Going to the movies is a vital part of our culture and it will survive the coronavirus
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My mother went to the hospital when I was 14, and it was the first (but certainly not last) time she talked about what my sister and I should do if she died: "Don't be sad. Say goodbye, and then go to a movie."

She was released the next day, but her guidance has always stayed with me. When times are tough, movies are an escape into a different world, one we enter for a couple of hours and then leave, emboldened, entertained, moved and sometimes even changed. Things don't have to be bad for movies to work their magic; they are equally transformative when life is grand.

Coronavirus has wreaked havoc upon movies and movie theaters around the country. For the first and only time since movies were invented, cinemas across the globe have shut down. World War II couldn't do that. The Great Depression couldn't do that. The Cuban Missile Crisis and the Kennedy assassination couldn't do that. Nothing has ever gotten in the way of the movies, until now.


Recent news that AMC Theatres, the biggest cinema chain in the U.S., could be facing bankruptcy, combined with reports that streaming services like Disney+ are seeing record growth during the unprecedented stay-at-home period, have led some to speculate that once the coronavirus threat has passed, moviegoing won't recover.

Moviegoing will survive.

To be sure, there's reason to worry. The number of tickets sold each year has eroded – 14 percent fewer people went to the movies in 2019 than 20 years earlier. Ticket prices, meanwhile, have risen steadily to offset that decline (it cost an average of $9.11 to see a movie last year, while in 1998, the year Titanic was released, the average ticket cost $4.69). Complaints about rude, talkative, device-addicted audiences are common, and long before the virus there was growing concern in Hollywood that people just wanted to stream at home. Movie studios, streaming services and film exhibitors have been eyeing each other warily for years, battling over the right of cinemas to show movies before they appear on Netflix or Amazon.


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That movie "window" has been in contention for decades, ever since studios discovered in the late 1980s that they could sell movies directly to consumers. Then, it took nearly a year for a huge hit like Top Gun to come to VHS tape, which was just one of the "ancillary revenue" streams studios could use to ensure a movie earned money long after its box-office run. Home video was at the top of that secondary revenue stream, but there were also sales to cable and network TV, to airlines and hotel chains, even theatrical re-releases.

On its own, chasing after the dream of a pure "direct-to-consumer" business, Hollywood drained that revenue stream. VHS gave way to DVD, which was subsumed almost entirely by streaming – and the ubiquity of streaming services meant travelers didn't need to pay to watch movies in hotels or airplanes.

And yet … none of that killed movie theaters. If fewer people, on average, saw movies in cinemas each year, about 3 million people were still going to movie theaters every day, and despite the fluctuations, that number had remained fairly constant.


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It may be nothing compared with pre-television moviegoing; in 1946, 90 million people went to the movies once a week, but by 1960 that had plummeted to 40 million. Naysayers predicted the death of movie theaters then, but larger-than-life gimmicks like CinemaScope, Cinerama, the first wave of 3-D and even Smell-O-Vision cropped up, and movie lovers proved that they could be passionate about movies and TV, that one didn't have to usurp the other.

Likewise, those 15 to 20 million people who go to the movies each week despite the advent of streaming prove that sitting in the dark is a habit moviegoers don't want to break.

There's no doubt movie exhibitors have a difficult task ahead. They're going to need to reassure audiences – quickly and constantly – that moviegoing is safe. To begin, they might need to limit the number of tickets sold, and to show movies less frequently, with vigilant and high-profile cleaning in between screenings.

They're going to need to be scrupulous about cleanliness – more scrupulous than they have been, for sure. Snack bars, restrooms and auditoriums will need to be equally spotless, and movie theaters will need to offer many options for audiences to clean their own seats and spaces. It's not going to be easy. The most important innovations won't be on screen, they'll be in the auditoriums themselves.

But all those wonderful people out there in the dark are going to return. It's in their nature. And "their" means "our." We need movies. We need the reassurance, hope, excitement, belief, happiness and promise that they bring. We have always craved stories in the dark. The brilliant light of the projector is our fire, and just as we have for eons we will gather around it to be told stories that help us make sense of our terrifying, glorious, overwhelming world.

That will never be more true than after this collective trauma, when we finally all begin to stagger out of our houses to see how the world has changed. That time will come, and like the victims of any disaster, we will take stock and find that some have fared better than others. We will assess what we have retained, mourned what we have lost, and we will all follow my mother's words: "Don't be sad. Say goodbye, and then go to a movie."

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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Of course, wrecks aside, buying a used car might end up costing more in the long run after needing repairs, breaking down and just a general slew of unexpected surprises. But hey, at least we can all look back and laugh.

My first car, for example, was a hand-me-down Toyota of some sort from my mother. I don’t recall the specific model, but I definitely remember getting into a fender bender within the first week of having it. She had forgotten to get the brakes fixed … isn’t that a fun story?

Jimmy Fallon recently asked his “Tonight Show” audience on Twitter to share their own worst car experiences. Some of them make my brake fiasco look like cakewalk (or cakedrive, in this case). Either way, these responses might make us all feel a little less alone. Or at the very least, give us a chuckle.

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The man taking the video is a professional animal rehabilitator of some sort and clearly knows what’s up. He’s seen warning passersby to “don’t go near there! There’s a raccoon in there!”

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When a couple has their first child, they start out with the greatest of intentions and expectations. The child will only eat organic food. They will never watch TV or have screen time and will always stay clean.

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"Rules are a bit more rigid, attention and validation is directed and somewhat excessive," Niro Feliciano, LCSW, a psychotherapist and anxiety specialist, told Parents. "As a result, firstborns tend to be leaders, high achievers, people-pleasing, rule-following and conscientious, several of the qualities that tend to predict success."

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