds to me like it’s right up my alley for a night at the cinema.

My hubby disagrees – he says he’s heard it’s “teary and schmaltzy” – but he’ll go anyway. He’s probably right, but to me those are assets, not detriments.

Better watch out, Rotten Tomatoes.
ChucksHubbyReviews.com is happening.

Still, so much has changed since the last time I went to a theater to see a movie.

I had to check my scrapbooks to find a February 7, 2020, ticket from Fandango to remind myself that I had seen the most recent iteration of Little Women.

I remember liking it, but I’ll be darned if I can remember anything about it. Whenever I try, I remember the mid-’90s version with Winona Ryder and Claire Danes.

Several theaters I used to patronize no longer exist.

About a half-year before the COVID shutdown, the Mission Valley movie theaters – a set of four mid-size screens right across from the N.C. State University campus with a very late ’70s/early ’80s vibe, selling wine and beer to 21-and-older patrons – closed their doors. Flooding from broken pipes proved the final indignity.

During the COVID shutdown in 2020, the discount theater complex the AMC Blueridge 14 went under.

The space was demolished, and now a long string of generic apartment buildings has gone up in its place.

And then this summer, the saddest change happened.

The Rialto, a classic, one-screen theater in Raleigh’s Five Points neighborhood (less than 10 minutes from downtown), announced it was “closing temporarily.”

Its longtime owner, who also owned the Mission Valley theaters for more than a decade, cited market conditions but also his own retiring as factors in the shutdown. He said in August there were hopes for its return by year’s end.

It’s December … and no signs yet of return.

In all that time, our household’s movie-watching patterns have shifted.

Just about every weeknight, my husband watches British mysteries, sci-fi thrillers, spy stuff (Bond and the like) on Netflix or Hulu. On the weekends, I take in an occasional music documentary, romance or drama on those streaming services as well as Amazon Prime.

In a moment of madness during the pandemic, we picked up HBO Max just to see the premiere of Wonder Woman 2 (both of us loved the original). The sequel was a dud, and the streaming service never caught on with us (although it took almost two years for me to realize I was still paying for it and finally unsubscribe).

Our different daily lifestyles made talk of a return to the movies a negotiation.

Going to work each weekday with a few thousand young people and a few hundred adults, I had to get used quickly to relative risk, realistic precaution and resignation to reality. After my summertime reunion with old friends and my return to the bowling alley, the movies seem a logical next step. My husband, 18 years older and retired, has a different set of considerations and a different daily reality.

When he said he’d go to “Spoiler Alert,” the “yes” was a big one.

It will be a few weeks before we can make it happen: I’m still in school through Dec. 21. But in that week and a half before I return to work in 2023, we’ll take in a showing, maybe an afternoon matinee where there’ll be fewer viewers.

That is, if the movie is still around by then. Any other fate would truly be a spoiler alert.


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Chuck Small

Journalist-turned-high school counselor. Happily ensconced in Raleigh, N.C., with hubby of 31 years (9 legal).

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mt58
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mt58
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December 19, 2022 8:13 am

In much the same way that you don’t hear the dog name “Fido” much anymore, I can’t remember the last time I saw a venue with “Rialto” on its façade.
Well done, Chuck, and thanks for the reminder that the flatscreen in your TV room is not the only place where you can see a movie.

Phylum of Alexandria
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December 19, 2022 8:59 am

I’m someone who once loved going to the movie theatre.

I have seen some real duds in my time, and yet I have never seriously thought of walking out, as even bad movies have a special charm at the theater, as sort of an event.

Still, there’s not much to draw me in these days. Too many big blockbusters and not enough mid-level indie fare, at least where I am now. Maybe some day I will move to a place that actually caters to cinemaphiles…and hopefully by then the theater will be more thoroughly revived as a business!

Pauly Steyreen
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December 19, 2022 9:44 am

I saw “Kids” (1995) at the Rialto. It’s an amazing space, one of those last few old school theaters (or was anyway). Really hope it makes an improbable comeback!

I was just saying to my wife and son we should go see Avatar 2 in the theater. I love going out to catch a movie, but they both hate it. They prefer the home turf — your own comfy chair and reasonably priced snacks. To me, the spectacle is totally worth overpaying — at least from time to time as a treat. (To be honest, I don’t care much for Avatar, but I was hoping it would be motivation for them… Nope.)

Anyway hope you make it Chuck!

