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?
One of the great ways to spend time, with friends, family or when old enough, a date. Tuscaloosa’s Bama Theatre was a wonderful experience. When those curtains were pulled and the advertisements started and then the cartoons (I’m giving away my age here) and then a wonderful movie to enjoy. Didn’t matter if it was a hot summer’s day or cold winter evening it was always a wonderful time. I’m sorry my grandson won’t get to experience that! Happy weekend Leslie Anne…….
I loved those big curtains! Tuscaloosa’s theatre sounds great.
Speaking of going to the theater and being in a crowd of airmen; in my early days in the air force, stationed stateside, I noticed that the base theater was not so current in the movies they aired, unlike my times overseas. When I did go to the base theater while overseas I liked that it would only cost me $5 for a ticket, big bucket of popcorn and drink (even into the early 90s).
I have never been one for battling the crowds at the theater. The only time I ever did so was the premier of Star Wars (that was in FWB BTW). The rare occasions we venture out to the theater these days is usually on Saturday mornings, catching the first show of the day.
Starting the day with a good film sounds fun. When the theater is crowded, I go totally blind in the dark and start sitting on top of people! It takes forever for my eyes to adjust! – Yet another hazard of a full-house!
You spurred great movie memories, Animal House at the drive-in, Jaws and American Graffiti at the little one in Brewton where I took the sounds of the train going by as just normal. The first time I took my husband there he was stunned by the blaring horn. I had completely forgotten about the national anthem in the Pensacola theater. Wow… you took me back a few decades. When our kids were teens, my husband started a tradition that lasted through their years at home, going to the move on Christmas night. At first, I kind of balked at the idea but it ended up being such a great family time after all the other. Just the four of us. However, we met Paul Allen’s special girl at the Christmas movie. I knew when he asked her along she was the one.
Those are all great memories! So glad you remember the Pensacola tradition. Such great movies used to be released at Christmas, so that was a fun thing to do.
My summer job every year of college was working in the ticket booth of the Gloria and Riviera movie theaters in Charleston. For sitting in a tiny booth with no A/C, I earned a whopping $1.25/hour. But being out there was so exciting because I got to see the hustle and bustle of King St, handsome Citadel cadets coming to the movies in their uniforms (swoon), pretty College of Charleston girls dressed up for their dates, married couples escaping like you did, etc. Going to the movies was an event and every showing was packed. Until recently I would sometimes slip off to the movies by myself, but even before the pandemic there was nothing worth seeing lately, and it got scary to be in a dark theatre where I was sometimes the only customer. I feel a bit sad young people won’t get to experience the joy of a movie on hot summer evening. Great observations, Leslie Anne.
What a great experience you had, except for the non-air conditioned part! It’s just difficult to believe the world has changed so fast. I hope smaller boutique-type theaters will appear. We have one in Mobile, but it too struggles. Thanks Roxanne.