The big screen is back

Published November 11, 2021, 11:31 AM

by Philip Cu Unjieng


Several cinemas in the Metro reopened their doors on November 10, and as much a symbolic gesture of a form of normalcy creeping back into our daily lives, it was also a potent reminder that things aren’t really back to normal. What do I mean? Read on!

Let’s first establish that I’m more than overjoyed that cinemas are back in the game. Ever since the COVID pandemic struck in March of 2020, our cinemas have been closed, and it’s not an easy thing to ‘pivot’ these cinemas, to convert them to some other use. So cumulatively, that’s a lot of precious commercial real estate that’s been lying fallow for over a year and a half – not to mention the employees, and the refreshment/concession stands remaining idle. To reboot these cinemas must be a welcome, collective sigh of relief for the Mall operators, and the businesses located in the lobby and peripheral areas of the cinemas.


And I’ve always subscribed to how the cinema experience is still the best. We’ve all resorted to streaming services and VPN to watch content, and catch up on what the filmmakers have been up to during the pandemic. But watching from home is still so different from experiencing a film with a crowd, joining in the reactions and communal sharing of the viewing.

When viewing a movie, I’ve often turned to watch the audience, getting a kick watching them react to a funny line, an action sequence, a heartwarming, tear-inducing moment – and it’s always been something, registering that it works, that the director and actors have succeeded in creating a cinematic ‘moment’.

And then there’s the exiting from the cinema together and gauging the reactions of people – the crazy smiles, the dabbing at eyes with handkerchief, the enthusiastic back and forth commenting about what they’ve just watched. These are all things you just don’t experience when watching from the comfort of home – where everything is automatically more laid back.


So I got to watch Dune last night, Nov. 10 at the Rockwell Power Plant Cinemas. I loved the film, and had first watched it at home, courtesy of HBO – and even then, I regretted not having watched it first on the big screen. There’s a scope, a grandeur, the detailing of vistas and world-building that all felt confined when viewed on the home screen. With the cinema, the intent of Denis Villeneuve, the director, just felt so liberated – and I envied Issa (who was with me), and the others, who were watching it for the first time, in the manner it was meant to be watched.

But what are the drawback to how these cinemas have reopened, with what Health and Safety protocols that remain in place. Well, first off, even if from the same household, and you’ve shown proof of vaccination, you’re all seating apart from each other. At the least, there’s one seat left empty beside you. In the case of the Dune I watched at Rockwell , there was some cuteness in how they had placed cut-outs of Chalamet, Zendaya, Isaac, Brolin, etc, on these seats that were to be left unoccupied.

You have to keep your face masks on during the whole time you’re in the movie house. At the best of times, I’m constantly taking mine off, so it was a bit of an inconvenience to know that I specifically couldn’t take the mask off for the entire duration of the showing.


And logically, if you couldn’t take your mask off, that meant no food or drinks were allowed to be brought into the cinemas, for now. I know this will help in the deep cleaning and disinfecting that have to be done between showings – but this will take some getting used to, especially for the children. No popcorn, snacks or drinks while they’re watching a movie. Hard enough for us adults.

I know there are many out there who’ll still be reluctant to venture out and watch films at the cinemas, where there may be too many unknowns at play. But I felt safe last night, and I know I was extremely happy to just be back in those cinema seats and enjoying the experience – although yes, there were moments when I’d be reaching out for that ghost drink or ‘chicheria’. Welcome back to the cinemas!