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Post-Lockdown Firsts: A Philadelphia Film Fan Returns To The Movies


As the pandemic eases in the United States, some of us are venturing back to restaurants, concerts and movie theaters.

XAVIER LOPEZ: Oh my God. The last time I went to the movies was in early 2020, which seems like a lifetime ago.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Xavier Lopez of Philadelphia. He used to visit his local theater a lot.

LOPEZ: I used to go to the movies all the time before. And I think I was, like, going out on a weekly basis for sure. I love nothing more than, like, a Sunday morning matinee. What I liked about seeing something in the theater is having that communal experience where I get to enjoy it with other people and just kind of, like, getting that ambiance where everybody is around me enjoying, and we're all, like, kind of laughing at the same thing together. It's not the same as when you watch that by yourself at home. It's just completely different.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So now that he's vaccinated, and for our series on Post-Lockdown Firsts, Xavier talked to us about getting ready to go to the cinema for the first time in over a year.

LOPEZ: Because the movie theater is an experience that is, like, you are indoors somewhere with a lot of people in a closed room for two hours, it - with, like, strangers. It's not even people I know for sure, like, may to be vaccinated. It feels a little bit more of a big step for me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But nerves aside, he bought a ticket for the newly released "In The Heights."

LOPEZ: I really want to see Jimmy Smits dancing. I love Jimmy Smits, and I've never seen him dance. And I know it's going to be a silly time.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And on a hot Thursday afternoon, Xavier stepped into the theater and took us with him.

LOPEZ: All righty, walking into the movie theater right now. We got some signs outside. Facemasks are required throughout the theater. Masks may be removed when eating and drinking inside the auditorium. That's good to know. It's funny. The place where they would display upcoming movies is mostly taken by COVID safety guidelines.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But the signs weren't the only different thing from the before times.

LOPEZ: It's really nice to be back. It does feel really weird. It feels really weird. There's way less candy here for some reason.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Finally, with all his snacks, Xavier settled in for the big feature.


ANTHONY RAMOS: (Singing as Usnavi) Lights up for Washington Heights, up at the break of day. I wake up and I got this...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And when the movie was over, he took a moment to reflect on how some things felt familiar.

LOPEZ: I just came out of the movie theater. That was a really fun experience. I forget how cold it gets in the movie theater.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: We caught up with Xavier when he got back home and asked him how he felt.

LOPEZ: It was a bit weird to be around other people in that environment again just because, again, it felt like I was breaking the rules. When I first get to the movie theater, I like - I just fully inhale all of my popcorn in the first half of the movie. And so I was like - I feel like I was the only one that was eating, which made me feel like I was doing something wrong among these people that we were all, like, masked up.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But he said a big-feature musical, which requires some suspension of reality, was the perfect pick for his big reentry to the theater.

LOPEZ: Also, every now and then, you just, like, get the chills while watching a movie. Like, you become so engulfed in it that, like, the emotions and everything just kind of, like, give you the chills in a way that doesn't really happen when you watch a movie at home. And I think it's because all your senses are being blasted by, like, giant visuals on screen that you're seeing in front of you and also, like, the surround sound from the movie theater itself. It gives you goosebumps a little bit.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And he's already getting ready to do it again.

LOPEZ: Now just waiting for another good movie to come out so that I can get another movie ticket.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Xavier Lopez of Philadelphia.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.