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Pausing to Reclaim our Time and Minds

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Commentary:

The movie theater is a particular type of magic. It’s ritualistic, with ticket stubs handed over to gatekeepers and the aroma of buttered popcorn announcing a time when food rules might be relaxed. Dinner might be a perfunctory hot dog, a side for too many Red Vines and Milk Duds.

The online reservation for seats was made for all four of us, parents and two kids under 11, but a last glance at the runtime for the Black Panther sequel gave us a double take. It was 2 hours and 40 minutes long, but with the previews and intros, that would end up being nearly three hours.

We tried to blame it on the kids; would they be able to handle a three-hour movie? But really, why do that to ourselves as grown adults, stretching our bladders while indulging in overpriced popcorn? Why do we need to hustle through our entertainment? Where are the intermissions?

Avatar 2? It clocks in at 3 hours and 12 minutes. Verdict: Absolutely not.

I don’t have a home theater by anyone’s stretch of the imagination. There’s only a dumb TV, a hand-me-down from over ten years ago, with the original speakers and no extra surround sound system hidden in nooks and crannies around the living room. It’s about as plain of a setup as you can get.

However, the ability for us to heat two packets of popcorn and put a whole can of pickled jalapenos on top, instead of the pittance of a salsa cup that costs as much as the can – well, we might as well be living on that mythical high horse. Plus, there’s the all-important luxury: stopping for a restroom break at any point we please. Home viewing hits all the right needs, and I’m not alone.

From a 2022 poll of 2,210 adults by Morning Consult, 56 percent of U.S. adults said they are watching fewer movies in theaters now than five years ago. The key reason for respondents was still the pandemic, but respondents also cited the cost of tickets, selection of films, and options to watch at home as part of the declining interest in theaters. In fact, only 35 percent of millennials would rather watch movies in a theater.

I’m continually watching the new ways my generation is supposedly taking an ax to industries. Still, I wonder if we should be picking up a machete and carving back an ability to harness our time and, through that, our minds. How we spend our time is part of the experience, whether we’re clenching our bladders or sitting in comfort on our couches.

Even if change starts with something as tame as deciding to wait to stream a movie at home, there’s an overarching generational journey to reclaim our time and minds from distractions while experiencing life. Ours is a time filled with planned, algorithmic, and addictive distractions that are culturally ranked as needing to have priority to our time: celebrities, sports, or social media. When we bring story-telling to our homes – or machete other distractions that pull us away from our own lives – we might remember that how we use our time on Earth is part of enjoying the entire experience.

Cassie McClure is a writer, millennial, and unapologetic fan of the Oxford comma. She can be contacted at cassie@mcclurepublications.com.