Movie theaters are awaiting your return. Are you ready? Fer Gregory/Shutterstock

I went to the movies. 

That, in itself, wouldn’t be column-worthy. After all, seeing movies is my job, and, as anyone who knows me can attest, me seeing a movie is about as predictable as me breathing. 

But, for the past year and a half, “going to the movies” and “breathing” has become a loaded combination, if not a completely impossible one. I wrote – in a column that seems a lifetime ago – my reasons for spending so long away from what’s been one of the chief joys of my life. And while this godforsaken pandemic isn’t over (as I’m writing this, the Press Herald tracker pins Maine’s vaccination rate at 56.45 percent), cases are down, I’m fully vaxxed, theaters are opening and, dammit, there are summer movies happening, people. 

So I went to the movies for the first time in more than 18 months yesterday. Here is my story:

The place: The Flagship Cinemas Premium in Auburn. 

The reasoning: I live in the Second District these days, and this blandly efficient chain theater is five minutes from my house. More than that, however, it’s one of those ubiquitous, cavernous multiplexes (sorry about Cinemagic, Portlanders) whose corporate policies about COVID-19 safety are spelled out in plain, lawyer-vetted language on their website. Honestly, I’d have braved an indie theater if there were one in my neighborhood (I’ll be there as soon as you let me, Railroad Square), but the fact that Flagship has instituted a ticketing system that automatically blocks out seats on either side of yours is a nice, comforting touch. I bought my tickets on my phone with relative ease, eliminating the need for messy human contact even further. 


The experience: It was the movies. I was happy. There were previews, and those annoying advertisements on a loop beforehand, which I found only slightly less annoying in my nostalgia for live theatergoing. I went for a Wednesday matinee at 1:30 in the afternoon, but there were still about 20 or so people in attendance for a horror sequel (see below) that had already been out for a month or so. I kept my mask on throughout the entire 97-minute film, and here’s where things get a little rant-y. I wear a mask in public indoor spaces even though I am vaccinated. There are plenty of reasons for this (vaccines are never 100 percent effective, I do not trust that other people have been as conscientious during this pandemic as I have, it’s just a decent thing to do), but it boils down to this – they’re my reasons, it doesn’t hurt anyone, and it’s none of anyone else’s business. Plus, in the dark, nobody knows anyway. 

I did splurge happily on a beverage from the concession stand (Flagship Auburn offers the sickly-delicious frozen delight that is the strawberry lemonade Icee), which I sipped, with insignificant inconvenience, under my mask. Look, I’m good at mask-wearing at this point, and if you’re not, why the hell not? The seats at this particular theater are advertised as heated recliners, and while I didn’t feel the need for bun-warming, the luxurious decadence of sitting way back in a padded, foot-rested seat for the entire movie was undeniably a plus. (Another plus is that the slow, creaking fart sound made by mechanically reclining vinyl makes kids laugh. A lot.) The theater’s website outlines all the between-showing sterilization and cleaning procedures intended to ensure patrons safety/peace of mind, but, on a Wednesday afternoon, I’m not sure that the only two hard-working employees in evidence could actually do all of that. Regardless, everything was about as peaceful an experience at the movies as one could wish after a world-crippling, movie-depriving deadly pandemic. 

Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe and Emily Blunt in “A Quiet Place Part II.” Jonny Cournoyer/Paramount Pictures

The movie: “A Quiet Place Part II.”

Oh, yeah, there was a movie involved as well! I chose writer-director Jon Krasinski’s follow-up to his not-bad-at-all 2018 monster thriller for a few reasons. Firstly, it’s a horror movie, a genre always boosted by the big screen and a house full of occasionally shrieking people. Secondly, well, it was a brisk hour-and-a-half. My pilgrimage back to in-person moviegoing was originally going to be to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “In the Heights,” but its 143-minute running time led me to dip my toe into something a full hour shorter. (Masks and vaccines versus my own anxiety? Always bet on anxiety.) I did contemplate buying an “In the Heights” ticket and then watching the big monster movie, but the whole assigned seating thing put the kibosh on that old-school way to support the cineplex underdog, so monsters it was. 

Krasinski took over total scriptwriting duties this time around, and he’s not as good at that as he is at directing, sadly. Telegraphed perils, thinner characterizations and a too-abrupt ending lowered this sequel down a notch from its predecessor. Worst of all, Krasinski’s choice to give his scaly monsters yet another absurdly convenient vulnerability is downright Shyamalan-ian. (Plus, filmmakers have to stop casting a powerful, Oscar-nominated actor like Djimon Hounsou and then giving him nothing to do.) It was fine for a creature feature sequel – Emily Blunt is still terrific as the ever-heroic protective mother, new addition Cillian Murphy is typically fine (despite his character overcoming his one interesting conflict in about five minutes), and young deaf actress Millicent Simmonds is absolutely outstanding once more. She’s really the star this time out, carrying the weight of the story and commanding the screen. Look out for this kid. (Oh, and for those worrying about Krasinski-lack, don’t fret. The film opens with an extended flashback to the day those sound-triggered alien baddies came to town.) 

The verdict: Check out the experts, research how seriously your chosen venue takes your safety and, most importantly, listen to your own counsel on whether or not in-person moviegoing is right for you and your peace of mind at this point. For me, it was time. I have taken the necessary steps to ensure my own and other people’s safety (as far as that can be done) and, well, I just missed going to the movies. There’s no other experience quite like it, at least not for me, and walking out of the dark theater into the blinding light felt like life finally kicking back to life. And I’ll work up the nerve to see “In the Heights” next, I swear. 

Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Auburn with his wife and cat.

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