21 July 2009

From 'The Gonzo Zombie's Film Journal': Going to the theater will never die for me

I don't think people get it anymore. I'm not saying that buying DVDs are bad, or that renting a movie is silly or any such thing. I'm just saying that people don't appreciate actually leaving the house to go to the movies anymore. Granted, it's quite expensive to see a movie in the theatre these days (somewhere around $10, without popcorn), but aren't you paying for the experience as well?

There are some movie memories that will never die: there used to be a drive-in theatre about ten miles from where I lived as a child. It's hard to accurately describe the feeling of going there to see a double-feature--there was something thrilling and scary and overwhelming about it. Something that would make my heart jump into my throat and something that felt like home as well. When you got to the drive-in and paid the $4 per person and pulled into just the right spot and set up your blanket and chairs and snacks, you just felt the summer weather go right through your body as you listened to The Temptations sing "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)" on the pole speakers and you got a chill. When it got dark enough, you'd put on the car radio to the right station and see a few previews and some ads for local businesses (much like the Acuna Boys ad in the middle of Grindhouse) and then you'd watch the first feature, usually something family-friendly. Between films, you'd go to the garish neon-lit snack bar/bathroom/projection building and beg your mom for a candy bar or some stale popcorn in those red-and-white boxes. You could see the projector in the front, grinding away, showing everyone the commercial for the Marathon car wash that was "just down the street!" and you knew that it was. As you left the snack bar, you'd always try to put your hand in front of that smoky beam of light so that everyone at the drive-in could see your tiny hand amplified on the big screen. On the way back to the car, you stopped to talk to friends and neighbors, and maybe you ran up to the old rusty swingset to get in a few good rounds before the show started back up again. Once the second feature got started, you moved into the car because it got colder and you wanted to maybe doze a little, but before you knew it, the movie was over and the car was moving, getting in line to get out, and you strained so hard to watch the credits as the big screen became so obtuse you couldn't see it anymore. You begged to keep the radio station on as long as possible so you could hear next week's features, and when the car turned away from the drive-in, you craned your neck to keep watching the screen, watching it to see just one more minute, one more second of anything on that screen. Your heart would fall back into its original position once you were out of its sight and you would drift into sleep and dreams in the car going home again.

There is absolutely nothing like that experience. I try to chase that feeling whenever I can, going to the theatre to see a movie as often as I can afford it. Sometimes I'll forget what it's like, just briefly, to see a movie on a screen so big, but then I sit in that tiny dark room and it comes back to me like a head rush and I want to cry a little. I feel a tiny thrill and my heart leaps when the movie starts and I strain to hear the projector and smell the dust in the air and taste the stale popcorn and sense that feeling of childhood suckerpunch me in the gut.

You cannot know what it is like unless you have been there, but I hope that you can catch a taste of it sometime.

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