So what happens if your theater is ready to reopen … before there are any new movies to screen there? It’s a strange predicament for a strange time, but one that some theaters are facing by going back to the future. As in, screening yesteryear’s beloved blockbusters at a reduced ticket cost. Hollywood studios without any new movies are offering classics such as Back to the Future, as well as Jaws, Psycho, Harry Potter and Sorcerer’s Stone and the Hunger Games quadrilogy, among others. As for potential ticket prices, figures in the range of $3 to $5 are being bandied about, according the Wall Street Journal.
All of that said, however, no one is really certain what the new normal is going to look like when it comes to theatrical releases, in part because regulations on public gatherings vary from state to state. Some states are suggesting a 50% occupancy, while at least one state, Arkansas, is capping the number of people in a given theater at 50. And all of that is contingent on the fragile reopening process moving forward.
Still, about 200 theaters nationwide will be open this weekend. And in another blast from the past, many of them are serendipitously designed for social distancing: drive-ins. Though many of these hallowed moviegoing locales from the past have been bulldozed under in recent decades, those that still exist may suddenly be enjoying an unexpected lift, including those in New York, Pennsylvania, Maine, Florida, Michigan and California, among others.
If you’re looking for drive in possibilities in your area, driveinmovie.com may be able to help you out with its searchable coronavirus page. And for those who are curious (like me) how many drive-ins are still open in America, that site (which bills itself as “The Internet’s Oldest Drive-In Movie Resources”) says the answer is about 330 nationwide, down from a peak of about 4,000 in the late 1950s.
Drive-ins aren’t the only anachronistic activities garnering newfound love during the coronavirus crisis. Such seemingly outdated habits as letter writing, subscribing to a newspaper, watching the evening news and actually making phone calls are all enjoying a resurgence. Earlier this week, ABC’s retro special Happy Days of Garry Marshall was among the top-rated shows, drawing in 5.6 million viewers. And when it comes to music, listeners are apparently eschewing current hits in favor of classic rock and country oldies, too.
But such “comfort food” entertainment offerings aren’t taking the edge off of lockdown for everyone. Experts say that the mental health consequences of COVID-19 are taking a toll on people worldwide, with fear, isolation and depression all on the rise. “Nearly everyone expressed fear. Fear of catching the virus, fear of the future, fear of the unknown and fear of not knowing how to cope with their feelings,” Jessica Vance, manager of the Disaster Distress Helpline at St. Louis’ Provident Behavioral Health center, told pewtrusts.org. The same article reports that the number of people contacting mental health crisis centers such as Provident have spiked 30% to 40% since the crisis began.
Multiple news outlets have reported that the lockdown has been especially hard on teens’ mental health. Some fear that the ongoing toll that the virus is taking could lead to a huge wave of suicides. And if you have a teen (or perhaps know of one) who’s struggling with mental health or thoughts of taking his or her own life, be sure to visit Focus on the Family’s teen suicide-prevention site Alive to Thrive.
Meanwhile, as we await the return of a shortened professional baseball season potentially beginning in July, and the maybe-or-maybe-not prospects of football in the fall, or watch and discuss ESPN’s much-buzzed-about look at Michael Jordan’s legacy, we’re zooming. That is to say, we’re using the suddenly, explosively popular chat app Zoom to connect with work during the day, and friends and family at night. We’re doing it so much, in fact, that zooming has made the rather sudden leap into official vernacular, like Googling. UK’s Spectator dubbed it the word of the week in early May. But for those already tired of such connections, maybe you just need something fun to do there, or a cool Dr. Who-themed background (or an augmented-reality equivalent on Instagram.) For the more ambitious, maybe you’ll collaborate virtually with people to bring a play to life in those little boxes or perhaps even make a totally new kind of movie.
Another area of virtual life that’s impacted by the virus is what we’re watching on YouTube these days. Maybe your toilet flusher is busted, or you’ve got a leaky sink. In the past, those of us without DIY genes might’ve just called the plumber. But these days we’ve got new incentive to figure it out on our own in terms of finances and safety, and YouTube might be your new go-to solution to solve the problem. In fact, USA Today reports a spike in viewership for everyday task tutorials.
Other areas experiencing huge surges in YouTube engagement include so-called “with me” and “at home” videos (where people simply film themselves going about normal, daily activities at home, up about 700% in viewership since March 15), cooking tutorials (up 100%), work productivity videos (up 210%) and self-care videos (up 515%). “I was never into YouTube; I didn’t really grow up with it,” 26-year old Lillinette Díaz told USA Today. “But now I have an obsession with YouTube because of the quarantine.”
Finally, we’ll merge Zoom and YouTube for social media’s feel-good story of the week. John Krasinski’s viral YouTube series Some Good News featured the cast of the actor’s old show, The Office, reuniting via Zoom to celebrate the online wedding of Office superfans, a reunion that recreated Jim and Pam’s wedding dance. Even if you’re not familiar with or a fan of the show, it was a nice grace note in another week full of uncertainties related to our ongoing battle with the coronavirus. It’s so far garnered about nine million views.