It was just a few months back, sometime in November of 2021 to be exact, when fans of movies and at the same time cinema operators rejoiced with the reopening of movie theaters here in the Philippines. We admittedly have experienced some curveballs along the way but the overall feeling was relatively mutual — excitement and hope. Despite the limitations and restrictions set by cinema operators and the IATF, fans of films, in general, raced to their local cinema to relive the joy of watching a feature-length film on a gigantic screen with full surround sound. With the number of COVID cases declining, the restrictions have gotten lighter and in turn, the experience of watching a film in the cinemas has changed drastically for the better under Alert Level 1.
Two Major Changes
Truth be told most of the restrictions set back in November still apply today. Movie patrons are still required to wear their faces masks and for such an activity as watching a movie in an enclosed space, the presentation of vaccination cards is still a strict requirement (if you plan to bring your children with you who are unvaccinated some cinemas will allow as long as they are joined by a fully vaccinated parent or guardian). Cinema operators also perform the necessary protocols to ensure the safety and protection of their patrons such as providing alcohol dispensers and the regular disinfection of the theaters in between each screening time. The biggest changes however deal with two of the biggest concerns that movie patrons had on the onset of the reopening of theaters.
The first change was actually addressed by the overall nature of alert level 1 which is for businesses (including cinemas) to operate in full capacity. That means that the one seat apart rule is no longer applicable. You can therefore enjoy watching a film seated beside your family or significant other. For viewing etiquette and everyone’s safety, however, we still do recommend that conversing with your friends and family during the film be kept to the bare minimum.
The second but I believe biggest change that a lot of movie fans have been waiting and clamoring for is the lifting of the no eating policy in cinemas. Yes! You can now bring in your favorite snack, popcorn, drinks, a cup of coffee — you name it. This was one of the restrictions movie fans were somewhat upset with when cinemas first reopened but now during alert level 1, it is finally possible.
The Experience of Watching In Cinemas Under Alert Level 1
All these changes actually started this March 2 and I immediately took the chance to experience these changes for myself by watching The Batman (tune in to our full review on this very soon). I must say that these changes no matter how little they may be, have a huge impact on the movie-going experience.
There is that feeling of liberation mixed with nostalgia to be able to sit beside a family member while watching the film and for us to share a bucket of popcorn. This was a vital part of the movie-going experience that I honestly missed which became somewhat of a routine prior to the pandemic. It was a regular part of the experience or my personal routine to watch a film with either a bag of chips or a tumbler of popcorn that was always paired with a nice hot cup of coffee to help keep me awake and warm during the film. It wasn’t only small snacks that I was able to see when I happened to watch The Batman but as well as some movie patrons bringing in burgers and full meals into the cinemas to help ease their tummies during the almost 3-hour long movie.
It was a great sight to see but of course, the apprehensions, reservations, and even fear were a part of the experience nonetheless. Whenever you would take off your mask to eat, it is a given fact that there are some risks that come along with it. Add the fact that you may need to sit with a complete stranger especially if the film is fully booked then obviously it may not be for everyone. It may even be too much to bear at times and that’s why it’s understandable for those who still opt not to eat while watching.
The important thing to still note at the end of it all is that we have to be extra careful and responsible with anything that we choose to do at this point. The fact remains that with the loosening of restrictions comes the responsibility on our parts as individuals to ensure our own safety and those around us. To sum it all up, the movie experience today has indeed changed as it brings us back to how things were before the pandemic hit and therefore this does give us that joy and hope for better things up ahead. This however doesn’t mean that we would loosen our own personal safety precautions because it is finding that balance of liberation and self-awareness and responsibility where we can truly enjoy and be assured of our safety as we continuously and slowly set outside to enjoy our lives the way we once knew how.