Hollywood has framed getting back to theatres as a content problem. But what we need most is to rethink the design of movie theatres altogether.
I can’t remember the last movie I saw in the theatre. But I can recall just about everything else about the experience.
There’s the scent of popcorn growing stale under irradiated lamps like the hotline of a truck stop. I remember selecting my exact seat online, upholstered with 20-year-old fabric dank like an intramural hockey player’s equipment bag. I remember the Jenga tower of large concessions balanced atop garbage cans—which I contributed to, carefully, on the way out.
Perhaps these memories were all from one night, or they’re a supercut of many. But they do represent the mental model of my nearest AMC cineplex, which stands as a beige monument to 2000s suburbia—an era when Netflix mailed DVDs and the hottest phone was a Motorola Razr.
Even before COVID-19—as plenty of theatres were retrofitted with leather recliners, better image and sound, and dinner offerings—it was clear that the experience of going to the movies was anything but cinematic.
Image Credit: Cinemark