Saturday, April 13, 2013
Weekend Weigh-in: What's the Best Moviegoing Experience You've Ever Had?
Maybe it was a great crowd, a first date, or that time you went to see Scooby-Doo because the timing worked out between showings of Jersey Girl and The Ladykillers and the power mercifully went out. Unfortunately, it also came back on.
And before those of you inclined to overshare start in with "My WORST experience..." please take my word for it and hold that thought.
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Many of my best and most memorable moviegoing experiences include going to the Bridgton Twin Drive-In Theater in Bridgton, Maine as a kid (and I still go there when I take trips up that way with my family certain summers, but it can be more difficult nowadays to do so. Curse you, adulthood!). I don't really have a specific experience that stands out among the rest, so I can't really answer the question accurately as far as that is concerned, but that place in general has produced many great memories for me. It's funny that you display a picture of Independence Day, because I do still remember seeing that movie at this location as a 12-year-old in the summer of 1996. Other movies I saw over the years include Men in Black I II and III, The Dark Knight, Funny People, Click, and most recently the Bourne Legacy. There are several more that I'm not coming up with. They weren't always great movies, but I still had fun watching them.ReplyDelete
Man do I wish there were still more drive-ins in the world. It's a shame they're a dying breed, because they can be some of the most enjoyable experiences I can think of, as long as the bugs stay away and the weather cooperates.
Also, I remember seeing Wild Wild West there in the summer of '99. Wow, it's interesting how many Will Smith projects I associate with that place. I guess he's a been a big draw for summer movies over the years, though.Delete
I guess you have to see After Earth there then, huh?Delete
Haha, probably so, Adam! Hmm, I'm conflicted: On one hand, yea, Will Smith!! I have to say I usually enjoy seeing him on screen even if the movie is bad. On the other hand...boo, M. Night Shyamalan. Well, I shouldn't judge until I see it. Perhaps Shyamalan can finally redeem himself this time around. I have my doubts, but maybe.Delete
I'm not kidding when I say I hope After Earth has a twist ending. At least back when Shyamalan was doing those they were interesting in a 'what will the twist be?' kind of way.Delete
Oh, I agree! I don't know if twists alone make a movie repeatedly watchable beyond two or three viewings, but they at least make his movies intriguing to watch a couple times for the reason you mentioned.Delete
Wow, what a great question!ReplyDelete
I have a two-way tie.
1) The first time I ever saw a movie by myself in a theater (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon) which was before a stigma for me but now I am happy that I did it because it allowed me to see hundreds of great movies since then without feeling embarrassed.
2) October 2005 - the first time I went to the Music Box (I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey for the first time in a theater). That experience opened me up to seeing classic, independent and midnight movies in old movie theaters.
I have had the pleasure of seeing The Godfather, To Kill a Mockingbird, Casablanca, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Star Trek 2, The Wizard of Oz, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Gone With the Wind (among other classics) at different points all on the big screen in a theater restored to look exactly as it did in the mid-30s. They were all pretty epic experiences.Delete
I saw a sneak preview of Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones the day before it came out. The comic book store I frequented in 2002 obtained a bunch of tickets somehow, and they gave a bunch out to their customers. The catch was that they gave out more tickets than there were seats in the theater, so we still had to get to the theater nice and early and wait for a while. I remember waiting for about 2 hours outside the theater with the line wrapped all the way around the building, but no one really minded because we were all there for the same thing and we were all so excited. Some people were dressed up, but some weren't. Some people were young and some people were older. That day nothing mattered and there were no differences between us because we were all there for the same thing: to see Star Wars. There wasn't the cynicism that exists now in those days. We'd been a little disappointed with aspects of The Phantom Menace, but we were all so wide eyed and optimistic about where this story was going.ReplyDelete
Once those of us who got there early enough to be let in were in our seats, there was a trivia contest and giveaways. Then, the movies started. I don't think we saw any trailers, I think it just went straight to the Lucasfilm logo and the 20th Century Fox fanfare, and when that shimmering green image came on screen, the entire packed theater broke into the loudest cheer I've ever seen for a movie. It was a group completely united by their love of Star Wars. Throughout the entire movie there was laughter and gasps, and when it was over we all gave a standing ovation.
