People & Process
What will happen to our lockdown-inspired movie night.
Devin Liddell | Principal Futurist
Devin LiddellDevin is a futurist who designs preferred futures in aviation, automotive, smart cities, personal mobility, space travel, and more.
We started hosting a remote-viewing “Movie Night” at the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic in late March 2020. With all employees working from home by then, gathering virtually to watch a movie on Wednesday nights and chatter back and forth on Slack about it created a ritual of togetherness when gathering in the studio wasn’t possible. Since the world was in a plenty serious mood already, we mined the good-bad genre of cult films. Cinephiles will recognize gems from this category: Commando. Escape from New York. The Poseidon Adventure. Anaconda. The Blob. And so on. We went on binges inspired by certain actors, soaking up fun classics from Patrick’s Swayze’s filmography: To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar, Point Break, and Road House. By the time we reached the one-year anniversary of stay-home orders, we’d watched 62 movies—the result of every Wednesday’s “main” title, sometimes followed by a late-night feature for those keen to stay up late and watch the likes of Foxy Brown, Horror Express, Piranha, and Westworld. We even held our own awards ceremony at the one-year mark, which we dubbed “The Hot Dogs,” a nod to a running joke about actor Frank Collison’s character in The Happening. Categories included Best Botched Accent, Aged the Worst, Excellence in Yelling, and Most Awkward Moment to Share with Co-Workers. Across it all, we’ve posted more than13,000 comments and gifs on our dedicated Movie Night Slack channel.
Movie Night has become a way to stay connected, laugh, debate, and riff off one another, a replacement for those essential moments of studio life. Following our inaugural title—Commando—on March 25, 2020, we’ve missed just one week, which was the week following that Schwarzenegger classic, when we weren’t sure if we should do this every Wednesday night. But one week off was one week too many, and we haven’t missed one since. Now, though, as vaccination rates have accelerated and public life reopens more and more, there are reasons to wonder about the fate of Movie Night.
"Movie Night is a source of laughter each week, and that was especially true during a year that was just not funny. I probably wouldn’t have connected with people as frequently—or ever—while working remote. It gave me a sense of being part of a team that I'd never met in real life."
We’re all committed to keeping it going—this is what we all say—but will Movie Night lose its currency past the unique set of circumstances that inspired it? Will a return to in-person interactions during the day satisfy us in old ways and re-assert our evenings at home for time with family and non-work friends instead? Will the return of work travel complicate what were our very uncomplicated calendars during the pandemic? Or will Movie Night carry on as a beloved few hours every Wednesday night, delivering a much greater cultural connectedness than anything we used to do after-hours in the studio? The heart of these questions—featuring a co-mixture of excitement and anxiety—might feel familiar to anyone in the early days of maneuvering a return to the office. That’s because these questions aren’t just about Movie Night; they’re about the future of work. About the ways we’ll create and nurture work cultures moving forward. About what we’ll ask of in-person and remote interactions.
Movie Night is an exemplar for how we coped with isolation and even some despair when we couldn’t be together and, in doing so, created something fun and meaningful. As we exit the pandemic, we face these new questions with uncertainty. Of course, facing uncertainty is exactly what we did at the beginning of the pandemic, and Movie Night was one of our answers, which should give us confidence in how we’ll answer these new questions. This is true regardless of whether Movie Night lives on or fades away. Either way, long live Movie Night.