The Wildcat goes to the movies

Wildcat editors Natalie DiCesaris and Alexis Alexander visit a movie theater for the first time since March

An+almost-empty+marquee+at+the+Edwards+theater+in+Downtown+Brea.+Wildcat+staff+members+Natalie+DiCesaris+and+Alexis+Alexander+visited+a+theater+for+the+first+time+since+theaters+closed+to+customers+in+March.

Alexis Alexander

An almost-empty marquee at the Edwards theater in Downtown Brea. Wildcat staff members Natalie DiCesaris and Alexis Alexander visited a theater for the first time since theaters closed to customers in March.

FINALLY, A FILM: An empty Edwards Regal theater before a showing of The Broken Hearts Gallery. Throughout the show, ushers prowled the aisle to ensure masks were worn by the show’s four attendees. (Alexis Alexander)

The last movie I saw in a theater was Birds of Prey, six months ago, and to be honest, I thought movie theaters might never open again. 

Movie chains like AMC and Cinemark are struggling to open their doors to leery and safety-conscious customers after being shut down since mid-March. But when I heard that the Edwards Regal Cinema in Downtown Brea was finally open again, I couldn’t wait to get back to the smell of freshly popped popcorn and the comfortable reclining seats inside the theater.  

At 6 p.m. on Sept. 14, the sun was just beginning to set as I walked up to the downtown megaplex with friend Alexis Alexander, junior. 

We walked into the theater — with masks on, of course — and were greeted in the lobby by a masked employee who scanned our tickets, which we had bought ahead of time to reserve our seats in order to maintain physical distancing inside the theater.

The inside of the theater itself was exactly the same as it was five months ago, aside from a few tables removed and the arcade games were shut off. The only difference between now and before the pandemic was that the entire main entrance of the cinema was completely empty. There were no tables or cardboard cutouts advertising new movies, no excited children running around holding candy bars their parents had just bought, and no high schoolers hanging out with their friends waiting in line to get popcorn. There was a very sad and tired feeling inside and I could tell that very few people had been visiting the theater.

I walked to the concession stand and bought a large popcorn and water. Since the condiment stand was not open because of COVID-19, I had to ask for butter and extra salt on my popcorn. The employees at the concession stand, while helpful, contributed to the tired feeling prevalent throughout the theater — they seemed bored, perhaps from the lack of customers on a slow Monday night with only a handful of films to choose from. 

Alexis and I walked into Theater 10 which was playing The Broken Hearts Gallery. The theater was completely empty. 

We went to our reserved seats, and once seated, we were allowed to take off our masks to eat and drink, the only time taking off our masks was permitted. Ushers walked around the theater throughout the film to ensure everyone was wearing their masks. 

By the time the movie started, there were only two other people in our show. Both were masked and they sat on the opposite side of the theater .

When the movie started I forgot that there was a pandemic; it really felt like a normal night at the theater. Seeing a movie at the theater after so many months reminded me of the  reasons so many people enjoy movies: movies transport us away from reality.