My life has spanned the Seventies, the Eighties, the Nineties, Y2K to today. At different times I’ve measured it in different ways; chronologically, in milestones, the “no kids-kids at home-grown kids” years, where I lived, from elementary school to college, before and after marriage, etcetera.
This is a first though, measuring it, and I use the term measuring loosely, by films that I’ve seen at the movie theater. I happen to be a huge fan of going to the movies, and have even saved quite a few of my ticket stubs.
I know a lot of people who rarely get to the theater. Actually, I think I’ve come to feel guilty about all the times I have gotten to go whenever I hear someone say those words. Truly though, it has been a bit of a thrill for me for as long as I can remember.
Sitting in the darkness,
What a world to see…
Maybe it has something to do with the feel good memories from my childhood, when we went to see a film as a family. It was more likely a rare treat and everyone would have been relaxed and happy. Plus…the popcorn.
The cinemas in the town I grew up in have changed a lot over the years. Two separate small theaters; one uptown in a mall, one downtown on its own, have become just one larger multi-plex on the outskirts of town.
The prices that I remember back then were two dollars for matinees, and at that time we still had two dollar bills. And full priced movies were a whopping four dollars and fifty cents. I remember being invited to a matinee after my parents had already gone out, and rifling through my dad’s jackets finding two $2 bills, enabling me to go!
Ahhh, the good old days.
I know that we saw the Star Wars trilogy; 1977, 1980 and 1983. And another gem we saw as a family was Ice Pirates in 1984. It starred Robert Urich, John Carradine and John Matuszak (ex-NFL’er and Sloth from The Goonies!), and it has been described as a tongue-in-cheek Star Wars. Also it currently holds an 11% rating on rottentomatoes.com…yikes! Clearly much of the jokes and innuendo went right over my sister’s and my head. Ha ha ha
I also can recall back when I had a totally unofficial pseudo-Big Sister; she worked at our local roller rink, she was glamourous, and my parents knew her parents. Her name was Mary and one time she took me to see The Amityville Horror, which must have been Amityville II: The Possession in 1982…and I’m pretty sure it was not parentally-approved.
And I distinctly remember my mother dropping me and a friend off to see the 1985 film Santa Claus: the Movie starring Dudley Moore as an elf, John Lithgow as the villain and David Huddleston as Santa…a classic! It might have been opening night, or the next day matinee. Seeing it now on tv, it seems kind of dark, but I adored it then and learned a new word – “puce”, the color of the lollipops the bad guy makes.
That same year, 1985, was a busy one in movie releases that I managed to get to; The Goonies, Back to the Future, and Teen Wolf, to name a few…
The next two years were big ones for films. In 1986 I went to see Stand by Me, one of two Stephen King books-to-movies that are among the best of the best films, starring Will Wheaton, Corey Feldman, Kiefer Sutherland and the late River Phoenix; one of my biggest teen crushes, and just seven years later a heartbreaking loss as an ardent young fan. This great flick also had an important, albeit all too brief part played by John Cusack. So yeah, I loved it. I’ve always felt so glad I got to see this movie in theaters.
Also that year was the unparalleled and unforgettable Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, a John Hughes absolute must-see. So many quotes, so little time. Several innocent movie-dates that year to see less-than-quality pics like Police Academy 3: Back in Training, and such.
And quite possibly, the cornerstone of my film-seeing archive came along in 1987, in Rob Reiner’s all-time classic…The Princess Bride. It had everything; true love, a princess, a kiss, a giant, a wizard, sword fighting, an evil genius, an evil prince, a six-fingered man, an albino, a handsome love interest, a grandfather-narrator, a cute kid, catchphrases, comedy, and on and on. Amazing movie. The pride of my repertoire!
Movies really can take you back, because the next year I went to my friend’s cottage for a getaway. One rainy day we were taken to see the (apropos) film The Great Outdoors starring legends; John Candy, Annette Bening and Dan Aykroyd. Silly? Yes. Fun? Absolutely. It was actually written by John Hughes as well. It will always remind me of this super fun friend-bonding trip.
Fast forward to being a young adult, a pre-grownup grownup. In 1992 Aladdin came out and Disney was back on top with the animated hits. With the voice of Robin Williams, (a recent and still raw loss for Hollywood) as the Genie, it was pretty much unsurpassable. Man, what a great one!
Another thing that movies can do is to take you back, in your mind, to the where and with whom, not just the when. I’m specifically talking about seeing movies while away on a trip. Inevitably you get a rainy, or cold, snowy, even too hot day while traveling and what better way to pass a few hours than a trip to that locale’s local cinema?
