Oct 08

Polling place

When I lived in Holly Springs, my assigned polling place was Holly Springs Elementary School, less than a mile away from home. The first time I voted there, I made the mistake of driving, only to find out that voters were not allowed to park in the school’s parking lots. Along with a number of other people, I ended up parking on the side of a residential street in the subdivision across the road from the school (which I’m sure was not popular with the people who lived there).

After that, I made a point of walking to the school on Election Day. Google Maps says that it’s a 19-minute walk, but it probably took me a bit longer than that to get there on foot, because the path to the school is almost all uphill. (And downhill on the walk home, so I probably did that more quickly.) I didn’t mind the distance, because it was always a pleasant walk. I lived in Holly Springs for 18 years, and in all that time, it didn’t rain on Election Day even once, and the temperature never required more than a light jacket.

When I moved to Cary in 2016, that required a change polling place. My new voter registration card indicated that I would be voting at Glenaire, which is a retirement home not too far away. But it was a longer walk than before, and I wasn’t very familiar with this part of Cary yet, so I decided to try driving and see how it worked out. Fortunately, Glenaire has plenty of parking, and voters were not prohibited from using it. So I continued driving there on Election Day.

But now it’s 2020, the Year of the Pandemic, and inviting a large number of strangers into a retirement home does not seem like a good idea. So I was not at all surprised to receive a new voter registration card in the mail, directing me to a different polling place. The new location is Cary Presbyterian Church, which is actually closer than Glenaire. It’s a four-minute drive, but the walk is only 17 minutes, mostly along the Higgins Greenway walking trail.

That sounds even more pleasant than my walk in Holly Springs. I’m actually looking forward to it. I just hope the weather is nice.

Oct 05

The twilight of movie theaters

On October 3, MGM Universal announced that the premiere of No Time to Die, the 25th James Bond movie, was being delayed again. It was originally scheduled to open in April, but was postponed several times. Until last week, theaters were expecting to get it in November, but the premiere has now been pushed back to April 2, 2021 — a full year after the original date.

This was the last straw for Cineworld, the parent company of Regal Theaters. Like other exhibitors, they had been counting on the Bond film to help them move back toward profitability. Several other tentpole movies have been delayed (Black Widow, Wonder Woman 1984), failed (Tenet, Mulan), or gone directly to streaming (Hamilton, Greyhound). No Time to Die was pretty much their last hope. With that film delayed until next year, Cineworld has given up. They announced on October 4 that all 543 Regal theaters in the U.S. will be closed next week. Cineworld says this is temporary, but I suspect it may be permanent.

The writing has been on the wall for movie theaters for quite some time. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, their revenues had been declining. The advent of large, high-resolution TVs, home theater sound systems, and streaming services has prompted a lot of people to watch their movies at home. And the pandemic pulled the rug out from under the theater chains. Their theaters were shut down for months, and when they finally reopened, it was at a reduced capacity that makes it impossible to turn a profit.

To make matters worse, one of the other safety measures is to require all customers to wear a mask at all times (except when eating or drinking). That’s a deal-killer for me, because a mask makes my glasses fog up. If I can’t see the movie, what is the point of being there? And I suspect I’m not alone in feeling that way.

That was before No Time to Die was delayed to next year. I would like to believe I’m wrong, but I think the theater chains are doomed. I don’t see how they can recover from this.

After seven months, those of us who used to go to movie theaters have been broken of that habit. We have learned that we don’t really need theaters, and the studios are starting to think that they don’t need them either, with so many people using streaming services. The 007 film title seems ironic now, because the movie theaters do have time to die — and their time may be at hand.

Update: Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of Dune, which was scheduled for release on December 18, has been delayed to October 1, 2021.