January 11, 2023

Urging Area Residents to Support Cinemas That Feature Alternatives to Mainstream Fare

To the Editor:

An article in the New York Times last month enumerated some recent movies that were big hits in post-lockdown theaters: Top Gun: Maverick, The Woman King, and Everything Everywhere All at Once, among them.

But the article went on to describe the struggle at the box office of acclaimed but less spectacle-driven releases, such as Tár, Till, The Fabelmans, Armageddon Time, She Said, Eo, Women Talking, and many more. Said the writer, “Just a few years ago, those kinds of films would have at least doubled their current grosses. But the older audiences they rely on simply haven’t returned to theaters . . . .”

What many previously habitual moviegoers don’t realize is that, from a public health standpoint, cinemas in the Princeton area like the Garden and Montgomery are, sadly, the safest places to be. Those of us who continue to attend regularly most often find ourselves in nearly empty theaters.

How long can these cinemas stay in business? For movie lovers who savor independent and foreign films and documentaries, the Garden and Montgomery have been a blessing. I urge everyone to recall how exhilarating it can be to see exceptional films on a full-size screen in the company of a large audience that shares one’s anticipation and responses; why not try going back to the movies?

I realize that even before the pandemic people became accustomed to the convenience of watching films at home, and that it is difficult to break that habit. But I caution everyone not to take for granted the luxury of having in our area two theaters that consistently offer rewarding alternatives to mainstream Hollywood fare films that are challenging, layered, nuanced, stimulating, enlightening, well-acted, and well made, and that provoke us to think about and discuss with others what we’ve just seen.

Remember when entertaining and ambitious films that were being screened only in theaters prompted a “You have to go see this movie” buzz that brought appreciative filmgoers together? I implore area residents to imagine what we will lose if these cinemas end up as just two more small businesses that are closed and shuttered and our having no theater to go to when someone exclaims, “You have to go see this!”

Janet Stern
Monroe Lane