Do you remember how special it used to be to go see a movie? There were no VCRs, so if you wanted to see a movie you schlepped out with all of the other people & caught it while it was still on the big screen. And schlepping out with all of those other people made it an event. They used to play O Canada before the movie & everyone would stand, sing & watch that generic "flying over Canada" movie. Incidentally, I tell this to my friends here in the States & they look at me quizzically. I guess the national anthem thing before movies was a distinctly Canadian thing. And people used to laugh out loud & clap (even stand & clap) at the end of the movie. Was that because we, as Canadians, have the inherent need to be polite, or was the movie-going experience just that much better then? I tend to be a bit nostalgic about this kind of stuff, so even though I enjoy my 20-theatre local megaplex immensely (where I can put as much "butter" on my vat o’ popcorn as I want), I do tend to believe that the movie-going experience was better back then. Honestly, I make it sound like I’m a Grandma talking about the good old days, but bear with me.
This is where I used to go for a movie-going experience as a child.
(okay, I’m not old enough to have actually seen The Bachelor & The Bobby Soxer, but it looked pretty much the same when I went in the 70s & 80s)
This was The Tivoli in Hamilton. Beautiful Art Deco style. One screen. Packed with 600 strangers in high school auditorium-style seats. Hoping the tall man or the lady with big hair wouldn’t sit in front of you. Curtains that would open to reveal the screen, just as the lights started to dim. I’m getting a bit teary-eyed just thinking about it (then again I am 9 mos preggers, so I got teary-eyed at a History Channel commercial the other day). I saw Bambi, Snow White & Sleeping Beauty here. I saw a double feature of Star Wars & Empire Strikes back here with my brother & Grandmother. Btw, how cool was my grandma to take a 7 & 10 yr-old to a Star Wars double feature?!?
Soon enough, though, that single screen theatre just couldn’t draw us in anymore. I think the change came with the idea of independence from our parents. If we went to the "big" theatre in town (egads, six whole screens) we could see Back to the Future or Dirty Dancing for the umpteenth time, while our parents enjoyed Out of Africa or Children of a Lesser God, yet still within reach of us
And then came those VCRs. Our’s was a BETA (my Dad will still argue it was far superior technology) & it hooked up to the 23" tv in the family room. Let’s just say that Star Wars or Top Gun just didn’t show quite the same on a 23" Hitachi as it did on that great big screen at the movie theatre. So we still needed those movie theatres to get the full experience.
But look at what we have done now.
The first one is ours so it obviously pales in comparison to the others, but honestly, it makes it very hard to want to get up off the comfy leather couch & head on out to the theatre to see a movie, when the experience is not all that different. (Don’t you just love the Star Wars Death Star-themed one…honestly some people have way too much money)
But the weird thing is that not only have our home theatre options become much more vast (& by vast I mean huge), they have become smaller too. I still don’t quite get this.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but this is a 2" x 1.5" screen. Is this really the best way to watch a movie?!? How could we have gone so far away from our movie-going roots?
I guess what got me thinking about all of this is our newest movie-going option.
First, yes we have caved & bought a minivan. Second, can I lock myself in here with a copy of The Mummy, a bowl of popcorn & a Diet Coke (lord knows I’ll have somewhere to put the pop because there seem to be 27 cupholders in this thing)? And will no-one find me? But is this really a good thing for us? For our kids? What have they lost by not having a true movie-theatre going experience? Do we just chalk it up to a by-gone era, or should we continue to seek out this experience for ourselves & our kids? While the single-screen theatres are fairly close to extinct, I think it is worth our while to continue to seek them out. Maybe not for every movie, but certainly a once in a while treat. After all, that’s what it was for us. A treat. I would love to recapture a bit of that awe I had for going to the theatre, & although I know I will be homebound (& enjoying all my movies DVD-style) for the next little while, I hope to indeed do just that, recapture the awe & excitement for both me & my kids.
So, in honour of my little nostalgia trip that I just took you all on (thanks for bearing with me), I thought I would do a Top Five list this week of the best movies to see on the big screen. Let me know if I missed any of your fav’s. And I’d love to hear some of your best memories of going to the movies. First movie? First date? First kiss? Bring it on!!
Top Five Movies to See on the Big Screen
5. Gone with the Wind – Epic. Grandeur. It will never show on the tv the same way it shows on the big screen.
4. The Wizard of Oz – All you need to see is one scene. Dorothy arriving in Munchkinland. So worth finding this at a local theatre.
3. The Sound of Music – Our local single-screen theatre hosts theme nights & this one was so much fun. People dressed up. Parents & kids alike singing away to all of the songs. And the first scene is enough to make you want to move to Austria.
2. Lawrence of Arabia – This was my Dad’s vote for a must-see on the big screen. He told this great story of taking a girl to see this & arriving late so the only seats left were in the front row. When the intermission came around he said he had to go out & drink from the water fountain for about 5 minutes because he felt like he had been through the desert!
1. Star Wars (A New Hope) – Maybe it’s a generational thing, but it doesn’t get better than the original on the big screen. When Lucas decided to re-release them in theatres, I was there in line with all of the the other nerds waiting to get their Star Wars fix.