LinkCrawford
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December 19, 2022 9:50 am

In my first 2 years at college I saw exactly zero movies in the theater. If it’s just up to me, movies normally don’t excite me much. But then I met the future Mrs. Crawford. She LOVES going to movies, and I’m happy to go with her. It was tough for her during COVID…she really missed theaters. But we’re back at it again. We probably go to 2 or even 3 a month during the good season. (It’s hard to find a good movie in March or September).

She is a blockbuster fan, so we see them all. (Well…all the ones that aren’t rated R). We just saw Avatar – The Way of the Water last weekend. We were not disappointed.

It would be fun to see a movie at a single screen theater. We have a two screen theater in the town we live near. I should try to get us to go there.

thegue
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December 19, 2022 10:25 am

A couple things have happened, and I’m not sure how/when the movie entertainment industry will recover. Sad really, but in a generation or two, it might be remembered like milkmen, telephones attached to the wall, and music on cassette tapes.

  1. Cable TV, and the proliferation of original programming. A friend of mine and I used to hit the art-house theaters to check out movies regularly, but there is SO MUCH quality on television these days I still haven’t gotten thru all that I’ve wanted to see.
  2. Movie studios are putting more and more of their eggs into a single blockbuster. I’m not a fan of big movies like that (maybe it’s my age?), but it’s left out the smaller films. A real shame to it.
  3. Entertainment systems at home can’t rival IMAX yet (see #2), but for all other movies, is there a different experience in going to the theater?

I have a LOT of great memories of going to see the movies…maybe I can get my children to appreciate the experience without the need for big explosions and 3D screens.

JJ Live At Leeds
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December 19, 2022 10:31 am

I’m in the same position as you Chuck, we were avid movie goers but haven’t been back since covid hit. For me ever since I was a child, we went to our local two screen cinema (The Coliseum), then as a student a group of us went pretty much every week – there was a national cinema day here sometime in the mid 90s with a flat £1 entry. We were at the cinema before 10am and saw four films, leaving sometime around 11pm. On meeting Mrs J we went most weeks and after a break of a few years once we had our daughter started going regularly again once she was old enough to sit through a film.

Last film we saw at the cinema was Pixar’s Onward about a week before lockdown hit, there were less than 10 people in there.

We have been to the theatre and concerts so it’s not like we’re avoiding crowds but with cinema we’ve got used to the comfort of home viewing. Disney+ often releases films on streaming around the same time as at the cinema so we’ve become lazy, sitting on the couch rather than making an effort.

Hope you enjoy Spoiler Alert, maybe we’ll get there at some point too.

Virgindog
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December 19, 2022 11:19 am

Reading this right after reading minor major 7th’s article, I’m realizing most current studio entertainment doesn’t interest me enough to go back to the theaters. I’m usually disappointed with Hollywood’s output. Action adventure blockbusters kinda bore me.

Music, on the other hand, I purposely seek out the new stuff and I’m disappointed with that, too. Very little of it is memorable or unique or innovative.

My hope is that something good will come out of the pandemic. Guitar sales went up. Kids are in their bedrooms learning how to play. Somewhere the next genre of music is being invented. Maybe it will happen with film, too.

Phylum of Alexandria
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December 19, 2022 12:43 pm
Reply to  Virgindog

Any examples of new music that disappointed you? I’ve been pretty pleased with new music recently. Though almost all of it is on the indie side of things.

Virgindog
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December 19, 2022 2:06 pm

I went through Stereogum’s best albums of the year list and Wet Leg, Beach House, and Soccer Mommy were the only ones that caught my ear. You’re right, they’re all indie-ish. Who stood out to you as great artists?

Phylum of Alexandria
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December 19, 2022 2:47 pm
Reply to  Virgindog

Check out my playlists when you get some time. You’ll probably find some stuff you like!

https://open.spotify.com/playlist/0hemwoE4BxN4gsEM1cLFK1?si=d5c8cdb7b74849da

https://open.spotify.com/playlist/0mlkbYsDDi9uW7SSv6wxHl?si=b7a817f57d9e4ad9

For Stereogum’s poll, my choices were:

Song: You Will Never Work In Television Again – The Smile

Album: Diaspora Problems – Soul Glo

Virgindog
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December 19, 2022 2:55 pm

Cool, thanks. I’ll check them out when I’m not in the office.

Phylum of Alexandria
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December 19, 2022 3:01 pm
Reply to  Virgindog

Good call. It’s not office friendly!

thegue
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December 19, 2022 7:05 pm
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V, I loved 2 of those albums!

