Daylight saving time has, as it does every year, ushered in its era of perpetual darkness. The 5 p.m. sunsets and incessant cold weather resulting in the unending desire to never set foot outside of my apartment are my annual ailments, to which I have found no cure. If this all sounds melodramatic, it’s because it is! That doesn’t make it any less true.
But this year, my friends and I toyed with the concept of actually remaining lucid this season and realized the one place that might help us do so was the movie theater. The idea came to us as we were leaving a screening of Don’t Worry Darling. We were drunk off of the power of pretending to be pseudo–film critics with one another as a girl in Ugg boots turned to her friend and said, “That was the worst fucking movie I’ve ever seen.” We chuckled and made our way out of the theater doors in a single-file line, tossing our sodas and candy wrappers and half-eaten, ambitiously large popcorn containers in the trash.
Outside, we were met with a downpour unlike any I’d seen all summer. This rain had brought with it a chill, a true signifier that summer was over and winter lay just ahead. I watched as other groups of friends joined arms and hands and covered their heads with purses and wallets and took their chances running into the rain. Something about it felt so indulgently adolescent; the giddiness induced by the film and the flurry, the laughter echoing among and around us as we hoped it would lighten up. Even the hoodie I wore, one stolen from my boyfriend’s closet, reminded me of an era that was once mine but now felt eons away.
“That was fun,” I said to the five other girls, or I suppose we’re women now, that I’d come to the theater with. We’d met each other at an intersection in the East Village, a somewhat central location that would give us enough time to exchange the How are you?’s that turn into How did the date go?’s which sometimes lead us into My therapist said something that made me think of you, and so on.
“We should do this every week in the winter,” my friend Morgan said. She must’ve felt the chill in the air, too.
So we devised a plan. Each week, or whenever the winter scaries seemed too heavy to bear and the thought of stepping foot outside seemed too daunting, we promised we would meet on that corner in the East Village and go to the movies and watch whatever the big screen had to offer, even if we knew it was going to be bad.
At the risk of sounding possessed by the spirit of AMC-going Nicole Kidman, the movie theater is that perfect third place to be when you don’t know where to go. It feels communal (like when our entire theater began giggling at the sight of incel Harry Styles in DWD), but there’s no need to share words if you don’t feel compelled. Going to the theater is the perfect seasonal-depression activity, although I must note the essential one should be chatting with a mental-health professional. And for those of you who don’t feel even a bit of doom and gloom cloud your perception during the winter months, perhaps the theater can be your target when there are no plans to be made and the cold seems too powerful for even your heaviest puffer.
Since formulating our plan, I have to be honest and admit we’ve done what busy adults do best: flake. We’ve seen one or two movies together since the days began growing shorter, although sitting through Julia Roberts and George Clooney’s Ticket to Paradise was so delightfully mind-numbing, the way rom-coms are meant to be, that it’s held me over for a few weeks. We have tentative plans to see The Menu. We chat often in our moviegoing group chat and play pretend film critic in the security of those messages whenever we see movies on our own. There is both a quiet and an overt understanding that community is the thing that will get us through the winter, and the movies are both an impetus for and a bonus of keeping our union alive.
There’s something about the possibility of a weekly date with a group of people you not only like, but can also sit in complete and comfortable silence with, that helps make the desire to hibernate all season long slightly diminish. There’s a joyful anticipation in knowing that maybe as soon as this weekend, you’ll bundle up and meet your friends on a street corner downtown. You’ll buy a popcorn likely too big to finish before it gets cold and maybe a bag of Sour Patch Kids. You’ll sit in a little reclining seat, both comfortable and uncomfortable enough to feel just like your couch at home, and you’ll sit in silence for at least an hour. And as you leave the theater, you’ll watch friends link arms and hands as they embark on their journeys home, and on the same corner you met a few hours before, you’ll part ways with four or five other people and yell Get home safe! and Love you! and feel that little piece of emotional warmth that comes only from feeling like a part of something. And maybe that’ll be just enough to help us coast until spring comes to save us.