Did the Pandemic Change How We Are Watching Movies?

Picture of By Margarete Schweinitz

By Margarete Schweinitz

We are still amid the pandemic, and an end is not in sight yet. It seems like a great excuse to continue binge-watching the newest Netflix series and the most recent movie releases. While some of us are smiling at the prospect of another few months of the latest entertainment program, others are reluctant to watch yet another new series while they so desperately want to meet up with their peers again. Nevertheless, this poses the question of whether the pandemic changed how we are watching movies.

To answer it, we need to look at how we watched movies before the pandemic first. Let us randomly choose September 2019 – six months until lockdown – when everything was still fine. We excitedly went to the movie theater to watch the latest horror movie, prepared to be scared to death. The light turned down, the sound turned up, and the screen evolved to full size, the gentle reminder to turn down conversations and turn off phones. There was nothing that should distract us from this experience. And so, we sat in our most likely velvet seats fully immersed in the story, sharing a room full of strangers. It was a celebration of film and a well-deserved acknowledgment of everyone involved in such a project. Moving a few months forward, our escape from reality looked a bit different in March 2020.

Then vs. Now

Movie theaters closed, and we were damned to social distance. There was a valid reason to do so, but it was still disappointing to not be able to go to the movies anymore. It was the rise for video-on-demand platforms such as Netflix, Disney+, and HBO Max. While we got excited about yet another platform, something changed.

At the end of March, we followed Esther in the Netflix-show Unorthodox and became part of her new life away from her ultra-orthodox family. A new life or rather a new beginning was what we were facing, but it did not resemble Esther’s at all. Ours was full of hope but made us realize that we were not able to be as free as Esther became in Berlin.

Then in the summer, the apocalypse came. We prepared ourselves to get immersed in Dark secrets and were finally facing the truth about Martha and Jonas. Time became this complex concept that we were not able to fully grasp. After waiting a little while longer for the latest Christopher Nolan movie Tenet, it became clear that this complexity of time was our future. It was hard to understand because now time mainly consisted of going to the supermarket, studying from home, and eventually meeting one friend at a time when we got lucky. Nothing seemed to be complex anymore, and we got overwhelmed.

The Past

We weren’t ready for this deeper understanding and needed something lighter. We turned to the next best thing, which we knew would cheer us up. You see the main character in a fast-moving city within a crowd of people on their way to work. Wait, something is wrong! Suddenly, it hits you, and you wonder why they weren’t wearing masks or at least keeping their distance.

Film needs our imagination, and it is up to us to imagine a world without a pandemic where the biggest problems are the latest gossip.

Having spent six months in a pandemic made you realize how fast you can adapt to a situation and how weird it feels to watch movies without the characters wearing masks. After all, we thought movies reflected reality, but what if film does reflect our wildest dreams? Film needs our imagination, and it is up to us to imagine a world without a pandemic where the biggest problems are the latest gossip.

What Changed

Bridgerton came to our rescue in December and was what we all needed in our lives after almost nine months in lockdown: gossip, sex, romance, colorful clothes, and a diverse cast. What would have been offensive to the era of the series seemed like the escape and the wildest dream we were all so desperately looking for.

The future

It might take a little while longer until it is safe again to return to the movie theater, but while we are waiting, we continue watching the latest and old entertainment program to distract ourselves from reality. Even though we do not know when COVID-19 is going to be extinct, one thing is for sure: Locked Down is just one of the firsts to feature the pandemic, closely followed by the Grey’s Anatomy plot. Who knows, maybe we can better relate to the characters’ challenges and identify with them even better.

And those who still would like to watch anything but a pandemic-themed movie can be hopeful with the prospect of a new Guy Ritchie movie, which will most likely hit the movie theaters in January 2021.


Cover: Margarete Schweinitz

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