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  • The Griffin

Bidding Farewell to Regal Elmwood

By Julia Barth, Editor-in-Chief

According to the Buffalo News, it was announced on Jan. 19 that two Regal movie theater locations in the Buffalo area will be rolling their film for the last time by Feb. 15. The theaters, Transit Center Stadium 18 & IMAX in Lancaster as well as Elmwood Center 16 in North Buffalo were chosen to be closed after Regal’s parent company, Cineworld, filed for bankruptcy last year. Cineworld will close 37 other locations around the U.S.

This news came as a devastating blow to me. As someone who reveres going to the movie theaters and has not fully succumbed to the pressures (and conveniences) of streaming, I am heartbroken to see two of my favorite theaters go.

The more I look toward the future of movies, the more I realize that future generations will not share theater experiences that we all grew up with: walking in when it’s light out and exiting when it’s dark. Sitting in the average plush chairs until, one day, theaters upped the ante and invested in the massive recliners we now know and love. Seeing the detail of the movie on a screen that can actually hold its cinematography. Appreciating everything from delicate silence to booming film scores on the loudspeakers.

There’s just no other experience like it. Of course, there’s practical reasons why the popularity of such theaters has declined. They are expensive for one, and that doesn’t include buying popcorn or drinks. Televisions and sound speakers for at-home systems have seen major upgrades. So families begin to think to themselves, “Why would we spend $50+ to leave our house and go to a movie theater when we could watch the same movie at home on our giant flatscreen with our surround sound and subwoofers, eating the snacks we already have here?” It makes sense.

But there’s an X-factor that movie theaters have that at-home viewing doesn’t. As a tradition, my family always went to Regal Elmwood to see movies together, whether that was new Marvel releases, blockbusters like “Top Gun: Maverick” or “The Batman” or even smaller scale movies like “Nomadland.” I practically grew up at that theater. Last fall, I went with my family to see “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” on opening night, and the sense of community I felt being among other fans was something that just cannot be replicated at home. Reactions from the audience, sniffles indicating tears at solemn moments — those are all experiences that bring humans together in a world where everything seems to tear us apart.

I suppose, in many years’ time, movie theaters will be like drive-ins, with only a few left in the country. But my naive, optimistic self hopes that something will shift. Little luxuries are an important part of living a happy life, and going to the movies is one of those. So while you still can, grab a group of friends or your family, or go by yourself if you have to (something I also love doing) and go see a movie. Any movie. The beauty of the cinema is that everything is made for the big screen. So go absorb every detail, drink up every line of dialogue and musical note and car chase. Do it now while you can.

I know I’ll be visiting Regal Elmwood one last time, since it is a place that holds so much of my nostalgia. I know I’ll leave that theater feeling a sense of rebirth and renewal, as I always do. But I hope this time, this last time, that feeling carries me further into a world where movies can continue to bring us together.

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