My first ever experience in a movie theater occurred when I was about ten years old. One of my friends had a birthday party one Saturday at an indoor theater playing Help! with the Beatles. A few years later, my best friend's parents took us to see Clint Eastwood's Play Misty For Me in a drive-in, the first time I had seen a movie in that venue. Both impacted me greatly, and I have cherished those memories for years.
As a teenager I saw many B movies in the local indoor joint, the Star Theater, and we would waste the whole day seeing both movies (they used to show double-features) twice, all for the same ticket price, which I think was three bucks. 50's-era horror and science fiction flicks could be seen for a mere fifty cents all day on Sundays. I saw Them!, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Bela Legosi's Dracula, The Blob, several episodes of Dark Shadows, and many other classics in that old theater made out of a World War II barracks.
A couple of premiers stand out in my mind. I saw the original Star Wars in a drive-in on its 1977 opening day, and I waited in line for three hours to see Independence Day (the Will Smith alien movie) on its July 4th, 1996, opening day. That was long-awaited, since they began promoting it the Thanksgiving before.
There is something special about sharing a movie experience with a larger group of people. Kids at theaters weren't breaking windows or vandalizing cars, and many life lessons could be learned at the movies. The popcorn was always hot and buttery, though expensive, and the big screen was just that -- BIG. The best part, though, was the simultaneous reactions of a crowd watching a movie together. I remember sharing non-stop laughs in What's Up Doc? and Airplane!, and the entire audience stood up in a unified gasp during Harold and Maude when Harold's awesome Jaguar/Hearse drove off a cliff. The buildup and fear of The Exorcist would have been so much less if it wasn't shared and anticipated by a full theater of horror fans.
Large screen TV's and sound systems make it more convenient to watch a movie is full surround sound that shakes the living room and there is something to be said for the pause button when you have to run to the bathroom, but what is lost is so much more.
I received several great comments about theaters and here are some of them (I've edited or paraphrased some):
Steven B.- Nothing like going to see the newest Star Wars on the big screen with family. Couldn’t agree more
Theresa W.- Watching on the big screen brings a whole new effect. I still have never adapted to watching shows or movies on a computer or on my phone. Big screen is best.
Peggy H.- Going to the theater to see movies makes it an event rather than mere entertainment. The anticipation of a new release, the smell of popcorn (though I rarely have it), the comfy seats and undivided attention for the time my husband and I are there all make going to the movies so much better than watching from home on a small screen.
Oh! Not to forget the big screen. Epic movies like The Ten Commandments, Ben-Hur, Troy and Star Wars must be seen on screens 30 feet tall and 90 feet wide! I miss the days of drive-in theaters. For my family members, you should know that the Edgewood Drive-in Theater here back home is still in operation! Those are the memories I hold most dear! All seven kids in PJs and mom piled into the station wagon parked backward so we can watch from the open tailgate, blankets and pillows, special snacks and sodas bought just for this occasion, watching the latest Disney movie. During intermission, we'd run to the sandbox and swings for a bit, then fall asleep watching the second feature, tummies full and wholly entertained. It makes me happy just reminiscing about it!
Jeanne W.- I loved movies back then especially the epic ones and the black and white ones that were comedy or westerns.
Richard L.- Seeing a movie in a theater is an experience. Whereas watching it at home is just like watching TV.
Kathy S.- Nothing beats the big screen for visually stunning effects movies. IMAX is the best!
Jane G.- We go to the movies about once a week. I love it. My husband loves popcorn. We look forward to movies coming out.
Nadyne H.- My all time favorite theater to go to is the Old Town Warren Theater in Jack's picture. I have never been in one I liked as much before or since! So cozy and comfortable, like I was sitting in my living room... but with food and drinks served to me!!!
BLSMSS- If it’s a movie that has lots of sound effects then we will try and see it at a theater. You have to go to theater for the popcorn, okay, my husband does. You know, we never went to the movies until I went with a brother at 16. Movie day with my husband is like going on a date.
Ray and Lynn- We like to go to the movies at the theater... just our thing... when we go now, the theater is never full. Kind of sad, but I get it.
Eric and Kathy- We love going to the theater, especially for those "big screen" movies.
Dan & Jo- We will go usually if movie theater is an older style, retro, unique etc, or if the movie is actually seems to be of some value.
PokeysRVadventures- I love the huge IMAX screens where many show beneath the seas, space, etc., sort of documentaries and the incredible sound.
Tink & Chuck- Last night we transformed the Elks Lodge into a personal theater. It wasn't the full surround sound, special seating, and fully darkened theater experience as most would expect, but in all other aspects it felt the same. We gathered together like friends meeting at someone's home, setting up a buffet of candy and pizza (which became the lobby), and preparing the projector for the screening. When everything was set to go, all of the outer doors were closed to shut out the light and sound, and we all took our seats with our movie food in hand. It took a while to settle down (much like in a real theater), but once we did, you could feel the oneness in the room. There were not 16 gasps in the room or 16 laughs, there was one in unison. As the tension would build in portions everyone all at once would speak out, "Oh no!" It helped that we all had the RVing bond that brought us together and that was the main comedic topic in the movie, but watching the movie with the group like that enhanced it's enjoyment when compared to when Chuck and I had watched it by ourselves at home. We still have a drive-in theater in our town and it is a popular family activity spring-through-fall in Texas. There have been a few winter premiers, such as Star Wars, that have been bitter cold and have still sold out. We as parents are wanting to share a piece of our childhood with our kids, and are enjoying creating a family tradition.
Habadabeer- Many many years ago, my wife and I found a "dollar" movie theater showing second runs of movies just a few months old. They had taken out two of every three rows of seats and replaced them with stools and high top tables for two. You could order burgers, pizza, and beer until the previews ended and get some ‘stantial eating in while enjoying the show. I thought at the time it was a million dollar idea. Now, Movie Tavern is as close as it gets. They’ve got nicer recliner seating and first run movies, but at a premium.
C Farmer- Believe it or not, we still have a drive in movie theater here. Every time we go it's packed. Parents and kids in the back of trucks eating popcorn and drinking (sodas, of course).
Dan & Jo- We love drive-in theaters -- we have stopped and stayed over a night or two whenever we've seen them. We don't want them to go away so we patronize them as often as we can.
Ray and Lynn- I miss drive-in movies... what fond memories we have when our children were small. We would get extra large pizzas, snacks and beverages, of course, back in and sit in the back of the truck or SUV. We would bring chairs, blankets, friends, coolers. I know our kids have great memories of this fun, social experience.
Ias- We enjoy going to the late night show and ordering the big size of popcorn and soda pop (maybe that’s the reason we stop going, LOL). If there’s a new movie we think we’ll enjoy, mostly action, of course we’ll go.
TheRVQueen- I like the old historic theaters, but for live performances, not movies, and to appreciate the architecture.
TxDorsey & Kyle- We frequently enjoy going to the movies in a theater. We watch a lot of films from Redbox, but at least once a month we usually opt to go to a theater and watch a movie. Sometimes it's more frequent, depending on what is coming out that time of year.
I'll finish off my blog post with a quote from film maker Steven Spielberg: "I love to go to a regular movie theater, especially when the movie is a big crowd-pleaser. It's much better watching a movie with 500 people making noise than with just a dozen."
Please feel free to add your own comments and memories below!
Jack Huber is a writer, blogger, poet and photographer. Like many, he is concerned about the psyche of our planet's inhabitants and wants to try to improve his little corner of it.