So also in 1992, while on a trip to Montreal with a friend to see our friends who were going to school there, we spent a rainy afternoon seeing Wayne’s World, starring SNL regulars Mike Myers and Dayna Carvey as Aurora, Illinois’s Wayne and Garth, hosts of the local public-access cable show of the same name. Love that we got to see that one in Montreal. Later in our trip, with our friends/hosts, we were able to see Tupac Shakur in Juice. I’ll never forget.
For me, another feather in my cap was catching the 1993 Mike Myers not-so-hit So I Married an Axe Murderer, which let’s face it is chalk full of Scottish references and kitsch, which I love. Great soundtrack, too.
Followed up by seeing 1994’s blockbusters; Pulp Fiction, The Shawshank Redemption, Forrest Gump and the lower-brow Dumb and Dumber. Then, also seeing When a Man Loves a Woman with another close friend who was visiting me from her college. Not to leave out the British film Shallow Grave, I remember that night quite vividly. Good year for movies (and soundtracks)…
Taking Little Kids to the Movies
I did this, and I don’t regret it because I was always very conscious of those around me and I would never have sat idly by as my child disrupted anyone else’s movie experience. Crying in a theater? No way, we’d have been out of there, immediately.
My older son was taken to see The Lion King back in 1994 at the ripe old age of three, not once, or even twice, but on four separate occasions, in the company of several different friends of mine as well as myself. It was his favorite movie and he sat raptly. And the other friends who took him still mention it, too.
I also took him to see Phil Hartman in summer 1998’s Small Soldiers, just a couple months after Phil tragically passed away. His younger brother stayed home from that one, but he was older and able to come with me, his big bro and our friend that Christmas season to see Michael Keaton in (the “box office bomb”) Jack Frost.
Over the years we took our boys to ALL the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings films. And probably most of the comic book characters’ movies, from X-Men to Iron Man and most everything Stan-Lee-related in between.
Post 2000 and Y2K
I’m betting that there have been close to a hundred trips to see movies in theaters over the past fifteen years that we’ve been living in Virginia. The local offerings were a mishmash of at least seven different types and sizes and even ages of cinemas, until just a few years ago we got a brand new fourteen-plex with an IMAX and space-age looking decor.
There have been many date nights spent at the movies!
Right now I’m missing my chick flick movie-buddy, who’s back on base in Korea. We caught some great movies locally while her husband was stationed here. And we usually catch a film or two while my parents are visiting for the Christmas holidays. Last year we saw the Coen Brothers’s Inside Llewyn Davis, the second Hobbit and…my mom and I saw August: Osage County.
However, to save you time, I’d just like to focus on the films I got to see in other places over the years. Because of them I can pinpoint when I took a certain trip. Not including movies we caught while visiting my hometown over the years; The Hulk, Dark Water, and Johnny Depp in Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory among them.
In spring 2005 I was in New York City with my same travel-loving friend from that Montreal trip. On a rainy April evening we caught Kevin Costner and Joan Allen in The Upside of Anger. And that was followed by seeing The Brothers Grimm with my sister somewhere near Vail, Colorado that fall.
On yet another trip with my friend, this time to Florida in 2007, I saw the remake of Halloween in Ybor Harbor (Tampa) while she worked, then we both laughed our heads off watching Superbad one wet, quiet night in another part of Tampa (weirdly the ticket stub incorrectly says Brothers S?).
And while I’m probably leaving quite a few out from this timeline, I’m going to wrap it up with two from 2014. The first one will remain amongst my favorite movie theater memories of my entire life – getting to see Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlet Johansson (well, hearing her voice) and Amy Adams in Her, while accompanying my husband on a business trip to Stockholm, Sweden. Then late last year we saw Gone Girl on our anniversary getaway to the Outer Banks, North Carolina.
Just last week we saw the final installment of the Hobbit Trilogy. Currently I’m hoping to see Selma, then hopefully The Second Best Marigold Hotel in March, and True Story in April. Next summer there’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Jurassic World and a “revisionist take on” Poltergeist to look forward to…among others.
Yep. That’s my life movie by movie, theater by theater, and ticket by ticket.
“A person with a passionate interest in cinema is called a cinephile“…if the shoe fits…
Songs and romance.
Life is the dance.
Sitting in the darkness,
Popcorn on your knee!
— Raina K Morton January 20 2015