Yesterday my husband and I went to a screening of “The Wizard of Oz” at the beautiful and historic movie palace, Tampa Theatre. It was amazing to see how many people absolutely love this movie which turns 75 this year. There were families, couples and single people, all different ages, all there for the same reason. To get lost in a fantasy that we all grew up with and loved. What caught my attention was how quiet the children were, lost in the images on the screen. There was one child that had a very loud and verbal panic over the Wicked Witch of the West when she throws a fireball at Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man and Toto and that is fine. There is something so special about this movie and this experience is a far cry from the multiplexes of today. To everyone there seeing this movie on the big screen was a special treat.
Now movie theaters are huge monstrosities with 20 screens in them. The prices at the snack bar could buy you food for a family of 5 for a week. Some audiences don’t show the proper respect to the movie or the people trying to watch because they know they can watch the movie on Netflix within the week. Who are some of these annoying people? I’ll share a few.
The kids who keep changing seats through the entire movie
The person who chooses to receive a phone call or will text during the entire movie.
The woman with crying baby who does not leave the theater so everyone can enjoy the movie in silence.
The woman with the misbehaved children that keeps reprimanding them loudly for the length of the feature.
The people who have conversations at a normal speaking level who end up directly in front of or behind you.
Another thing that burns my bottom is that now I have to watch commercials before the movie starts. I am not talking about previews for coming attractions. I am talking about Coke, Sprint and Insurance Companies. Really? I wanted to see a movie, not a huge television set trying to sell me things. Let’s go back in time to when going to the movies was fun.
Once Upon a Time…
…there was no cable or satellite television. We had 3 major networks (CBS, NBC, ABC), a PBS station and one or 2 independent local channels. That was it. They did show movies but it is nothing like today. The variety in the films was wonderful. Now it seems like “Titanic”, “Harry Potter”, “Grease”, “Forrest Gump” and the “Twilight” series are the only movies available to broadcast. Really? So many great movies and we see the same 5 on every channel?…but I digress. Back to where we were…We had 7 channels at most, we did not have VCRs or DVD or Blu-Ray,we did not have computers, Hulu, YouTube or Netflix. Television did offer a few movies but not many. This made going to the movies a treat.
You would go to the theater of your choice. If a theater had 3 screens it was considered to be big. You would go a purchase tickets which were inexpensive then vs. the prices charged today. A trip to the movies now can cost a week’s salary it seems like.Then you would enter this wonderful magic world where you would be transported on an adventure and a world not your own.
As soon as you entered the lobby of this cinema wonderland the scent of delicious popcorn would embrace you. Movie theater popcorn smells so heavenly. I can say it never smells as enticing when I make it at home. You would walk up to this counter, that usually has a teenager working behind it and decide which tasty treats you wanted to enhance your movie going experience. The snacks were a little steep in price but nothing like the mark-up the snacks get today. My favorite candies that I only ate at movies were Milk-Duds and Sno-Caps. This went a little differently if Grandma took me to see a movie. She didn’t like the prices of the snack bar so we would go on a shopping trip on the way to the theater where she would buy candy at a drug store and would then hide it in her purse to sneak in. Other things she would sneak in were McDonald’s hamburgers, a whole pizza wrapped by the slice, fried eggs sandwiches and I think she would have tried to sneak in a pot roast if it weren’t for all the juice in it. We would only purchase sodas and could not eat the smuggled snacks until the lights went down so no one could see. Apparently in Grandma logic people can not smell the food you have in a movie theater. She acted like we would be hanged at the conclusion of the film if we were caught with this “illegal food”.
Snacks in hand (or in Grandma’s case, purse) we would go into the auditorium to find our seat. Stadium seating did not exist in theaters then (except for balconies which no longer exist except in historic movie palaces) and you had to choose wisely. You didn’t want to sit behind someone who was too tall or you would see the shape of their head through the entire movie. You also wanted to make sure that you didn’t block the view of the person behind you. We would sit there speaking in hushed tones waiting for the previews to begin. In 2014 there is no such thing as a hushed tone before (and sometimes during) a movie. People speak loudly sharing TMI, are on their phones and the kids are running wild.
The magic would begin as the lights lowered indicating that it was showtime! First up were previews of coming attractions. I sometimes think this is still my favorite part of going to a movie and I will get upset if I do miss them. We did not have to watch commercials for products or businesses before the movie, just the glorious mini-movies known as trailers to whet our movie going appetite for upcoming films. I became excited at the prospect of the movies that were coming. In my lifetime I have seen hundreds of trailers. I can say with conviction that the preview that excited me more that any other has in my life was for “Logan’s Run”. I can also say that it remains one of my favorite science fiction movies of all time.
Once the previews had run it was time for the main event. The feature we had come to see. As we sat in the dark the projector flickered images onto the screen in front of us. We were transported to a celluloid world, taken on a journey with the characters on the screen. At one time movies did not have Dolby sound where an explosion in a film can rattle your teeth right out of your mouth. The sound was on mono tracks. The movies were also on reels of film unlike the digital presentations today. In 2014 the picture is perfect every time (even with “The Wizard of Oz” yesterday) and in some ways I do not like that. Back in the day the films would get scratches that showed up on screen, they would sometimes break during a screening and if this had happened at a prior showing, the film would skip where the repair had been made. It made each print of the film individual to that showing and I found that unique and pleasing. I recently made a DVD purchase of “Day of the Animals” It contained 2 versions of the film. A pristine television master of the movie and a copy of the movie under it’s original title “Something is Out There”. It skips, it is scratched, the color is faded and I love it. Guess which version I watch.
The major thing in the theater was you could hear a pin drop. The audience (including the children if there were any) was dead silent, engrossed in the film. If someone did speak it was in a very low whisper. Seeing a movie on the big screen was special. For the 2 hours you were in the theater, you were sharing something that was exclusive to you and the audience. It could have been a church for the silence in the auditorium, unless of course, the movie was horror or comedy, then you would get a few screams or uproarious laughter that would be highly inappropriate in a church setting. When the movie ended people would applaud the film if it had been well received.
People would leave the theater speaking in animated fashion about the film they had just viewed. They also would show excitement at the upcoming features that had been teased before the feature.
I don’t go to the movies as often now because technology has changed the experience so drastically. People have literally thousands of movies right at their fingertips at any given time. People have become jaded. Going to the movies is no longer a big deal and they behave as such. This applies to kids and adults alike. I am a purist and want every movie going experience to be like it was in my younger years and I know there are others out there like me. I am so thankful for Tampa Theatre being here because they will show an older film on occasion. I know if I attend one of those screenings, it will be special, because people that love that film (or perhaps have never seen it) will compose the audience around me, sitting in silence, enjoying the experience of spending time with a movie that is like an old friend.