Ms. 35 #7: Shy Cinephile
Ms. 35 offers helpful advice and answers to your etiquette questions related to NYC's moving image culture. Have a burning question about navigating the exciting world of New York City moviegoing? Unsure of how to conduct yourself during a communal experience? Feel like you're… in the dark? Send your inquiries to [email protected]!
My Dearest Ms. 35,
As a cinephile I'm a natural loner, and the mere act of watching movies with others makes my skin crawl. Still, I must screen films in their native formats, and that means going out to theaters. How do I overcome the intimidation I feel facing the ticket selling hotties at Metrograph or when waiting around alongside all the insider lobby-dwelling hipsters at Anthology? Will I ever be able to take in a movie at Spectacle, Union Docs or Light Industry?
Just Me In The Dark
Dear In The Dark,
What impeccable timing you have, with Halloween right around the corner! What could be scarier than a crummy seat, more haunting than a MoMA member screaming match? It’s the terror that lurks behind every film outing... actual human interaction.
Your slavish commitment to native formats is an admirable one and, apparently, the crux of this conflict. Kudos to you, In the Dark: between endless bathroom lines, banal lobby chatter, and aggressive seat-jockeying, the real drama often occurs well before the lights go down.
Yet in spite of these myriad headaches, we return again and again, emerging moth-like from our cocoon of Netflix and chill to bathe in the arc lamp’s glow. Why, when the siren call of Filmstruck and Criterion-on-Hulu lure us to the comfort of our beds? To borrow from the Bard, Rick James: celluloid is a helluva drug. Whether it’s the crisp quality of a freshly struck restoration or the “last chance to see” rarity of a careworn print from who-knows-where, filmstock offers a certain je ne sais quoi that no 21-inch Macbook Pro can ever hope to emulate.
Let naysayers roll their eyes at our format fetishism, what do they know? To neglect NYC’s filmic glut would be downright rude to the programmers, print traffickers, and projectionists who wrangle those six reels of splendor week after week, series after series. Imagine the wayward souls in Flyover Country, driving (yes, driving!) 20 miles in the snow—uphill, both ways—to reach the only arthouse jawn in town with a changeover projector. It makes you weep just thinking about it; poor little dears, hungrily fogging up the glass as they peer at our celluloid smorgasbord like so many Dickensian urchins.
But back to your letter, In the Dark, and to your very real anxieties that somehow manifest as light shade towards harmless usherettes and eager filmgoers. How does one reconcile the hankering for a blissful 90 minutes’ diversion with fear of your fellow man (and woman, and everything in between)? In the immortal words of Ms. 35’s freshman year gym teacher: suck it up! Your mistaken conflation of cinephiles and loners is debunked by your own example of AFA’s lingerers, and by the American Preppers Network’s utter lack of film reviews.
Screen Slate’s tireless stable of writers guarantee a decent turnout to any given screening, and even a midday show can be packed to the gills. New York cinephiles are a diverse lot, and you can bet your bottom dollar that populist and ‘inside baseball’ programming alike is sure to draw a crowd. If you think you’re alone in your preference for 35mm over some flashy new 4K DCP, Ms. 35 has a bridge to sell you at a very reasonable price.
Next time you’re idling in a box office line, try to dampen the din of your distaste with the comfort of knowing that every other shmuck is here for the same reason, more or less. We are, all of us, united in our mutual desire to be airlifted from the warzone of day-to-day mishegoss to a sensational plane. So sally forth, In the Dark—spring for a $2.75 subway ride to any number of these hallowed spaces. Trust me, great things happen when you leave the house, and who knows? You may just find a little romance in the back row.
See you at the movies,
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