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Normal Theater Reopens With Film About A Global Pandemic

The Normal Theater opened in November 1937. The theater closed for a time in the early 1990s, but reopened in 1993 after being purchased and renovated by the Town of Normal.

The Normal Theater resumes in-person screenings this week, starting with the film “Little Fish” — which so happens to be about a global pandemic. In this case, what is effectively an airborne form of Alzheimer’s.

Town of Normal Civic Arts Manager Adam Fox said the film unintentionally comments on the COVID-19 era.

“The film is told from the perspective of just one couple. One of the members in the relationship ends up losing some of their memory a little bit,” said Fox. “And they're trying to figure out how to now navigate this new world with these symptoms. As there is a potential cure, they're hoping to be part of that trial.”

Fox said the film looks at a global pandemic through a very personal lens.

“That's all any of us can ever do. The way we experience a big global tragedy is through what's happening in front of us,” said Fox. “So in that way, it resonates on a lot of different levels and really ends up serving as a direct commentary on what all of us are living through right now.”

In the romance film, newlyweds Emma (Olivia Cooke) and Jude (Jack O’Connell) find themselves in this pandemic supporting each other. Fox said the sense that they are in it together is going to resonate with viewers. 

“Where so many things are familiar to us as we sit and watch the world and say, ‘This isn't the place that this was 18 months ago, the rules have all changed in some ways,’ but it's also still so similar. It's so close to the world that we knew that there's almost this uncanny quality that's happening about it,” said Fox. “The film resonates on that. It wasn't made as a direct commentary on COVID. It wasn't made to respond to this time, but ended up being this absolutely brilliant response to it.”


Fox said the Normal Theater in Uptown thought it was important to reopen with an independent film.

“We want to share those stories that may not get a major multiplex screen, that may not get as much attention and as much focus, but really resonate and connect with something bigger than us,” said Fox. “Just connecting to the human condition in a way that is more powerful and matters so much.”

Fox said there's a real importance in seeing films with an audience.

“There's nothing that can replace the experience of being in an auditorium with other moviegoers, experiencing a film for the first time. The highs are higher. The lows are lower,” said Fox. “You ride that energy of a crowd and it really impacts the film and films are meant to be seen that way. Filmmakers are expecting that you're going to be around other people, a room full of strangers who are going on this emotional journey with you. It heightens everything about that experience. And being able to experience that together does matter. And especially a story like this, where it is directly commenting on what we're all going through.”

In the film, chaos runs amok. Fox said that echoes some feelings potential viewers may have. 

“Some of the pandemonium and chaos in this film specifically is because it's a loss of place. It's a loss of people understanding their place in society,” said Fox. “It's a loss of, in some cases, mechanical ability to do the daily functions that they normally would do. It's not just fear about whether you have it, but also knowing what will happen when you get it.”

Fox said he thinks “Little Fish” could help people process where they are and what they're dealing with. 

“It helps to reestablish some of that sense of place that perhaps has been lost,” said Fox. “So that's why we hope people come and see this film or why we hope you come and see any film of the Normal Theater or any other theater.”

Open for business (again)

Closed March 13 of last year, the Normal Theater had initially resumed operations in October before increased COVID mitigations brought another closure in November.

"We’re excited to welcome guests back through our doors to share in the classic cinema-going experience, albeit with some now-familiar adjustments for everyone’s health and well-being,” said Fox.

“Little Fish” screens at 7 p.m. Feb. 4-7, with 3 p.m. matinees on Feb. 6 and Feb. 7.

The theater will follow procedures established last fall to be in line with Restore Illinois guidelines, operating at a reduced capacity of 50 guests. To maintain appropriate physical distancing, all seating will be assigned.  Tickets can be purchased in-person at the box office 30 minutes prior to show time, or online.

Concessions will not be available for purchase and masks are required at all times. 

The Normal Theater plans to keep virtual screenings on its website. One additional film on the schedule is “One Night in Miami,” which was produced by a Bloomington-Normal native.