Column: The Movies...
February 24, 2021
A trip to the movie theater as a kid was always a real treat.
I can still remember walking through the doors and into the lobby, where the smell of popcorn greeted me almost as if it was saying welcome back, Jack. We would always get a massive tub of popcorn with extra butter to share, a gigantic soda that probably had enough sugar for the daily allotment of 27 people, and of course, some more sugar with some Milk Duds or Junior Mints. Sometimes the candy would get dumped into the popcorn, which would take the movie-going experience to a whole other level.
Being so small, seeing a screen that big was mind-blowing, and as soon as the movie ended, I couldn’t wait till the next time I came back. If there was leftover popcorn, I always ended up taking it home and eating it for the next couple of days until it became stale and it was time to go to another movie.
One thing I can also remember is that people were still allowed to smoke. The ban on smoking happened when I was pretty young, but for a time, I can remember people chain-smoking through an entire movie and nobody seeming to care. I can remember a guy behind me smoking a pipe once, and that wasn’t very good. I can’t imagine what would happen if someone did that in a movie theater or restaurant in 2021. People would come unglued. There would probably be a riot, but it was as commonplace as my beloved Milk Duds in that day and age.
I loved movies so much, and one of my most vivid theater memories was when I wasn’t allowed in. The film E.T. would become a cultural phenomenon, and even before its release, there was a buzz about the Steven Spielberg directed movie that reached my hometown. I begged and begged to go on opening night, and finally, my mom caved.
We lived within walking distance from the theater at the mall, and because of this did not leave the house till about 10 minutes before showtime. When we arrived at the mall, the line had at least 100 people in it. After waiting for a few minutes, we approached the door to enter the theatre when a man with a megaphone came out and said they had sold out. I was devastated. I cried for about an hour. Once I figured out we would go the next day, I felt better, but it was still a sad time.
The following night we decided to go to the late show instead, hoping it would have fewer people.
I was excited all day and could not wait to see the movie but to stay up till around midnight.
Unfortunately, there must have been a huge adrenaline dump. I fell asleep about 20 minutes in and woke up just in time to sell E.T. and Elliott ride through the sky on a bike.
I would keep my love of going to the theater around as I grew up and still felt like a kid when I walked into the lobby for the lovely smell of popcorn.
As I would get older and have a family, I started to go to the movie a lot less. One of the most significant issues at a larger theater was the price.
It was like half a mortgage payment to take the family. It was much cheaper just to rent a few movies and buy some snacks at the grocery store.
I didn’t miss the movies that much until this year when I could not go.
I didn’t want to rent movies, I wanted the theater experience, and I couldn’t get it. The future of in-person movies is dicey, but I would like to see them not only survive but thrive.
I want to recapture some of that magic.