I’ve tried to like Beach House, but they fall into the bands I just can’t get into, but should given my taste in music.

I’ve also created a Playlist based on my alt rock tastes since 2003, if interested. I was going to share the first on the Mothership in virtual 2012.

https://open.spotify.com/playlist/7mjhSkxvnDrgOwl0zDSFSr?si=q6MdZMltSLyJhjA7wBaPnA

Ozmoe
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December 19, 2022 1:58 pm

I’ll be honest: I absolutely loathe the idea of going to any standard movie chain theater. The last one I did was for the Betty White documentary tribute earlier this year, and oh my gosh, what an ordeal waiting for the movie to come onto the screen. Loud, obnoxious advertisements for products I don’t need much less want. Previews for upcoming pictures, most of them loaded with explosions and noise to promote superhero movies. Yet, that’s the target audience for people interested in Betty White, right? And they’ve cut down services as much as possible so that you get your ticket from a machine to enter or maybe, as in one case I remember, get your ticket at the refreshment stand, where they do a hard pitch for you to buy the stuff where they make their real money.

I try to patronize independent theaters near me when I can, and I do attend a few festivals they host. But honestly, it’s easier, cheaper and more convenient for me to watch a movie at home nowadays. I’m just not the target audience and I can tell it when I go to most venues, so why spend my time and money there?

That being said, I may watch Spoiler Alert in a theater anyway. It does look interesting.

cappiethedog
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December 19, 2022 4:17 pm

I thought The Invisible Man was going to be the last film I’d ever see in a theater. Titane lured me back. The woman at the box office kept insisting I wanted to see A Time to Die. She didn’t know her explorers was exhibiting Titane. I was late. I didn’t want to get into a prolonged argument. So I ended up paying the IMAX price for A Time to Die.

It would’ve been The Sparks Brothers, but the cineplex yanked it during midweek without notice.

DanceFever
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December 19, 2022 7:39 pm

I agree, Chuck, it’s been hard to get back into the movie house experience.
My sons get me out every so often (we are planning on seeing Avatar 2
soon) but my wife doesn’t venture out anymore.
The last one we got her to see was “A Quiet Place”. The audience was dead silent and a scary scene popped up and my wife yelled “Oh s**t!” and the place just erupted with laughter.
She prefers layering up with blanket and watching TV.
The movie I always recommend for what the movie going experience was like as a youngster is “Matinee” with John Goodman.
“See the Mant! HALF MAN, HALF ANT1”

cappiethedog
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December 20, 2022 3:21 am
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In the sad, sad world of Criterion Collection speculation, Matinee comes up. Oh, wait. That’s just me.

dutchg8r
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December 20, 2022 4:27 pm

Last movie I saw in the theater was “No Time To Die”. But said theater was the Imax screen at the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum Dulles location, so it’s totally worth it. If you go see a movie after 6, the museum’s already closed, so you can park right up front, there’s only the one screen so it’s all very orderly waiting to get in the theater and it is very much a destination theater so local kids from Fairfax and Loudoun Counties don’t bother going there – no where to hang out.

The nearest movie theaters to us are a 35 minute drive to a mall as it is, so driving another 15 minutes to Dulles isn’t that big of a deal. We both kind of agreed if we ever go to the movies anymore, we only go there. Otherwise, we’re much happier watching at home.

MrDutch is very interested in seeing Avatar, so maybe we’ll head down to the Air & Space theater over Christmas. I tell you what though, it never gets old walking to buy tickets there and seeing a FRIGGIN SPACE SHUTTLE looming in the distant shadows, behind a FRIGGIN SR-71 BLACKBIRD! 😄

Edith G
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December 20, 2022 6:46 pm

I understand your feelings Chuck, I could say that I had great memories about watching films at the movie theater, specially in the late 90’s, but on the other hand, years have turned me into a complete antisocial, and I don’t have much tolerance for people that only goes to talk during a movie (the girl asking her boyfriend what is all about or what someone said, for example), so I’ve learned to enjoy watching movies, first via the video clubs and now through streaming.

However, the last time that I went to the movie theater I watched “The Batman”, and it wasn’t bad, “Something In The Way” sounded great.

mt58
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December 21, 2022 6:56 pm
Reply to  cstolliver

That’s too bad, Chuck, How about a classic western to cheer you up?

Great supporting cast.

Sierra_(film).jpg
Aaron3000
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December 22, 2022 10:11 pm
Reply to  mt58

Hendrix and Jagger together? That IS bitchin’.

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