I’m Asking You To Not Go To The Theater

There are far more important things happening right now than anything to do with going to the movies. The cops that murdered Breonna Taylor have still not been arrested, more than 100 days since her death. The police are rioting and brutalizing protesters across the country and they expect us to just go “well, what can you do?” and move on. Large swaths of the country practically have no voting rights. The overwhelming majority of politicians continue to prove their uselessness. The government is trying to simply ignore the Covid-19 virus as if that will make it go away. States that reopen are experiencing gigantic spikes because too many people in this country can’t grasp the concept of public health and safety. And now, these dumb motherfuckers want you to go to the theater. I don’t even want to be writing about film right now, when it’s something that matters so little right now. I kept going back and forth on whether or not I should write this, and the conclusion I came to is it’s better to say something than nothing. If I can keep you from going to the theater by writing this, I’ll happily do it. 

AMC, the largest theater chain in the country, only just announced that they’ll require customers to wear a mask after enough pushback from the public. They were worried about falling into a political controversy, which don’t get me started on the mounds of idiocy there. Again, it was a struggle to get the largest theater chain in the country to think about public health and safety. The simple fact that they had to be pushed to do the absolute least you’d expect of them should tell you their priorities. Main point, these chains don’t give a damn about you or their employees. But back to the film aspect of this. At the center of the effort to reopen theaters is Christopher Nolan’s latest film Tenet, the only major blockbuster to not have been severely pushed back from it’s release date. It just jumped back further from it’s July 31st date – itself already a pushback – to August 12th. 

Listen, it’s great that one of the most successful filmmakers this century is such a believer in the theatrical experience and has the power to get studios to support it. It’s one of the many qualities about Nolan I love. In an age where there are typically only three types of films studios KNOW people will go to the theater to see – superheroes, Disney films and Star Wars….so really just Disney – the fact that one of the only filmmakers that can produce sure hits that are also great films is so emphatic about the theatrical experience is fantastic. But he’s wrong to want to get people back in the theaters when every state that’s “reopened” has experienced enormous spikes in Covid cases. He’s wrong to think that film can withstand a virus. Nolan is one of the filmmakers responsible for me devoting my life to film. Even with his trailers, I don’t watch them online first, I make sure the first time I see them is on the big screen. I may never watch Interstellar again because seeing it in 70mm IMAX was a religious experience that rewatching it on my TV can never touch. Nolan’s one of my guys I always make time for, but not this time. He’s wrong here. Normally I’m trying to get you idiots to go see something in the theater, but not now. I’m begging you to not go to the theater. I will not be going to see Tenet. It will be the first Nolan film since Batman Begins that I don’t see in a theater unless they push it back to next year. As badly as I want to see it, I’m not risking my health and my family’s health for it. And I hope you agree, and that the concept of caring about somebody else’s health makes sense to you because you have a soul.

And also, and this is the least important aspect of this all, but it’s kind of hilarious that they are reopening theaters with no films that would have otherwise commanded a big box office until Tenet and Mulan in August. Part of this I believe is Nolan and Warner Bros giving themselves a bit more buffer room than the original July 17th date would have allowed them in case things get worse and they have to shut down theaters again – which is absolutely going to happen (hold this thought). The first significant film on the docket is A24 horror film Saint Maud for the 17th of July, and again, I’m contractually obligated to support any A24 theatrical release but not this time, no sir. And even under normal circumstances, that film wasn’t set up to be a box office smash. Setting it up for a highly probable box office failure just doesn’t seem like the right move if I’m running a studio. The next movie to open wide is the Russell Crowe road rage thriller Unhinged on July 31st. Now don’t get me wrong, that movie is exactly the type of dumb shit me and my buddy Huston would be paying top dollar to see opening weekend under normal circumstances. But there’s no way in hell I would risk my health and my family’s health to go see it. Even under normal circumstances this film would not have tracked as a box office hit, and now? The returns could be grim, there’s a good chance it could set records for box office lows. The first film that would have made unholy amounts of money regardless is Tenet on the 12th of August, so that’s really almost a month and a half of telling people to come back to the theater to only see something they probably wouldn’t have seen regardless. Fellas, I’m no studio executive, but this just seems from a purely business way of looking at it, like a bad idea. They’re throwing their least enticing product at you and expect you to make them box office wonders. It’s asking for the most and doing the absolute least to make it happen. It’d be like if the NBA let fans back into the arenas but only for games when the Cavaliers and Pistons play each other. Health issues aside, reopening theaters with this weak of a lineup pretty much ensures a hilariously bad stretch of box office. 

So with July’s releases set up to either sink or swim, let’s say people are smart and contain empathy and don’t go to the theater (by the way, I don’t think this will happen, I have absolutely no faith in people, not a single lick of faith in them) then Mulan and Tenet have set themselves up for catastrophic failure at the box office, and that’s best case scenario healthwise. When people do go to the theater and flood it, why would you want your film to be associated with being responsible for a spike in covid cases and deaths? Studios should be wanting to steer clear of that, if even only for a soulless PR intent. Studios need to accept that this year is a sunk cost. They need to release what they deem appropriate on VOD and save the big bangers for next year. Otherwise, they only contribute to the spread of Covid-19. Every industry has convinced itself that they can miraculously sidestep the virus, and they want employees and customers to pay the cost of it. Remember, these people don’t care about you or their employees, they only care about money. 

So I’m asking you, I’m begging you, please don’t go to the theaters when they reopen. Don’t risk your health, the health of your loved ones, and the health of these poor employees. No movie is worth that. It’s the simplest shit I’m asking of you. Just tell me what you want me to fuck, I’ll do it if it keeps you at home. One day we will go to the theater again (hopefully in time to go see John Wick: Chapter 4) but in order to have that we have to be responsible and think about each other and stay home. Donate the money you would have spent to a local or national charity combating police brutality and racism. Spend the two hours you otherwise would have spent doing something for your community, even if it’s just signing petitions and writing letters to government officials, or just doing some reading to better educate yourself. There are simply much better things to do with your time and money. We all want some escapism right now, but the hard truth is that there’s nowhere to escape to. We have to confront the actuality of things, or we end. Things won’t go back to normal, and I do not believe they should go back to normal. Normal was terrible. Let’s make a better world. Do the right thing. Arrest the cops that murdered Breonna Taylor. Arrest the cops that murdered Elijah McClain. Black Lives Matter. Abolish the police. Wear a mask. Don’t go to the theater.

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