Movies

I'm Covid vulnerable: dare I do my bit to save our cinemas?


Lockdown in the UK cost its cinemas an estimated £111m in lost revenue, and their annual income could be down 60% on last year’s. Abandoned filming means there are few enticing titles in the pipeline, and production safety guidelines are hampering new production. If cinemas are to survive while socialdistancing slashes their capacity, they’ll have to fill as many as they can of their remaining available seats.

Filmgoers will need to show up in force, whatever their age, gender or physical condition. I’m an ardent film fan; unfortunately, I’m also male and medically vulnerable, which makes me low-hanging fruit for Covid’s scythe. An over-75-year-old is 623 times more likely to die from the disease than an under-45-year-old. Men are over twice as much at risk as women, and a dodgy cardiovascular system doesn’t improve your chances.

Of course, we vulnerables have been told to crawl back out of our hobbit holes and do our bit to rescue the economy, including its entertainment sector. I know cinemas are now meant to be Covid-secure. Phone-only booking would save me from jostling at the box office and faecal transmission via paper tickets. Perspex would fence off Munchies-vendors and grubby pick’n’mix would be but a memory. One-way foot traffic would keep people out of my face, with ushers monitoring any infractions.

Leading the way … Kenneth Branagh and Elizabeth Debicki in Tenet.



Leading the way … Kenneth Branagh and Elizabeth Debicki in Tenet. Photograph: Landmark Media/Alamy

Toilets would be sanitised regularly, and disinfectant would purify armrests. Masks might absorb fellow filmgoers’ coughs and sneezes, while blocked-off seating would ensure popcorn-munchers didn’t spray me with spittle. I could even don full PPE, according to 29 pages of guidance from the UK Cinema Association.

Were I still in my salad days, these measures would have left me well-satisfied. However, even the most elaborate of safeguards can’t wholly get the better of SARS-CoV-2. The canny virus refuses to confine itself to the droplets we exhale and the surfaces on to which these fall. Those chunky globules, if not trapped by masks, obligingly hit the deck within the two-metre safe zone after a few minutes. The Covid-infected also emit much larger numbers of smaller, more lung-invasive particles.

Primed with slivers of viral RNA, these evil specks agglomerate into a swirling, gravity-defying miasma that infests the air. During two hours in front of the silver screen, this cloud of death would enfold me, thickening with every unbated breath and excited gasp of those around me.

Why would an enfeebled greybeard risk such an experience? After a long life much enhanced by cinema’s flickering dreams, I feel I owe the industry. Yet in spite of my generation’s pride in its sense of duty, I’m not going to risk my life just to pay off this debt. I’ll really have to want to go back. A lot. Do I?

Back in March, when big-screen deprivation first kicked in, it didn’t seem too bad. Frankly, a home-cinema TV seemed likely to provide a more immersive experience than the teensy screens of the poky Picturehouse I’d come to frequent. Now, I thought, I’ll be able to catch up with all those talked-about box-set streamers.

I got plugged into Succession, Better Call Saul and Fargo, and I was knocked out. These shows were brilliantly written and produced. Their characters and plots had time to grow. The movies, with their hackneyed formulas and silly, 90-minute story-arc resolutions, paled in comparison. I soon learned, however, that I’d been seduced by the cream of the crop. The vast bulk of what Netflix and Amazon had to offer turned out to be as dreary, mechanical and repetitive as anything on the big screen.

The solution seemed to be to stick with the few shows of real class: after all, they were available in staggering volume. Yet after five seasons of Saul and another five of Breaking Bad, I started to grow sick of Albuquerque and its denizens. The movies may have their franchises, but in the pre-Covid age, they still unleashed copious brand new characters, stories and settings, every single week.

Just the ticket? … Bill Nighy and Annette Bening in Hope Gap.



Just the ticket? … Bill Nighy and Annette Bening in Hope Gap. Photograph: Lifestyle Pictures/Alamy

I fell back on my pile of DVDs of yesterday’s jewels. Many of them stood up well. I almost wore out my copy of Mathieu Demy’s restoration of Les Parapluies de Cherbourg. But it was no good. Movies aren’t just timeless artefacts; they’re also an expression of their moment. I needed fresh film. By now, I was missing everything from scruffy foyers and over-priced Cokes to Volkswagen ads and spoiler-filled trailers. I even hankered for the body odour and blue glow from the texting nincompoops seated in the row in front.

Yet something more was still required. I couldn’t forget the quality of the best of the streamed stuff. I wasn’t going to lay down my life for rubbish. So, what was the multiplex able to offer?

The reruns of past classics couldn’t tempt me, sated as I was by my DVDs, yet there didn’t seem to be much else. I might have been ready to die for our cinemas, but the studios wouldn’t even risk their bottom line. The big stuff was being held back, endlessly deferred or re-routed to the theatres’ streaming competitors. And then came Tenet.

All credit to Warners for setting the ball rolling and taking the potential financial hit. Here was a picture flaunting scale and ambition. With its 70mm and Imax spectacle, it demanded big-screen viewing. Surely this one ought to lure me back. It certainly lured back many, but we old folks are a fussy bunch.

Nowadays, I no longer go for dizzying, pretentious nonsense. In my twilight years, I like a proper story that makes sense. Just another sign of being past it, I suppose. But it means I’ve given Nolan’s masterpiece a miss. Instead, ever more anxiously, I’ve been looking for something else to ease me back.

Hope Gap seemed just the ticket for my demographic. Nighy and Bening: bliss. Could this be another Le Week-End or 45 Years? Then I watched the trailer. And somehow, few of the autumn’s prospects seem better equipped to give my timorous soul the shove it needs. Except for one. The building buzz for No Time to Die is quickening my senescent pulse. God knows what Waller-Bridge may have done to the script. Still, as it’s been so many times before, everything’s now down to 007.



READ SOURCE

READ  ‘The Expanse’ Season 4 Trailer Takes the Stunning Sci-Fi Series to Amazon

Leave a Reply