Hey, if Darth Vader can wear a mask to the theatre, so can you …


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Don’t sit there. Oh, or there. Yeah, not so much there, either … But, please, do enjoy the show!

As the familiar “let’s all go to the lobby” animation kicked in, things felt sort of back to normal for around 30 of us who enjoyed Céline Schiamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire at Metro Cinema last Sunday afternoon. This wasn’t the first time I’d watched a film in public in the last few weeks — not by a long shot, actually.

But it most definitely was the first time I sat in a theatre with more than four people in it, hoping to not hear anyone cough (though of course, someone did).

But as soon as Ghostbusters was back on the big screen at Landmark, I was a weird mix of chomping at the bit vs. being kinda sorta tenuously in — actually walking to the cineplex and buying tickets at the last second because, frankly, there was no way in hell I was going to anything that felt close to even a quarter-packed theatre.

All the usual COVID-19 precautions were there: tickets by robot only; well-spaced seating where only two people can sit together; and a human guard at the gate to take tickets. Popcorn was sold from behind Plexiglas; napkins and straws handed out individually instead of some trough for us all to get our diseased paws all over — check, and appreciated. And it all felt so … weird.


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And yet (full disclosure) after being trapped in the living room to watch TV and film for the past four months, I was a K-Days combo of ecstatic and thrilled to be seeing a film ‘in person’ again, to the point I had actual tears in my eyes.

And starting with its pre-roll film bringing its living OG stars together, clearly shot to promote the who-knows-when-now upcoming Ghostbusters sequel/relaunch, that theatre full of no one else but us felt absolutely heavenly, like some 11-year-old kid’s dream of what being rich might be like.

The star of the movie was as usual Rick Moranis playing Dana’s goofball neighbour, Lewis — the actor now immortalized on our streets as Bob McKenzie which, at the time of writing this at least, was still available to visit in person as our NHL ‘Hub City’ status slowly claims more public territory as scores of American hockey players, their crew and families all arrive here from a country whose leader has recently taken control of just which COVID-19 statistics they’ll be telling the world and even their own population about.

But a week later, the same week this film was the No. 1 movie in North America, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back was up on the screen, and I was there for its first screening in town, hoping like mad it wouldn’t be George Lucas’ Special Edition version.

And, also of course, it was. But honestly, that’s the least wrecked one of the three — Ian McDiarmid as the Emperor being wedged in actually improving its continuity, though why did they not make him as blue and hologram spooky as the original? Oh yeah, they dumb.


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Ah well, old discussion, that one. But something new popped into my head, SPOILERS here, but when Han Solo is being so very persistent as he attempts to woo Leia Organa, his fate in the J.J. Abram sequel sure made me wish she’d resisted him a little more. I mean, he’s basically a complete loser by The Force Awakens 30 years later, still running from gangsters, never mind that whole thing where his son is the next-wave Darth Vader — the only solid thing to come out of this obviously useless relationship.

Watching it with all this in mind, you’re actually hoping C-3P0 keeps interrupting he and Leia into eternity.

But, hey, whatever — it was great to see Taun Taun guts up on the big screen again, not to mention the rest of the film, warts and all. 1977’s Star Wars is still superior to Empire, but the two are magic as a set.

And watching Darth Vader on the hunt while wearing an actual mask added a little authenticity, I have to say. Might have to go for the whole costume next time.

Speaking of Star Wars, next up in the theatre was Knives Out, The Last Jedi director’s fairy tale as mystery movie which, as with his treatment of the Skywalker Saga, proves what a thoughtful and engaged writer and director Rian Johnson is.

Just one other couple in that theatre, as well, which felt great — but is obviously not much of a tenable business model, not to mention at $5 a ticket, either.

Which brings us back to Metro Cinema last Sunday, expansive and rather safe-feeling with its capacity of 500 not even filled by a tenth for the spectacular Portrait of a Lady on Fire, a truly sensual film with the best use of baby improv since Blair Witch project.

Sections of seats in every row were blocked by yellow tape, and while it was a shock to suddenly be paying $13 for a ticket again, that sense that this is the right thing to help a theatre survive felt very right. And I’ve certainly been in less packed shows there without a global pandemic registering record numbers of new cases globally every week.

But what happens if that spike starts being the case in Edmonton again? In we go again, I suppose. But I must say was grateful for this brief sense of normal — even though there really is no such thing any more.




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