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From the Wire: Unforgettable Movie Theater Memories

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by Matt Singer
June 5, 2012 5:05 PM
1 Comment
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"Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan."

The Huffington Post's Mike Ryan is one lucky bastard. He randomly acquired a pair of tickets to last Friday's game between the New York Mets and the St. Louis Cardinals (and didn't invite me for some reason) and wound up a witness to a once-in-a-lifetime-moment: the first no-hitter in Mets franchise history. The fact that he almost didn't go and was rewarded for his trouble (that lucky bastard) with a tiny piece of immortality (that rightfully belonged to a Mets fan like me), inspired him to write this really nice piece about, of all things, "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" and the reason why we need to keep fighting for the theatrical moviegoing experience. So what does the Mets' first no-no (that I didn't get to see in person) and a movie that is largely about Ricardo Montalban's bare chest have in common? Ryan explains:

"Using a calculation device on the Internet, I have determined that I have lived 13,888 days. Proportionally, I remember very few of those days. Put it this way: ten years from now, I'll never remember today. Sure, if someone says, 'Remember that piece you wrote in which you rambled on and on about the days that you lived when I just wanted to read about movies?,' I may remember... Though, I will never forget June 1, 2012, because I saw a no-hitter in person that evening. Because I allowed myself to have the opportunity to see a no-hitter. Because I didn't take the lazy way out of a social situation, as I am wont to do -- and came disturbingly close to doing on that evening."

Ryan says "Star Trek II" is one of his favorite movies, but he doesn't remember the first time he saw it. Why? Because he saw it at home -- he's not even sure if it was on videotape or cable -- and not in a theater. Meanwhile he vividly remembers seeing a mediocre movie no one cares about called "The Cowboy Way" because he did see it in a theater, where he purchased his tickets behind a pair of actual cowboys.

I know exactly what Ryan's talking about. I don't remember the first time I saw "Ghostbusters" -- one of my favorite movies of all time, with a screenplay I could almost transcribe line for line from memory -- because I watched it on VHS. But I do remember the first time I saw "No Holds Barred" -- a movie in which Hulk Hogan makes a man crap his pants, and the man who craps his pants calls it "dookie" -- because I went to see it at the Amboys Cinemas on a Saturday night with my best friend Marc and his father, and it felt like a really big deal when I was 8 to go to the movie theater on a Saturday night (and also because the word "dookie" is hilarious). I don't remember the first time I saw "Spaceballs" -- the movie I've probably seen more than any other, the movie that inspired the combination on my luggage --- also on video, but I do remember seeing "Rocky V," the "Rocky" that even Sylvester Stallone has trouble defending, at the same Amboys Cinemas, for a neighbor's birthday party. Going to the movie theater, at least as a kid, is a special event. Watching a videotape or a DVD simply isn't.

Then again, maybe it can be. I do have strong memories of watching a few movies on video: I remember the first time I saw "Good Will Hunting" on VHS because that was my second date with my first girlfriend (please don't look up the year "Good Will Hunting" came out to calculate how long it took me to get a girlfriend, thanks). I remember the first time I saw "Citizen Kane" -- right down to the chair at my parents' house that I sat in -- because watching it felt like a bomb going off in my brain. Of course, those were pretty big life events that I would have remembered wherever they took place, just like I'll remember where I was when Santana threw his no-hitter (at my house, listening on the radio, not at Citi Field).

So maybe that's what matters most: personal milestones. Ryan remembers the first movie he saw in the theater, the first time he witnessed guys in cowboy hats buying tickets to a movie about cowboys. I have a pretty bad memory for things that don't involve "Seinfeld" or my own love life but I do remember when and where I saw "Wayne's World" -- the only time in my life I've ever laughed so hard I actually fell out of a chair. Would I remember it so well if I'd watched it at home? Probably not, because I definitely wouldn't have fallen out of my chair (the one at my parents' house was a recliner).

Read more of "Johan Santana's No-Hitter: I Was There, And Here's Why That Makes Me Sad About 'Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.'"

1 Comment

  • bohmer | June 8, 2012 11:08 AMReply

    Maybe we remember the crappy movies we saw in theatre because we only saw it once! My favorite movies 1st timer are somewhat proportionally deluded by the number of viewing. But then again, I remember most of the movies a saw in theatre as well as the venue + seat I occupied at the time! Which make me still go to the theatre these days, being a good reason enough to endure the long list of cons to dismissed theatre going.

    I saw 2001 & The Thin Red Line (two of my all time favorites) on DVD + 14" tv screen for the first time (in the dawn of that format) and remember those viewing vividly.

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