Let’s Go To The Movies

Posted: August 4, 2011 by Bill Gauthier in Movies

When I was a kid growing up in a lower-middle class neighborhood in New Bedford, Massachusetts, there was no greater thrill for me than Going To The Movies. I think that’s how I thought of it, too, without knowing it at the time, caps on every word. It was a big deal. I wasn’t a kid who was into sports, and while I loved the library, it never really gave me a huge thrill. But The Movies? Ho-lee mackerel! Did I love me The Movies! It was like television, only better. Much better.

Even now, Going to The Movies is more than just a night out, or a diversion, for me. I can’t help it. There have been times, only recently, where it’s been more casual but usually it’s still a big deal to me. And being the nerdy (and somewhat sensitive) person I am, I even have rules that I lay down to friends before going to The Movies:

  1. We must arrive to the theater before the previews start. There have been a few occasions when I’ve let this rule slip, but usually I stand by it. I have skipped seeing a 1:00 show for a 4:00 one, or have even driven an extra half hour to a 1:45 show at a different theater, to abide by this rule. There are several reasons for this: a) It’s dark once the previews begin and I hate having to try to find a seat in the dark; b) I like the previews (though I dislike commenting on the previews; I don’t care if you or the person in front of me or behind me or three rows down wants to see this movie when it comes out). I like to see a really good trailer that gets me jazzed to see a movie and to know what’s happening; c) It’s part of the ritual.
  2. There is to be little-or-no-talking to me during the movie. I was raised that Thou shalt not speak during the movie and, goddamnit, I intend to abide by that rule! Every now and then something happens that calls out for a comment, and usually it’s okay, but read the situation. If I look enthralled, please, leave me be.
  3. I stay through the credits, or at least most of the credits. Again, I have several reasons for this: a) I don’t like crowds. If it’s a busy movie with a lot of people, I don’t want to be stuck with the schmucks around me. I don’t trust them, I don’t like them. They’re sticky and gross. We can wait; b) Respect for the craftspersons who made the movie. They devoted who knows how much time to provide the entertainment that I just sat through, the least I can do is wait for their names to pass; c) I don’t want to hear what those other sticky and gross people have to say about the movie I have just seen on their way out. I don’t want to hear “That was great!” or “That sucked” or any other comment. It can upset me and, really, I just don’t care. I care about your opinion, because we’re friends and we just saw a movie together, but:
  4. Do not talk to me about the movie we have just seen until I bring it up. This is probably the strangest rule I have, and it connects the last item on the above rule. I hate overhearing other people talking about the movie on the way out of the theater. It’s an oddity with me. Some of it is probably ego, some of it is antisocial, but it’s one of those things. If a movie is really good and I’m really jazzed by it, the rule may be tossed out. I never know what movie will do that. Both of the Christopher Nolan Batman movies were exempt from this rule. The horror movie Identity was exempt. The first Iron Man, I believe, was exempt. Mostly, though, I need time to process it. Also, I don’t want others who I don’t care about to hear what I have to say until I’m ready for them to, via a blog or status update or Tweet.

Seriously. Shut the fuck up.

I know, those are strange, and you can see why I purposely never went on first (or second, or third…) dates to the movies. Movies are something I go to only if I’m comfortable with a person. Going to The Movies is almost a holy experience for me, and I treat it as such.

I don’t remember my first movie, though I know it was a Disney cartoon rerelease and was probably around 1980. This was before VCRs were everywhere and movies would often take tours around the country. I know I saw Cinderella, Bambi, Peter Pan, and I may have seen a few others. I went with my mother and the woman down the street and her kids. Mom didn’t drive but her friend did, and her friend had two boys, one a year older than me and the other a year younger. My mother also loved movies (she still does) and hated being embarrassed in public, so the rule was simple: No talking during the movie. Done. End of story. Like I said before, I still live by that rule.

Nope. This won't screw a kid up.

I remember the excitement about Going To The Movies at that young age. We’re talking about three years old. The excitement of going into this room with all those seats and a huge TV, although I was a little scared that the TV–called a screen, I learned–might come crashing down on me. It was an entry point to another world, one that was magical to a young child with an already-growing imagination. If I could see the adventures of superheroes or the Fonz or the Muppets at home, the promise of the movie theater was simply amazing.

Still, I hardly remember the Disney movies. Though it was during the previews for Bambi (I think) that I saw the only preview I remember from that time. It was a preview for a rerelease of Star Wars. Based on my research, this must have been 1982, but may have been 1981. A little boy from Argentina name Sebastian lived next door to me at the time and had Star Wars action figures that I thought were super cool, yet I had no idea what they were. Seeing the trailer for Star Wars, and being a precocious four-year-old, I realized the characters I saw on the screen were the toys that Sebastian had. I told my mother, breaking the 1st Law Of Movies, that I wanted to see it. What was Bambi compared to that?