By the time Episode III came out, that comic book shop was out of business and saw the movie on opening weekend just like every one else. I've never been in an environment of such open appreciation for a movie before, such hungry anticipation. It's the best movie going experience I've ever had.
One that springs immediately to mind is when I went with some friends to see the De Palma film Raising Cain. It's a real treat when everyone in the audience is buying into the movie and what it's about. The whole crowd gasped and laughed with every twist and turn, loving how much De Palma was jerking us around. Just a great experience.ReplyDelete
-ID4 at a sold-out 2:30AM showing on opening day (technically The Day After, hello!?). We were totally into it, laughing/cringing at all the right moments and cheering like madmen when Russell Casse sticks it to the aliens. It's the closest I've come to a first-time "Star Wars" opening day experience.ReplyDelete
-THE AVENGERS twice on opening day (3D IMAX @ 3AM, 2D @ 10PM) and, when the action scenes start (and Hulk kicks butt), feeling me and the entire audience becoming 10-year old kids again.
-JACK THE GIANT KILLER ('62) and BIRDEMIC as part of the RIFFTRAX LIVE banner. The combination of a "MST3K"-loving crowd and the riffers being at the top of their games for these ready-for-send-up two flicks have given me more laughs and fun than every sitcom I've seen in my entire life put together. 'Sorry Mario, but your princess is in another castle.'
-A late 90's midnight showing of Fulci's THE BEYOND by Tarantino's Rolling Thunder label to a crowd that had clearly not seen enough (or any) Italian horror cinema. We didn't see any of it coming, and I don't recall a time an Italian horror flick had fucked with my head and given me such a good time.
-8PM sold-out opening day showing of THE EXORCIST: THE VERSION YOU'VE NEVER SEEN. The spider walk scene comes (and we're all expecting it) but the way that scene ends and the sound were so overwhelming, powerful and fucked-up that the entire theater (as one) screamed! Then a few seconds later the safe clapping/cheers to mask the tension began. Most one-time intense moment in cinemas for me, ever.
-The restored METROPOLIS sitting next to my father at the sold-out last showing in Gotham before the print had to move to another town. It was his first silent B&W classic movie ever, and he was kind-of falling asleep right before a crucial scene that he needed to pay attention to "get" the ending. So I leaned over and bit him in the shoulder... hard! He screamed, everybody turned around to look at us, he stayed awake, enjoyed "Metropolis" and now has a framed poster of it hanging in his home office. :-)
-Mike Leigh's SECRETS & LIES is a moving and very dramatic experience watched alone at home. In a packed theater full of sophisticated New Yorkers back in '96 though we experienced the movie at points like a comedy (not mockingly but totally character-developed pathos that we as a crowd could feel), which resulted in some of the most earned, heartfelt and genuinely bust-a-gut fun stuff from a British working-class film. It's the movie that made me realize how much an audience in a theater can alter one's perception of a film contrasted with the alone-at-home scenario.
-A 70mm 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY week-long run in 2001 by contractual-requirement (Kubrick state arrangement) at the now-gone Astor Plaza theater in Times Square. Last showing of the last day (Thursday) and there's only 7 of us in a 2,000 seat theater. The film starts and, during the first 'ballet in space', the projector turns off. They spent an hour repairing it. The 7 of us talked, ran relay races on the aisles to kill time, etc. When they fixed the projector they could only show "2001" from the beginning (including the 5 min. of black prologue) but nobody complained. So, ending about two hours later than it should have. The faces of the poe'd theater employees that had to stay because we wouldn't take their tickets? Priceless. :-P
-A recent midnight showing of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (before the IMAX re-release) had a busted projector that could only display native-rez, and they were using the DVD version (you could tell) and projecting it at 2:35:1 instead of native 1:85:1 (zoomed in). About 65% of crowd left, but the 35% of us that stayed watched it like that. You know what? Regardless of how badly its shown and projected, "Raiders" really plays. :-)
Oh, yeah! My NEW-TO-ME TRILOGY:Delete
3/10/13: The torture scenes in “Zero Dark Thirty”? Bunch of pussies! Roberto Rossellini’s ROME, OPEN CITY (1945) on DVD.
