Certainly, there are more important things in life right now than going to see a movie, but it’s one more activity Americans love that appears to be fading away. I don’t know if we’re more upset about missing out on a good story, or the actual connectivity we find in sharing an experience with strangers. Sitting alone in a dark theatre, we unite through laughter, tears and fears and forget about what awaits out in the glaring bright world.
The most fun I ever had watching a movie was on July 5, 1996. My husband and I had a three-month-old baby and hadn’t ventured out in public in weeks. We finally traveled to Fort Walton Beach to visit my parents for the 4th of July holiday and dropped their adorable grandson off with them, then ran out of the house to see the hot new film, “Independence Day.”
We were lucky to find two seats together in the packed theater. Full of local Airmen from nearby Hurlburt Field and Eglin Air Force Base, the excitement was popping as the on-screen pilots successfully defended the world from the villainous aliens. My favorite on-screen guy, Harry Connick Jr. received huge cheers and applause while the audience, which included many real pilots, hooted and hollered their approval.
By contrast, the most recent movies we’ve seen have lacked pizzazz because there were only a handful of people sitting in a room made for hundreds. Storylines have become weak, predictable and vulgar turning many away. High ticket and snack prices prevent families from attending and sadly, in recent years, there have also been violent attacks on the audiences. Now the pandemic has put what appears to be the final nail in the coffin of large theater experiences.
FBI agents would have admired my husband’s use of coercion used to persuade me into hanging a very large, very ugly TV in our house, although I have to admit the life-sized castle on Downton Abbey looked fabulous in my living room. While the shows look great, I miss the camaraderie of strangers sharing emotions. It just can’t be duplicated at home.
As a teenager in Pensacola, I loved watching movies at University Mall, where before every show, you had to balance your snacks while everyone stood to sing The National Anthem. Patriotic images moved across the screen and of course, the grand finale, “And the home of the brave” was accompanied by a flyover from the hometown Blue Angels. The audience cheered and dabbed their eyes. Then, we settled down to watch Excalibur.
I’m sad for the theater owners because obviously, they believed in the power of entertainment and now they’re left with empty buildings. Their dreams seem to be gone . . with the wind.
We were created to be together. God formed Eve, perhaps so Adam would have someone to share his popcorn with, and to discuss the plot on the way home. While we assess our need for safety, we need to remember that removing ourselves from the world isn’t natural. Home entertainment, remote offices, virtual church and on-line shopping may keep us safe in this flawed and painful world, but sooner or later, we all just need to relax and go to the movies.
This story first appeared on ALcom and in the Mobile Press-Register, Birmingham News and Huntsville Times.
What was your favorite movie experience?