When the COVID-19 lockdown commenced in March, it was clear that plenty of things would change. For movie-lovers, it meant no opportunity for the foreseeable future to enjoy movies in a theater, with an audience, as God intended. Yet at the same time, many of us found ourselves with a lot of extra time on our hands, and a wealth of streaming options for watching a lot of movies. Maybe it was close to scratching the itch, but it was more like scratching it just enough so that it was itching even more.
It seems to me, however, that there are things you can do make your stay-at-home movie-watching feel a little bit more like watching a film in a theater. While it takes some effort and planning—and of course it's still not going to be exactly the same—these steps can get you incrementally closer to that elusive theatrical experience.
Pick something new to watch. It's completely understandable that, at a time when most of us are feeling pretty anxious about the world, we might gravitate towards "comfort food" watching of movies that we already know and love. However, a lot of going out to the movies is about a sense of discovery—checking out something your friends have been raving about, or has been winning awards, but that you haven't had a chance to see yet yourself. Yes, you're taking a risk on something that you might not love; then again, you might just discover a new favorite.
Make it a (safe) party. The communal part of theatrical movie-going is hard to replicate. If possible, though, set up a specific time when all the people already in your household can watch something together. Or set up a meet-up using your video-conference method of preference, and have a bunch of friends all start watching the same movie at the same time. Then enjoy some post-film social time chatting about what you've all just seen, just like back in the day.
If you can, support local entities. For many of you, the COVID crash has resulted in economic uncertainty, and a reluctance to fork over extra cash beyond what you're already paying for your monthly streaming services. That's completely understandable. But if your circumstances do permit, give a boost to organizations that are using streaming cinema options to bring you brand-new independent film releases. Check out Salt Lake Film Society's SLFSatHome.org or Park City Film's Virtual Cinema (parkcityfilm.org), and help keep both independent exhibition and independent filmmaking vital for when we're already to get back into real-world theaters.
Watch the way you'd watch if you were in a theater. The temptation to stay in your bathrobe and/or sweatpants is strong right now. I feel you. Just remember that part of what makes going out to the movies fun is that it's going out. Dress yourself the way you'd dress for an evening on the town. Then, if you're someone who needs your favorite snacks while watching, have those ready, too. If you're missing movie-theater popcorn, you can even order and pick some up curbside at multiple Megaplex Theaters locations; visit megaplextheatres.com for details.
Bring down the lights, and bring up the sound. This might seem obvious, but it's amazing how many people watch their movies at home with all the lights on. Not only does a fully-illuminated room make it feel a lot less like a theater, it robs you of being able to make out much of what's on screen—especially in movies like horror films where a lot of scenes might be dimly lit. Then add a little bit of oomph to the volume at which you usually play your movies (keeping in mind your neighbors or sleeping children). Do your best to give yourself a viewing experience where you won't actually miss what's going on.
Focus on the movie, and only the movie. Distracting others with lit-up phones in an actual movie theater is bad; it's also not great to distract yourself. And unless you simply can't hold it in and need to pause for a bathroom break, try to run the movie from start to finish. Power down, unplug and allow yourself to become fully immersed in what you're watching. Let storytelling take you away, and remind you of when you can once again settle into a theater seat and enjoy the feature presentation.