One night after supper, my kid sister (who turned 30 this past March!) was still in her high chair, my father told me to get my shoes and jacket on, we were going out. Now this was A Big Deal. First off, with the exception of when my mother was in the hospital having my sister, my father and I hardly ever went out places just the two of us at that time. Second, we never went out after supper. Or at least we hardly ever went out anywhere after supper. So off we went. We pulled into the parking lot of one of the local movie theaters that were in the Greater New Bedford area at the time (or at least the two I know of from back then), Cinema 140. I remember that there were teenagers in the lobby with 3D glasses, which was weird. Dad bought me popcorn and a soda. Popcorn was a major part of the ritual for most of my life. We went into the theater. I don’t remember the previews, but I remember the opening of Star Wars, recognizing the yellow letters from the trailer. I remember the introductory crawl, though I’m sure Dad had to read it to me. And, of course, I remember the Imperial Star Destroyer chasing the Rebel Blockade Runner. It was so massive and it went on for miles and miles. I had never seen anything like it.

I was hooked. Not only to stories from that galaxy from a long time ago and far, far away, but also to the ritual of Going To The Movies.

In 1992, after seeing Batman Returns for the first time, I kept the movie stub. Nothing special, just put it in a Tupperware bowl I kept spare change in. As time passed and I saw movies–never as often as I’d like–I’d just toss the stub in that bowl. Sometime around 1995, while cleaning, I realized I had a ticket stub for every movie I’d seen since Batman Returns. This was when I began to consciously “collect” my stubs. Sometime around 2000, I bought some business card holder sheets and began keeping my ticket stubs in a binder. The few that were lost along the way I have scrap paper to remind me. On the back of the stubs I write the name of the movie, the date I saw it, and whom I saw it with. The first two are usually printed on the stubs, but I’ve noticed that many stubs fade over time.

Here is my movie ticket stub book. TOY STORY 2 is the 1st movie I took my daughter to. PAN'S LABYRINTH is the 1st movie I saw with my wife, Pamela. You see can see my notation on the back.

I still love the movies though the experience in recent years has changed. I know others have complained about this, too. A sign of the times, I guess. It probably started with my generation, the first generation raised entirely with TV in our lives. The ability to talk in front of the TV have made another generation of people who will often talk throughout a movie. And cell phones and smart phones have made the movie experience even worse. There are many people who can’t leave the devices in their pockets or purses through the movie and it’s annoying as hell. Not to mention that the quality of the experience has been corrupted by the various ads and “bonus” features that come before the previews now. And on a personal note, I can’t really eat popcorn anymore. It fucks with my acid reflux and can make for an unpleasant moviegoing experience.

Oh, you cruel, cruel temptress.

Despite those negatives, Going To The Movies still is an important ritual for me. I love the pre-show excitement I feel. I love the walk to the theater with all the movie posters and standees and other assorted gimmicks to get you interested in a movie coming up down the road. A good movie can still bring tears to my eyes just by being good. When I realize that I am totally engulfed by the movie, I can’t help but become emotional. That is what being a storyteller is about, and it reminds me of why I now tell stories as an adult.

This time, I AM interested in what you have to say. Please leave a comment and let me know about YOUR movie rules, experiences, and such.

  1. I (or We) always go to matinees and I like to arrive a half-hour before it starts so that I can get a front row seat in the middle aisle (stadium seating). I have braces on both legs so I need to stretch my legs out during the show. This also means I wait for the theater to clear. Especially if it’s a Marvel movie so that I can see the dang egg at the end.

    I agree with no chit-chat during the movie, and luckily, most of the people here in Green Bay seem to agree. They react appropriately to what’s happening on the screen, but that’s about it.

    First Movie? GODZILLA:KING OF THE MONSTERS in the late fifties. At a drive-in. In the rain. It was quite magical. Saw tons of matinees as a kid at 25 cents each, it was a good way for the parents to get rid of me for a Saturday afternoon. Once I got my license there were a lot of drive-ins in the summer; I think DESTROY ALL MONSTERS was my favorite. When 2001 came out I ordered my tickets ahead for opening weekend and for MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL they had an enormous box of husked coconuts to give away in the lobby.

    Food of choice: raisinets or oiled popcorn (I carry Tums) and a Diet Dew. I do miss those frozen chocolate malts they used to sell back in the sixties.

    I know people who don’t go to movies anymore and wait for DVD’s or OnDemand on their big tvs, but I think they are missing so much. You can’t get engulfed in a movie at home the same way you can sitting in front of the big screen!

    • Bill Gauthier says:

      For a wedding present, my parents got us a big, flat panel TV that I LOVE to watch movies on, but you’re right that the movies are very different. It’s what got me and my wife out of the house to see GREEN LANTERN. I just wanted to see the visuals on the BIG screen.

      Raisinets…Yeah, those are great. I never thought of bringing Tums with me for the popcorn. Hm… My drink of choice is orange soda. Lately, in lieu of snacks, I’ve gotten a cherry Icee.

      Sadly, I’ve never been to a drive-in. Every summer for the last few years we’ve talked about going to one that’s kinda/sorta local (about an hour away) but just haven’t. Maybe this year…

      Thanks for reading and replying!

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