The past week has seen a mass shutdown of movie theaters across the nation, especially in cities like Los Angeles and New York where moviegoing communities are strong and with dozens of venue options from the repertory to the multiplex. Director Christopher Nolan, whose film “Tenet” is supposed to launch on July 17, has now joined the chorus of voices who’ve spoken out on behalf of movie theaters, urging moviegoers to help them survive amid the current public health crisis. Once it passes, Nolan writes in a new op-ed in The Washington Post, the business of moviegoing will need our help.
“When people think about movies, their minds first go to the stars, the studios, the glamour,” Nolan writes. “But the movie business is about everybody: the people working the concession stands, running the equipment, taking tickets, booking movies, selling advertising and cleaning bathrooms in local theaters. Regular people, many paid hourly wages rather than a salary, earn a living running the most affordable and democratic of our community gathering places.”
“…as Congress considers applications for assistance from all sorts of affected businesses, I hope that people are seeing our exhibition community for what it really is: a vital part of social life, providing jobs for many and entertainment for all. These are places of joyful mingling where workers serve up stories and treats to the crowds that come to enjoy an evening out with friends and family. As a filmmaker, my work can never be complete without those workers and the audiences they welcome,” writes Nolan, whose own films, from “Inception” to “Dunkirk,” consistently demand a proper theatrical experience.
“The past few weeks have been a reminder, if we needed one, that there are parts of life that are far more important than going to the movies. But, when you consider what theaters provide, maybe not so many as you might think,” he writes in the op-ed. “Movie theaters have gone dark, and will stay that way for a time. But movies, unlike unsold produce or unearned interest, don’t cease to be of value. Much of this short-term loss is recoverable. When this crisis passes, the need for collective human engagement, the need to live and love and laugh and cry together, will be more powerful than ever. The combination of that pent-up demand and the promise of new movies could boost local economies and contribute billions to our national economy. We don’t just owe it to the 150,000 workers of this great American industry to include them in those we help, we owe it to ourselves. We need what movies can offer us.”