Why I Still Can’t Go to the Movies: The Loss of Safety
Back in May, I wrote a personal essay called “Why I Stopped Going to the Movies”, which described my traumatic experience in 2005 at the ArcLight Theatre in Los Angeles. I won’t rehash those details here but that visit made it so I couldn’t attend the movies anymore. I would get such anxiety and even the thought of going to sit in a theatre where people were talking/texting would make me physically ill. Oh, and I know there are several of you who think I’m stupid to feel this way. Trust me, I heard that from enough people after my first essay. If that’s your feeling, you might as well stop reading right now.
The entire reason I wrote that first essay was because I had had such an amazing experience at an Alamo Drafthouse theatre. I had visited their business when I had previously lived in Austin so visiting one wasn’t new to me, but I hadn’t been to any theatre since that awful day in 2005. My husband, myself, and our 6-year-old all went to see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. During the opening credits, I actually cried. Yes, I cried, not only because I love Baby Groot, but, for the very first time in 10 years, I felt safe in a movie theatre. I felt at home. I was able to be back in “my church”, as it were. On the drive home, I thought about my experience and decided to write what was basically a love letter to the Drafthouse. After it was published, it received thousands of hits and it started many conversations about the behavior of theatregoers today and in almost every response I gave, I said something like “Thank fuck for the Drafthouse”.
Even some of the VPs from the organization reached out. Walter Chaw, in particular, sent me a lovely message and invited me up to his location in Denver. Everyone was nothing but kind and supportive. My husband and I are planning our move back to Austin, in part to be closer to the Drafthouse. So, imagine my absolute horror and disgust at the news coming out (and it continues to keep coming out) about Tim League, his cover up of Devin Faraci, and his subsequent handling of the situation. Not to mention the news about Harry Knowles and the harassment allegations during Drafthouse functions he was sponsoring.
Over the weekend, I saw one of my close friends being called a liar for posting screenshots of Twitter direct messages Knowles had sent her. I was also seeing messages, mainly from men who are, somehow, still surprised that women have to endure this type of sexual harassment. I decided I would open up and tell my small amount of followers (who are about 80% men) just exactly what I have had to deal with over the course of my life. I explained I started getting catcalled at 10. At 12, I had to stop going to the public pool because both men and boys would try to stick their fingers inside me. Men masturbating in their cars as I skated by them. The point of the whole thread was that women have to deal with this all the time and from a young age. There seemed to be some surprise, again, at my experiences. At this point, I can’t understand why there would be. How many more women have to tell their stories for people to stop saying “I’m shocked, I can’t believe this happens” to “This need to stop now”. What does my coming out about my experience have to do with this? Well, I’ve heard some people say since I wasn’t assaulted at an Alamo Drafthouse, I shouldn’t have a say in what is happening there. To that, I say: bullshit.
A few days ago, I spoke on Twitter about my crisis of conscience regarding this whole Drafthouse situation. Just a few months ago, I was such a cheerleader for them and, well, now what the fuck am I supposed to do? I can’t be the only one feeling this way. And, yes, I realize in relation to what the women who were assaulted are going through, my problem is insignificant. Still, I’m having these feelings, so I wanted to express them. I finally found a place where I can watch a movie and feel safe. There was actually a place for me where I can watch movies, first-run movies, without having to wait months for them to be released on Blu-ray. Now, because of the actions of League, that’s all ruined.
I’m also in a quandary here. First, I feel like I shouldn’t even be having this struggle. I should say I’m never setting foot in a Drafthouse again. End of story. But it isn’t that easy for me, because I feel like the only place that I can watch a movie has been taken away from me. I want to support the people who have been wronged by League and his actions as head of the Drafthouse but goddamn it, I still want to watch a movie there. For those of us who love the Drafthouse, we have totally been betrayed. League lied and covered this for up 11 months. His statements after he was found out have been less than satisfactory. So, he’s going around listening to staff; what does that even mean? He stated that he would be sending out a survey to Fantastic Fest badgeholders, but what would that even include? If the food served was the correct temperature or if the screenings started on time?
I understand the vast majority of people working for the Drafthouse knew nothing about League’s actions over the last year. I get it. But, I can’t be the only one who feels, unless League leaves, it’s never going to feel safe being in a Drafthouse again. Whether he is hands-on in the day-to-day operations or not, he is the face of the Drafthouse. Oh, I know he won’t go; why would he? He doesn’t have shareholders to answer to but, again, I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. You’ve broken my film-loving heart, Tim League. I was one of your biggest champions and you threw it all away. And for what? Protecting sexual predators because they were your friends. Shame on you.