3/11/13: A Catholic, a Jew and a Protestan walk into a Franciscan monastery… no, really! Rossellini’s amazing PAISAN (1946) on DVD/Hulu Plus.
3/12/13: Think “Grave of the Fireflies” was just too wholesome and childish? You’re scary, and I give you Rossellini’s GERMANY YEAR ZERO (1948) on DVD/Hulu Plus.
CLICK HERE TO READ REVIEWS
NEXT ON TAP: Gore Verbinski’s PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN TRILOGY.
Pre-VCR...re-release of Phantom of the Paradise playing in a real movie theater a few blocks from my house. It was my favorite theater because they sold garlic pickles at the consessions.ReplyDelete
Spent a whole Sunday watching PotP over and over while nibbling on pickles (which didn't matter since I couldn't get anyone to go with me).
The Blair Witch Project. I saw it opening night with two friends of mine, one of whom had already seen it at a festival. What made it extra special was that Roger, the friend who had seen it already, left for a few minutes toward the end, ostensibly to go the men's room. What he really did, though, was put a few small piles of perfectly arranged rocks and sticks around the car of Kristin, the other person we were with. He also tucked a small stick-man into her door handle. She screamed probably the loudest I've ever heard when she saw those rocks around her car, but the stick-man in the door was the deal-breaker. She swung around and accidentally (at least she swore it was an accident) smacked Roger square in the face with her purse. They started dating not long after that. Now they're married for going on 12 years and she still hasn't forgiven him for how scared she was driving home alone that night. The movie scared the hell out of me, too (and a lot of it still holds up, I think, but it's definitely lost some magic over the years). It was great hearing the crowd in the fully packed theater engage with the movie and that scream afterward sealed the deal. Even today when I go to see a horror movie theatrically, I hope that someone in the crowd is planning to be as mean to their future spouse as Roger was, I just hope whoever it is is carrying something less heavy than Kristin's purse.ReplyDelete
That's one of the funniest things I've ever read. My BWP story was seeing it in a Portland (OR) movie theater so run down the exit lights were broken and then taking a wrong turn on the way back to the hotel and briefly getting lost in the woods outside of Portland around midnight. No, seriously.Delete
Oh, man. I'd have been scared out of my mind if I got lost in the woods directly after seeing Blair Witch for the first time. Yikes!Delete
I had a memorable experience too with Blair Witch. It's one of the two movies (Texas Chainshaw, original being the other) that kept me up the entire night after I saw it. I was so creeped out by that movie.Delete
We'll leave out things like theatrical viewings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, because that's something completely different and of it's own.ReplyDelete
When I saw Kung-Fu Panda 2, I hadn't seen a movie I really liked in the theater in some time. I'd hit a bad patch of movies where I just wasn't enjoying what Hollywood was showing me. I was very done with the cynical, dark, the ultra self aware and the just plain loud noises and flashy/hollow CGI that I'd been exposed to in theaters for a while. Put simply, I had resorted to sitting quietly in my office, watching old black and white movies on my computer and crying softly to myself.
I can't even remember how my wife got me to watch the first Kung Fu Panda, but we did and it was really neat. Maybe not everyone loves it, but I really got into it and I found it enjoyable. As a result, we where there on opening night with a crowd of kids and parents who all seemed to be enjoying the movie as much as I was.
When the climax of the movie comes, and Po throws the massive fireball at the boat, the screen went black, and it seemed like it was part of the movie. However, then the dialogue went on for about half a minute before it suddenly cut off as well.
A moment later, someone came into the theater and announced that there had been a power outage and that they were on generators and as soon as the power came back on they'd start the movie again. A couple of minutes later, the lights dimmed and we got to the movie. Only they went back maybe ten minutes so we basically got to watch the entire climax of the movie again.
