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For the first time in a little over a year, I went to the movies. And it was glorious.

Slowly but surely, the theaters in my city reopened. The showtimes were announced and popcorn was popped. When the lights dimmed, John Krasinski was projected onto the silver screen. As I sat there in the dark, Krasinski introduced his long-awaited film by explaining why he felt it important to postpone the release. Simply yet beautifully, Krasinski put words to a belief I have had for many years. That belief being that movie theaters are an important aspect of the human experience.

I was practically raised in movie theaters. Nearly every significant milestone or moment in my life can be punctuated by what movie I had gone to see. I went to nearly every midnight premiere of the “Twilight” and “Harry Potter” films. I have seen “The Lord of the Rings”, “Star Wars“, and two “Toy Story” films in a theater. I have seen Oscar-nominated films like “Juno“. And I’ve also seen not-so-award-worthy films like “Land of the Lost” all in movie theaters. You see, it’s not just the movies themselves that were significant, but rather the atmosphere, the experience. That is what made these movie-going ventures so memorable.

Right now, especially because of our current circumstances, movies are being streamed at home. And before that, movie theaters were having to compete with binge-able Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+ series. And it’s completely understandable. Why go to a movie theater when you can watch the same movie at home in your comfy clothes with a bottle of wine? You can just as easily project an insanely good series onto your wall with all of your friends gathered around. Believe me, prior to the pandemic, I was starting to buy into the home entertainment above the movie-going experience. But this past May, as I sat in that dark theater with that beautiful surround sound and high-definition (that no matter how hard we try, we can’t seem to fully replicate at home), I began reflecting on Krasinski’s words and my own experiences realizing just what we stand to lose if movie theaters were to become obsolete.

 When “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” hit theaters, my sisters and I practically stormed our local Cinemark dying to see how the series would end (or what we thought would be the end of that series). SPOILER ALERT — I will never forget when Will Turner was stabbed and a young girl sitting two rows back gasped so loud as we all feared Orlando Bloom’s beloved character was about to die. When the final installment of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” was released, and my youngest sister and I fought tooth and nail to get tickets to the midnight premiere, we both wept in our seats along with a theater full of strangers who had grown up with these characters. And the hysteria felt while standing in line with my best friends at the “Twilight” midnight premiere as the three of us debated over Edward and Bella’s relationship that we had obsessed over in the books can never be matched (unless you were a part of Beatle-mania perhaps).

Going to the movies has also spared me a lot of discomfort. Moments like holding hands with my then-boyfriend in the dark theater of “Batman vs Superman“, allowing me time to realize we were undoubtedly going to break up. Or going to see “The Hobbit” a second time to distract me from the heartache of our little dog’s passing.  Or evening going to watch “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End AGAIN with my dad to avoid talking about my parents’ divorce. Heck, when I was feeling ugly, I could always count on the cute ticket guy to flirt with me and that cheered me right up (Not that we should rely on the opinions of men, but you know what I mean).

If you’re just watching movies at home alone or with the same group of friends, you miss out on these experiences. Sure, you make other memories, but it becomes recycled material.  Your opinions rarely change, your sense of humor hardly budges, your wit isn’t likely to sharpen. In the end, you ultimately miss out on moments that define generations. Think of the collective shock of movie-goers as they exited the theater after seeing “Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back“. Think of the Jewish audience members who wept together as Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List” portrayed the horrors of the Holocaust. Think of every spine in the theater shivering through the subtle yet terrify social commentary of “Get Out.” Coming together in a theater with strangers and observing their reactions causes us, for better or worse, to reflect upon our own.

So, after a year of sitting in my living room watching new movies and shows with only the same crowd over and over, to hear a stranger laugh at a movie trailer that I didn’t find particularly amusing is so refreshing. I felt human again.

Mari K. Prieto is a Digital Filmmaking major in the CMI program at NMSU. She also works part-time as a Video Production instructor for a local middle school. After formerly being a been a licensed cosmetologist since 2015, Mari is now exploring other avenues of design and creativity. With a lifelong passion for writing, her focus is on screenwriting and film critique. Outside of school, Mari enjoys movies, watching soccer and football games (in person and/or on TV), and dabbling in photography and sketch art. She also has a yorkie-poo named Benny who is highly active and keeps her plenty busy in her spare time.
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