Writer’s Pick 2020: Five Best Ways Local Movie Theaters Kept Us Engaged

Michigan auditorium
Image courtesy of the Michigan Theater

For cinema fans, seeing a movie in the theater has always been a way to escape, especially in troubled times. That’s what made the pandemic all the more difficult when, for public safety, theaters had to close indefinitely. In fact, in many cities movie theaters have been one of the hardest hit industries, remaining closed almost all of the past ten months. Of course, streaming is at an all-time high, and many have predicted that this year may be the end of movie theaters entirely. This seemed all the more inevitable when it was announced last week that in 2021 all Warner Brothers films will be released only on HBO Max streaming platform, bypassing theaters completely. 

Since the start of lockdowns, local art house theaters had to be agile enough to not only pivot quickly to virtual platforms, but to find creative ways to keep their audiences engaged. Drive-In theaters have seen a resurgence, with some local theaters creating impromptu pop-up drive-ins.

Experiencing films in theaters is just as important as viewing art in museums, so it’s important that we pass on the magic of movies by seeing them together in theaters when it’s safe to do so. With that in mind, here are five creative ways, in no particular order, our local theaters kept us engaged and inspired in 2020.

Drive-Ins at Weber’s

The Ann Arbor Film Festival (AAFF) turned Weber’s parking lot into a drive-in Theater for two nights, and showcased ten of the best films from the 58th AAFF. Weber’s took orders for refreshments and delivered them to cars. Both nights sold out fast as people looked for ways to safely get out of the house.

Features Focused on People

Cinema Detroit adopted drive-in events pretty early on in the pandemic, which is impressive considering they are a locally owned husband and wife team. Known for supporting local stories and filmmakers, Cinema Detroit paired with Detroit Narrative Agency for an event entitled Ethics & Aesthetics: Growing Our Souls. This year’s theme was for, by, and about girls, women, and those who align as feminine-of-center. Preceding that program were short features by Detroiters and other Michigan residents that addressed both the pandemic and anti-Black violence.

The A2 Quarantine Creature Feature

Hopefully, you’ve had a chance to enter Michigan Theater’s A2 Quarantine Creature Feature! The Michigan Theater asked for mini-movies of the pets we’ve been quarantining with to win a chance to be featured in the first annual Quarantine Creature Feature. The winner hasn’t been announced yet, but we look forward to seeing the cutest creature video!

Virtual Movie Trivia and Cocktail Cinema

Nick, Russ, and Deb shared movie-themed cocktail recipes, adding a fun, personal touch to their movie watch parties with the Michigan Theater and State Theatre. Virtual movie trivia nights were another big hit offered during quarantine — and for New Year’s Eve as event crossover has been planned — cocktails plus trivia!

Online Film Class

If you’ve always wanted to stretch your cinematic skills by learning about making films, The Michigan offers a film education series in narrative structure, editing, sound, and mise-en-scene. Here’s your chance to learn while in quarantine, with proceeds from your purchase directly benefiting the theater.