Jury Coordination and Notes

Magic at the Theater By Keefer C. Blakeslee, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

CHRISTMAS.STORY_1.jpgIt’s the most wonderful time of the year. I love the Holiday Season for many reasons – being with loved ones, giving presents and of course, winter break! During this time, I like to catch up with any films I missed by creating a holiday watch list. Most people have a list of things they want for Christmas but all I want, and need, for the holidays is to watch movies with my family. Whether it’s a classic film like my favorite, A Christmas Story or a newly released film such as Hidden Figures, I make a watch list. My family and I then grab our hot cocoa and snuggle up by the digital fireplace. I was at home watching my mother’s favorite film, White Christmas, with Danny Kaye flying through the air and singing his heart out when he raises a question that sparked this blog. In one of the musical numbers, he sings, “The theater…The theater… What’s happened to the theater?” Now, in the context of this song, when he refers to the theater, he’s talking about the stage. But, it made me think about movie theaters today. White_Christmas3_1.jpg

Movies have become so easily accessible because of online outlets such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. So much so, that people would rather stay home and watch movies on their smaller screen. I can’t say I can blame them. There are many good reasons to do that. You’re more comfortable. You don’t have to worry about other people talking or texting. And, the biggest thing is its much CHEAPER. These are all very valid and understandable cases. However, I truly believe that movie theaters are magical places and, to always watch films at home can be an injustice to some films that need to be seen on a big screen. I’m not saying that you should go to the movies all the time. I just want to defend a place I hold dear and maybe encourage you to visit the theater during this season of joy.

As I have mentioned countless times, I grew up with the movies, as many of us have, and I have many memories going to the movie theaters. One of my fondest memories is watching The Polar Express on the big screen, which is a yearly tradition at my hometown theater. People are encouraged to come in their pajamas and, when the lights go down, we board the Polar Express.  At the end of the film, we are given golden jingle bells so that we never forget to “believe.” Not all movie theaters do events like this, but it brings up the point that movie theaters are like trains that transport you into worlds of stories.

Picture this: You’re in your seat, the gigantic screen stops playing ads and becomes blank. Then the house lights slowly dim until you’re in complete darkness. The only light is small aisle lights. It’s completely silent. No phones. No outside noises. Just the anticipation of what’s going to be shown on screen. Finally, the film begins and, by then you forget you’re in a theater. You’re immersed in the film.

Granted, this is a romanticized scenario. Sometimes there are people in the theater who break this illusion by using their phones and, even the movie can damage the experience by its lack of interesting characters or an engaging story. With that said, when everything goes according to plan, the experience is exhilarating. When you’re at home you’re tempted to check your phone every minute and you have other distractions. When you go to the movies, it’s like signing a contract that, for the next 90 minutes you are disconnected with the outside world.

The movies are also a sanctuary for people. Films do, or at least should, spark humanity and empathy. Whether it’s joy, sadness oKeefer.2014.5.jpgr even anger, people respond emotionally. I’ve mentioned this on our radio show before, but I’m still touched by this. I recently saw the film Loving which is based on a true love story about an African American woman and a white man struggling to protect their marriage and their life during a time of strong prejudice in the 1960s. While in the theater, I was surrounded by interracial couples. Next to me there was an older couple, a white woman and an African American man, and when the film ended, the women turned to her significant other and said, “This is our story.” Then she kissed him on the cheek. You can’t see rare moments of humanity like that at home.

I’m the type of person who loves listening in on conversations after a movie ends because everybody is a film critic. Alfred Hitchcock once said, “Drama is life with the dull bits are cut out.” Since we are all living life, humans have a connection with films. That’s another reason why I love the movie theaters because it brings people together. When watching a movie, complete strangers in one room laugh, cheer or even cry together. It doesn’t matter your faith, race or sexuality, we are all connected by the love for stories.

I could go on to talk about the importance of preserving the movie theaters, but I think these two points are the most important. The cinema is a portal that transports you out of this world and, when you return, your soul has changed. That is something that home entertainment systems just can’t capture. Happy Holidays and I’ll see you in the New Year.

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