Best Of: Movie Theater Experiences

At the beginning of this month, I announced that I had quit my job and was looking for another one. Well, the turnaround ended up being much faster than I ever would have expected: just a few days later I was called in for an interview, and this week I'm working my first shifts at--can you guess?--a movie theater! I've always thought that working in a theater was a rite of passage for any young cinephile just getting into the job world, and now I have the chance to try it out for myself. In celebration of my new position, this is a list of my best experiences seeing movies on the big screen.
Before we get to the list, I should clarify that I have never been an avid theater-goer. Going to the movies requires time, money, and transportation, and at every point in my life I've lacked at least one of these factors--making a trip to the theater a special treat, something to be enjoyed greatly because I never know when I'll get the opportunity to experience it again. For most of my life I've dreamed of a day when everything would come together and I'd be able to go to the movies as much as I wanted, but recently a new issue has cropped up: my area is populated only by chain theaters, and most of the films I'm interested in these days never make it to the big places. C'est la vie. But even with all of these hurdles, over the years I have had a number of really wonderful, memorable theater-going experiences, and here I will go over the best of the best.

It was August 3rd, 2012. My mom and I had finished unpacking after arriving in my favorite city in the world on vacation, and we were feeling restless, but we weren't sure what to do so late at night. Finally we settled on a movie: The Hunger Games. Off we went to a little local theater--one that has since closed down--and settled in for our film. And I must say that I was completely blown away: this was the first real "adult" film I had seen in theaters, maybe even the first real blockbuster, and I was glued to the screen for every minute. Afterward, we went out into the cool night air and sat at the top of a giant set of stone stairs leading to an outdoor arena where a big group was ballroom dancing, beautiful colored lights shining on them. I wanted to live in that moment forever: in my favorite city, witnessing something beautiful, with the sounds and images of a truly great movie still spinning through my mind. My mom and I read the books soon after, and kept up the tradition of seeing the new film in theaters each fall, ending with Mockingjay: Part 2 on December 8th, 2015. By this time, the allure of The Hunger Games had faded: I no longer consider any of them to be great films, although they all have their moments. I've simply seen too many other, better films in the 5 years since that August evening. However, I will always treasure that first film for exposing me to the power of good cinema, and giving me a really beautiful memory that helped nudge me towards becoming the full-blown cinephile that I am today.

In retrospect, this movie is a little embarrassing--but hey, I was 14! I saw the teaser trailer and it just looked so awesome, with a great cast and an interesting story-line. The trailer came out way ahead of the theatrical release, and I was so impatient that I actually read the books in the meantime, which I greatly enjoyed. When it finally came time to go see the movie in theaters, I was so excited--not only was I finally going to get to see the movie, but it was also the first movie I ever went to see in theaters all by myself. That might sound weird to some--I know many people can't fathom going to the theater alone--but my taste in movies has always differed from that of my friends', so having the freedom to go see something even if nobody I knew wanted to go with me was so exhilarating. And I did have a great time. Admittedly, even in the moment I knew I was not watching a masterpiece, and I've never revisited it to this day, but for those 6 or so months in 2013 I had a great time with the Mortal Instruments series, and I'll always think fondly on this film for giving me those happy memories.

It was January 16th, 2015, and once again my mom and I were going out to see a movie. We had plans to see something else, but it turned out that film wasn't playing at our destined theater, so we rushed to pick a backup--and settled on a little film called Boyhood. We were both familiar with Linklater, having seen his Before Trilogy already, but neither of us ever expected to love Boyhood so, so much. We saw it in a smaller theater, and there weren't many other people in the screening room. The one group I remember was a posse of elderly people, who got such a kick out of the film! In particular, they all burst out laughing in the scene where Mason's girlfriend starts talking about a miniature pig. It was so random, and so hilarious, we couldn't help but laugh along. There's just something so special about seeing a film surrounded by people who are falling in love with it just as much as you are. This memory gained additional poignancy when, less than a month later, the theater closed its doors; I did see one more film there after this one, but it wasn't nearly as special a film or an experience, so Boyhood will always be what comes to mind when I think of that wonderful old theater. It's still standing there, inhabited by pigeons. I like to think one day this city will grow big enough that a nice indie theater will be able to move in there and start playing some non-blockbuster releases again, but who knows. In the meantime, I'll always have Boyhood--a film that remains one of my very favorites to this day.

The Witch is one of those frustrating little movies that premiere at film festivals to great acclaim, then disappear for almost a whole year before acquiring a proper theatrical release. I saw just one still from this movie at the time of that original premiere, and from then on I waited impatiently for it to come to theaters; I just had a feeling that it was going to be great. Luckily for me, a nearby theater actually decided to play it, and off I went--alone, of course, because I don't know anyone who likes horror movies. This is definitely a film like no other, and a rather challenging one at that--there were many scenes where I had difficulty just understanding what the actors were saying. Why oh why did they scrap the subtitles for the theatrical release! However, that didn't matter so much in comparison to the wonder of seeing that gorgeous, de-saturated cinematography on the big screen and hearing that chilling soundtrack through all of those speakers. I was also gifted with a truly wonderful audience, full of people who were able to accept the film for what it was--and I really enjoyed seeing the film surrounded by like-minded individuals. The uncomfortable laughter/gasping when that crow scene came on was especially great, and there was even some interesting post-film discussion among one group that, admittedly, I eaves-dropped on while the credits played. This was a perfect convergence of seeing a highly-anticipated film right when it came out, having the film be well-worth the price of admission, and getting to experience it among people who enjoyed it just as much as I did. It really doesn't get better than that!

My story for Get Out is pretty similar to my experience with The Witch, but the difference is that where I had been anticipating The Witch for almost a whole year, I only decided to see Get Out about a week before I actually saw it. I had seen the trailer for it and thought it looked pretty awful, but given the sorry state of modern trailers, I decided to trust the film community's consensus that it was worth seeing. And so, where The Witch was merely able to meet my expectations, Get Out had the opportunity to blow them right out of the water, and that it did. It even managed to terrify me in places, which horror films rarely do. And this is another film where I had a really great audience who were willing to take the film on its own terms, with no one walking out or being disruptive. In fact, everyone got really into it, so much so that you could literally feel the tension dissipating whenever the comedy relief guy came on and we started laughing. Get Out is definitely one of the greatest mainstream films to come out in a long time, and one well worth seeing on the big screen.

Even as streaming takes over, I think movie theaters will always hold a special appeal to people, especially to us movie buffs. Personally, I'm pretty excited to work in a theater and help keep that movie magic alive--and of course, see lots of free movies. Hopefully I have the chance to make many more great movie theater memories in the months to come; in the meantime, keep checking back as I carve out time to blog in-between scooping popcorn.


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