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Netflix movie-watching parties and online movie groups keep movies alive during the pandemic.

With most theaters closed since March, intrepid fans are finding ways to keep the cinema alive, without the action of « going. »

The easiest way is a party to watch Netflix. The streaming service provides a link to play a movie simultaneously on multiple computers and a chat function. (Note: When movie theaters reopen, remember not to speak.)

« It is not really a temporary replacement for the act of going to the movies (buying snacks and being able to sit with your friends) but we can see the same thing at the same time and share reactions, » said Lucy Johnson, 16, of Minneapolis, who has had several movie parties with friends while they were confined to their homes during the pandemic. « It’s a better experience than renting a movie and seeing it alone. »

Dan Gardner, 68, of Belle Plaine, is one of nine men in a film club born on a golf course four years ago, when golfers realized that everyone wanted to watch movies that their wives did not want. Most retired and in their 60s and 70s, the members met for breakfast, then went to the multiplex in a group and at the end exchanged comments.

Gardner says his experience has deepened as a result of the meetings via Zoom, which takes movie fans to each other’s homes.

« It certainly has brought us closer, because some of us knew each other just for golf or maybe just because he was friends with someone else, » Gardner said. « Now, we get to know each other’s families. It’s an incredibly unique group and really a lot of fun. »

While their prosaically named « Movie Club » is as much about socializing as it is about analyzing movies, some clubs move wildly in the other direction.

Terry Serres, who could be the local champion of online movie discussion, participates in various groups, including his esoteric Club Varda / Denis / Akerman, focused on the films of three French-speaking directors: Agnès Varda, Claire Denis and Chantal Akerman.

« I’m exploring on my own and if anyone else wants to do it too, that’s great, » said Serres, 59, a restoration ecologist who lives in Minneapolis. Some moviegoers have come together to view and analyze related articles and movies, and more have commented on the group’s Facebook page.

The other Serres ventures are more accessible. Even before COVID-19, he often set up virtual movie dates with friends abroad, which have continued. It has also brought together movie buffs to synchronously watch streaming titles like « The Handmaiden » and « Bringing Up Baby, » with breaks for snacks and gossip on Facebook Messenger. And it’s part of the Long Island Online Cinema Group, whose members from across the country function as a book club: They watch the same title individually, and then discuss it on Zoom on Saturday afternoons.

Those talks can be revealing, as when Serres found his dislike for « You Can Count on Me » placed him in the minority.

« I like the exchange of ideas within this group. People are intelligent and very respectful of different opinions and are not afraid to disagree, » he said.

After a 2019 in which he closely followed what turned out to be a remarkable year for cinema, Serres said the clubs have helped him stay involved in a fractured and puzzling 2020.

« Last year, when I was so involved in film, I was impatient for them to come here, » said Serres, who located two previews of « Portrait of a Lady on Fire » and jokes that loving her is a prerequisite to being his friend. . « I was aware of what was coming out and what its possible strengths and attractions might be. This year I am not keeping up with that at all. »

Even while searching for online film socialization, Serres said it inevitably reinforces a unique sentiment: « I like the movie theater experience. »

Peter Schilling, a freelance writer who has advertised movies, is trying to capture some of that experience. Just over a week ago, he organized a private group on Facebook to get closer to the social part of watching Spike Lee’s « Da 5 Bloods », the highest quality film that has been released since the movie theaters closed.

« This is one of the few times that there has been a new streaming release that has been exciting, » said Schilling, who also hosts the Movie Book Club at Moon Palace Books. « Normally, we can talk about it but we are all socially estranged so I don’t meet anyone in the cafeterias nor, obviously, am I seeing someone in theaters. »

He enters his club « Da 5 Bloods », to which he invited a couple of dozens of moviegoers. Schilling said, « I wanted to replicate that post-premiere experience to the best of my ability. It’s a lot of fun when you anticipate the premiere and can’t wait to see it. »

Schilling’s movie theater friends invited him to screenings with physical distance while his theaters were closed to the public. But, like others who have organized online events, he said there is no substitute for enjoying a good movie with a fan room.

With theaters starting to open and big titles like « Mulan » and « Tenet » slated for July, fans say they are eager to return to multiplexes once they feel safe.

As a concessionaire of the Parkway Theater (of which her father, Ward, is co-owner), Johnson is ready to go back to work and have fun at the movies. Gardner says his group accepted the Zoom facility, but he longs to meet without being separated by computer screens.

Online clubs have opened up new ways to engage with movie lovers that Serres will continue in the post-COVID world, he noted. But he wants something real, even if it involves waiting in line and shutting up the occasional stranger.

« Everyone I know is eager for the movies to come back. I posted a review for ‘They Live’ on (the movie fan site) Letterboxd and a local guy following me said, ‘Hey, that’s my favorite John movie. Carpenter ‘.

« He said, ‘Is it very good with an audience!’? « Serres recalled wistfully. « Do you remember the hearings? »

– This text was translated by Kreativa Inc.

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