On Saturday, I went to a movie theater again.

I used to live in them, breathe in the smell of popcorn and sticky soda. My friend and I had a weekly tradition–every Wednesday night, we would trek out to a different independent theater in Portland. Our goal was to complete our own mental passport, visiting as many small theaters as we possibly could.

Back in March of last year, we crossed another off our list: the Laurelhurst Theater on Burnside. I’d always pass it on my way to the record shop, but until that evening, I had never been inside. Driving out from Forest Grove, I pulled into the little parking lot on the side of the building and made my way through the glass double doors. 

In those days, walking into a theater was just a moment. You didn’t think about the arrival as much. You were there for the movie itself, not the theater, not the experience. But if I had known that would be the last time for an entire year I’d be able to be inside of a movie theater, I would’ve breathed it in even more. Taken my time to look around at the tacky carpet, the movie posters lining the walls, the popcorn and the beer and the pizza grease.

It had been almost an entire year since I had been inside of a theater. COVID took that one from me very early on. But for the past year, I’ve been waiting ever-so-impatiently to make my way back inside, to kick back in an uncomfortable folding seat, and sip on an enormous soda until my bladder almost burst.

And after nearly a year to the day since that last hurrah at Laurelhurst, I finally got my wish.

With Washington County finally rolled back to a “Moderate Risk” category, theaters once again opened their doors–with COVID safe precautions of course.

It wasn’t all quite the same as before. It was much more empty, much quieter. Everything was socially-distanced and spaced out. Masks were required for the entire film (expect to take a quick sip of soda or bite of Red Vines).

But being in that dark room, looking up at the massive screen, the speakers shaking the walls of the theater… that was the feeling I missed the most.

There’s nothing like seeing a movie in theaters. And I’m damn happy to have that small joy back. — Bren Swogger

Photo: Bagdad Theater, Portland Oregon, during coronavirus closure (Tedder on Wikimedia. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license)

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Bren Swogger is a journalism major at Pacific University Class of 2021. They currently live in Oregon City, OR. They also write for Vortex Music Magazine in Portland.

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