Theaters are closed, work is efficient, we hate it. Press Play film critics on missing the big screens

Written by Dave White and Alonso Duralde

The Aero Theater in Santa Monica has been closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their message to patrons: “All live events postponed. Stay safe. See you soon.” Photo by Amy Ta/KCRW

Movie theaters are an extension of our home office. They’re where work assignments begin. But since March, for film critics like us, all that work has taken place at home, via online links sent to press. For 10 months we’ve watched everything on our TV and laptops. 

This has saved a lot of time sitting in traffic. It’s saved us about $20 a week in parking fees. It’s kept us from driving through too many fast food places while we rush across town from one press screening to the next. It’s allowed us to rewind and catch a bit of mumbled dialogue we missed. We can watch everything in our pajamas. We can do our jobs with unprecedented efficiency.

We hate it.

We miss movie theaters. We miss big screens. We miss uncomfortable seats. 

We miss press screenings. We miss our fellow local critics. They’re our co-workers, and our shared space was the collective moment of seeing a film together for the first time. We miss those screenings so much, we even miss the people we don’t like. 

We miss non-work moments at movie theaters even more. We miss the cocoon-like pleasure of an afternoon matinee at a Laemmle Theater or the Lumiere on Wilshire. We miss packed houses at the New Beverly. It’s December right now and we’re heartbroken that we’ll miss seeing “IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE” at the Aero. We miss the Egyptian and the Nuart and retrospectives at the Hammer Museum. We miss the roving curators La Collectionneuse and Acropolis who offer one-off nights of great arthouse films. We miss Outfest and all the other festivals that happen all year long. 

We miss all the extra-cinematic aspects of going to real movie theaters. We miss going to Bob’s Coffee & Doughnuts before watching a 9 a.m. Friday show of a film its studio decided to dump into theaters without any press or advertising.  We miss buying records at Amoeba before heading over to the Arclight. We miss knowing the secret empty section of the parking lot at the Century City Mall.

Alonso Duralde & Dave White 3-15-19.jpg
Dave White (left) and Alonso Duralde (right) at KCRW headquarters in Santa Monica, March 15, 2019. Photo by Amy Ta/KCRW 

And speaking of Century City, we miss the Magic Coke Machine. That’s not its official name, but that’s what we call it. There’s a gleaming row of them at the AMC Century City multiplex, and whatever flavor of whatever soft drink you’re dreaming of is located inside. If you’re into Frankensteining your drink, you can even put multiple flavors in one cup. We really miss the Magic Coke Machine. 

It’s impossible to drag an unsuspecting friend to an obscure, difficult movie without theaters. It’s impossible to bite the end off a Twizzler and use it as a straw without theaters. It’s impossible to shout down a person who won’t shut off their phone without theaters. It’s impossible to whisper mocking commentary during “CATS” without theaters. 

They can’t all die. After we get vaccines in our arms, we’ll be the first ones back.

Dave White (@dlelandwhite) and Alonso Duralde (@ADuralde) regularly review films on KCRW’s Press Play. They’re film critics for The Wrap.