The last movie we saw in an actual movie theater was “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”. Yes, it was way back in 2002. We used to go to the movies every weekend. We had the theater’s movie times phone number memorized. Part of our weekly ritual - before the age of easy internet access and cell phone apps - was to get our pen and big lined pad ready. Then we would dial the number and write down titles and times as fast as we could. We rarely got it all on the first try. So we would quickly eliminate the irrelevant films and call back to listen again; this time focusing on what we were interested in seeing.
Once we settled on a movie we would drive to the theater, park the car and wait in line to buy tickets. We would try to get there early enough to get a good seat - not too close to the screen, not too far away. But as the years went by, the crowds became less polite. We were used the occasional “senior citizen” leaning over and stage whispering “What did he say?” for the whole theater to hear. No problem, all part of the experience.
Nor do I mean the crackling of cellophane candy wrappers or the slurping of sodas. I mean full fledged and amazingly full throated conversations, cell phones ringing followed by one sided dialogues and arguments erupting between patrons.
At the risk of sounding like the cranky old neighbor who yells “You kids get off my lawn!”, I will admit that even though we were then only in our 40s and 50s we did find ourselves muttering “Kids these days!”. When we had to leave a theater because it was completely out of control and negotiate with management for our money back, we knew we were at a tipping point. Gradually our movie theater days dwindled and “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” became our last in-theater cinema experience.
That is, until this afternoon. We went to a matinee showing of “The King’s Speech”. Nothing else in the last eight plus years has pulled us as powerfully to darken the door of a movie theater. We Googled, found Fandango, entered a zip code and poof we had theaters and times. (Kids these days have it easy!) We arrived to find no lines and the $5.75 ticket price had us feeling like we were in a very fiscally pleasant time warp.
Resisting the popcorn, we headed into the designated theater and found that they had improved the seating during our long absence. They reminded me of bucket seats and they could sort of rock and be repositioned. The floors weren’t sticky and littered with popcorn and wrappers. It wasn’t elegant but it was really very nice. There was only one other patron, a woman, seated in the theater. We greeted each other and she admitted as how she was glad we had arrived. She found the idea of sitting all alone in the theater a bit daunting.
“The King’s Speech” was absolutely marvelous! We loved every single minute of it. We applauded at the end! Our theater companion chose not to join in our applause. To each her own. We’re late to this party so you’ve likely seen the trailers, the reviews, the accolades - most recently its tremendous success at the 2011 BAFTAs - and, if you were smart and lucky, the film itself. Wasn’t it fabulous?
I will confess that at first I wanted my DVR or DVD player so I could rewind, pause and, heaven help me, pop on subtitles! But I settled in, as did Chuck and for two hours we were transported back to the first half of the last century. That doesn’t happen in the same intensely immersive way in one’s living room - no matter how nifty the surround sound.
Will we go back? Maybe. If another film as exceptional as “The King’s Speech” is released, we will be there in a heartbeat.