When cinemas are shuttered, what does public film look like, and what is it for? This article takes the 2020 coronavirus pandemic as its starting point, arguing that cinema at a time of crisis cannot continue as usual. Our moment is a fertile opportunity to reexamine the role of publics in cinema spectatorship. Anonymity and detached sociability are central to the cinema experience, but these are not crucial components of every film experience. We can experiment with facilitating other, more collaborative and less anonymous types of gatherings; physical distance does not preclude social proximity, nor must it foster anonymity. Film has the opportunity to participate in our lives outside the theater: with theaters receding as the dominant architectural apparatus, alternative viewing practices will have to take center stage. Screenings at political protests and online livestreaming initiatives are two of the tactics the authors explore as imaginative alternatives to traditional black box cinema. Experimental exhibition models can create spaces of unexpected proximity in times of social distancing. As soon as we leave the movie theater (as the end-all of exhibition) behind, our possibilities are limited only by imagination.

The integral version of this article can be found in the printed KINO!