By Dennis Minich
The other night while watching television, I saw a trailer for a movie coming to theaters soon. At first I didn’t think much about it, but then I realized there haven’t been many theatrical releases ever since the whole COVID precautions started. New flicks for the past few months have either premiered only on some pay-per-view TV application or opened in limited theaters with most viewers looking on television. I think seeing movies coming back to theaters is a great sign that maybe some things are returning to normal.
I hadn’t been a frequent movie goer for many years. There was an occasional trip when my son was home or maybe something on Christmas night. Of course, I had to go to see the latest “Star Wars” whenever one came out. When my fiancé, Leslie, and I started dating, several of our evenings included movies. For many decades the movie theater has been a great place to go on a date. It is public, but when the lights go down it still has a private and even romantic ambiance. Of course, part of that ambiance was lost when one of the movies we went and saw was a Rambo.
One of the sad ironies of technology is the movie theater probably now offers a greater entertainment experience than ever before. There used to be the sounds of the movie projector, pictures could flicker as film rolled through the machines, sound was not always great and movies were known to freeze up from time to time. Additionally, small, uncomfortable seats have been replaced with things like recliners or seating for two. In many cases the food choices have improved and some even offer wait-staff service.
The irony comes with the fact that despite of all these improvements, it’s still much cheaper and easier to just stay home. Even the most anticipated new flicks often end up on the home pay-per-view or cable channels within weeks of their initial debut.
Most movie complexes now have several theaters with a variety of ways to watch a movie, including HD and 3D. But it wasn’t always that way. As folks who remember the old Lee Theater in downtown Harrisonville can attest, there was a time when a theater had a single screen. Where I grew up, we had the downtown theater as well. It served several purposes.
On week nights, it was a place for folks to slip away. On Friday and Saturday nights it was the place to go following a dinner date. And my personal favorite was Saturday afternoons. It was the local baby-sitting service for most moms in the community. Each of my friends and I would be supplied with 50 cents, which covered admission and a couple of good snacks. We would join an auditorium full of other kids for a double feature with a cartoon or two in the middle and maybe a short feature. The place was packed so it must have made money, all the kids were entertained and got to pig out on candy and our parents had a day free from our daily antics. It was the perfect win-win-win scenario. I’m not sure when the Saturday afternoon format ended, but it was missed.
Did popcorn ever smell better than it does in the theater? You can eat Milk Duds and DOTS and Junior Mints anywhere, but do
they ever taste as good as they do at the movie house? Isn’t there a breathtaking moment when the lights go down and the first images flash on that big screen?
I am more than happy to see theaters are revving up again. I know the industry struggled through the pandemic, but fortunately many were able to survive. I want to go see a movie because no matter how nice or how big your television might be, it can’t replace the splendor of the big screen. I have probably watched the original “Star Wars” (that’s episode four for those trying to keep track) 50 times on television. But despite the brilliance of my home TV, it can’t match the magic the big screen held. “Rocky” is a great movie on television, it was phenomenal on the big screen.
The greatest argument for the silver screen could be “The Sound of Music.” As great as it is, it simply doesn’t hold the same magic at home.
There is still no experience like going to the movies.