We are in election season and I am grumpy. It doesn’t matter which side I am on, don’t I have a right to be grumpy no matter who I plan to vote for? But since I have sworn off writing on overtly political topics I need to find other ways to occupy my time. Unfortunately, it appears that going out to the movies will not be one of them.
I recently read that theatre-chain Regal Cinemas has declared bankruptcy and will be shuttering its entire operation. AMC has announced that it may follow. That’s AMC the movie theater chain – AMC the car company went under decades ago. Anyway, this Covid lockdown has hit the movie theatre business harder than most, so the news is understandable.
Watching movies has long been one of my favorite ways to spend a little spare time. We have not been regular theatre-goers, though, for quite awhile. Really, from the high ticket costs to the downright obscene price of popcorn and other refreshments, a night at the movies became a luxury that we chose to forgo most of the time. Still, there were times when the big screen (I mean THE BIG SCREEN) became a must.
The first movie I can recall seeing in a theatre was Mary Poppins. I went with my family in the summer of 1964 at the age of five. People use the phrase “the magic of the movies”, but Mary Poppins really put some oomph into that saying. I was always disappointed that I could never get an umbrella to work for me in the way it did for her. Never mind the lack of dancing penguins in my actual life.
I can recall many of the movies I saw in theatres in my youth, something that separates those films from the scads of others I only saw on TV, if at all. I recall The Love Bug and The Ugly Dachshund, both live-action Disney films that were easy family-friendly fare for parents in those days. I recall seeing The Ghost And Mr. Chicken with some cousins in the theatre in their small town. It was the scariest thing I had ever seen up to then, but probably only because my parents would never let me watch The Birds on television.
Then there was 2001: A Space Odyssey that my sister and I saw with my father in 1968. Sis and I were agreed at the end – our choice of Gentle Ben would have been preferred.
As a teen I saw lots of movies – I think teens and young adults have always been the primary market for Hollywood. Roger Moore was my James Bond and Burt Reynolds made for a great moonshiner in White Lightning.
I have sampled a smattering of old films shown as they were intended, which was always a big thrill. I am a huge fan of the Hollywood that came to an end with the demise of the old production code that made people work harder to tell good stories. The Phantom Of The Opera – the silent from 1927 – was a genuine thrill in a grand old theatre complete with its imposing Wurlitzer pipe organ. And I recall when some Hitchcock films were re-released in the 80’s – Rear Window was great in a theatre.
During recent times we have been satisfying our movie-urge via streaming services on TV. I must admit that a movie on the big flat-screen in our family room is a whole different experience from watching them on the 19-inch black and white set that was the circumstance of my youth.
And fortunately for us we have access to Turner Classic Movies as well as multiple streaming platforms that feature more recent fare. And because our personal Venn Diagram of acceptable movies has a large area of overlap we can almost always agree on something.
Maybe this is where it had to go anyway – we can sit in the dark a few feet away from a really big screen with a great picture for free. Well, almost free – the kind of free that is associated with “you’re paying for it anyway, might as well watch something.” We can supply our own pop and popcorn for, well, peanuts. Confession: at home I eschew soda and popcorn in favor of a cocktail and some pretzels. Or maybe a pizza.
We have been on a “film noir” kick for a bit (thank you, TCM). I guess the runup to an election is a great time to be reminded of all of the dark impulses that occupy mens’ (and womens’) hearts – and that it has ever been such. And it appears that for the foreseeable future we will be continuing to experience these celluloid deceits and doublecrosses at home instead of out in public. I fear that the foreseeable future may be longer than we think.