In response to the film industry being threatened by the global coronavirus pandemic — and in particular, the massive toll its taking on movie theaters — Christopher Nolan addressed the issues Friday in an op-ed for The Washington Post.
“Movie theaters are a vital part of American life,” the headline declared. “They will need our help.” In the op-ed, Nolan wrote about what the movie industry really means, beyond the superficial surface appearance that it generates.
“When people think about movies, their minds first go to the stars, the studios, the glamour,” wrote the filmmaker. “But the movie business is about everybody: the people working the concession stands, running the equipment, taking tickets, booking movies, selling and advertising and cleaning bathrooms in local theaters. Regular people, many paid hourly wages rather than a salary, earn a living running the most affordable and democratic of our community gathering places.”
Nolan then referenced the immense challenges that the community now faces in the wake of the coronavirus, which has rapidly spread throughout the world, affecting over 300,000 people and causing over 12,000 deaths; as well as state-of-emergency declarations and “Safer at Home” orders from lawmakers. As part of California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s directive that all non-essential businesses close to slow the spread of the virus and encourage social distancing, movie theaters have in California have closed until further notice, as have those in New York and across the country.
“In this time of unprecedented challenge and uncertainty, it’s vital to acknowledge the prompt and responsible decisions made by all kinds of companies across our country that have closed their doors in full knowledge of the damage they are doing to their business,” wrote Nolan.
He continued, “Our nation’s incredible network of movie theaters is one of these industries, and as Congress considers applications for assistance from all sorts of affected businesses, I hope that people are seeing our exhibition community for what it really is: a vital part of social life, providing jobs for many and entertainment for all.”
The Dunkirk director went on to say, “As a filmmaker, my work can never be complete without those workers and the audiences they welcome.” While noting that entertainment, in its many forms, can provide catharsis, Nolan wrote that the past few weeks have been a reminder that “there are parts of life that are far more important than going to the movies.” He then added, “But, when you consider what theaters provide, maybe not so many as you might think.”
Movie theaters have “gone dark,” Nolan wrote, though films “don’t cease to be of value.” He emphasized, “When this crisis passes, the need for collective human engagement, the need to live and laugh and love and cry together, will be more powerful than ever.”
The filmmaker hypothesized that a combination of “pent-up demand” and the “promise of new movies” could, in the future, boost local economies “and contribute millions to our natural economy.”
“We don’t just owe it to the 150,000 workers of this great American industry to include them in those we help, we owe it to ourselves. We need what movies can offer us,” he asserted.
In concluding his piece, Nolan urged fans to remember why they go to the movies in the first place: “Maybe, like me, you thought you were going to the movies for surround sound, or Goobers, or soda and popcorn, or movie stars. But we weren’t. We were there for each other.”
Read the full op-ed here.