Again, the entire audience was gripped and really got into the moment and I think the same little kid cheered when Stan Bush started signing, Po opened the Autobox Matrix and Peter Cullen's voice cut in to say "Arise Po-imus Prime!" So yeah, it was like having one of the little kids say "Play it again" and the theater listened.
And that broke the bad streak.
After that, I liked what I was seeing on the screen again. Granted, it was easy to like Thor and Captain America, which were the next two movies we saw.
There might be better moments, but that's the one that always sticks out when people ask lately.
2001 in 70mm at Ebertfest (RIP, Roger)ReplyDelete
This is an impossible question to answer BUT.... I do remember a particularly fun movie experience from 1983. It was the day I was released after spending 10 days in the hospital and learning, at 19, that the reason I'd been feeling so lousy the past few months was because I had cancer. I left the hospital with a nine-inch red scar down my belly. All I wanted to do was go to the movies, and I can't believe my mom let me because I could barely walk. My BF and I grabbed hot dogs and fries on the way to the theatre (my first meal in a week). The movie? Oh, sweet irony... it was Monty Python's The Meaning of Life.ReplyDelete
I laughed. So. Hard. And by "laughed" I mean, I wheezed with pain and grabbed my stomach for an hour and 40 minutes straight. It was fantastic -- I didn't want to be anywhere else but there in the dark theatre full of people laughing at that crazy, hilarious movie, literally busting a gut and thinking what a lucky little punk I was. I still love that movie!
By any chance, was JB the boyfriend? Just wondering! ;-) Nice story Jan. As a cancer survivor the 'upchuck' scene in "Meaning of Life" must have been particularly hilarious in a 'I know how that feels' kind-of way.Delete
Oddly enough, I was at that screening. I was not yet the boyfriend...Delete
Seeing Jaws in 70mm at the AFI Silver theater. (My home base)ReplyDelete
As an extra bonus the AFI's print was a expanded version of the film including a scene where Quint is buying piano wire for use in the hunt. I had never seen that version before or in any home media release since.
Mine's gotta be the midnight showing of The Dark Knight. The entire theater was in awe over what was unfolding in front of our eyes, and Nolan and his team do such an incredible job of keeping things under wraps and spoiler-free before the movie comes out that when the shocking moments happened in that movie, they hit hard. When the movie ended everyone was speechless for a minute, then the entire crowd erupted in applause. So much fun!ReplyDelete
A close second was the Grindhouse midnight release for all the same reasons. Such a damn good time.
After thinking about it for a while I realized the most unique and memorable moviegoing experience I ever had was when I was 10 and went to go see King Ralph. I will give you all a few moments to roll your eyeballsReplyDelete
Everyone good? Let me explain. When I was 10 I had absolutely no filter as to what was good or bad, if it was advertised on tv and had pretty colors and a narrator saying "Its the funniest movie of the summer" I was there. So I go to see King Ralph and as my sister and I say "2 for King Ralph" two ladies (who in my memory were very hot) come out and declare me and my sister king and queen of the day. We are given free tickets to King Ralph, free tickets for Burger King's kid meals, and our own special crowns, we were royalty!
So after all this I came out of the theatre going "Yeah King Ralph was awesome!" Alas Ralph has not aged well but it was a great experience and one I will definitely not forget. As for adult experiences I would say Dark Knight at a midnight screening opening weekend, you could feel the energy coarsing through the theatre and my fav moment there was at the beginning of the movie someone screamed "Yeah Batman wooo" like a douche and someone in the theatre screams "Shut the F up" and they did and nobody else was a douche the rest of the movie.
Also the Rifftrax of Birdemic in theatres was awesome Vargas, I really hope they get the rights to do Twilight in theatres this summer like they are planning.
I liked Birdemic Live. But I thought the Manos Live show was the best.Delete
My only worry with the Twilight showing is that some Twi-Tards might show up thinking it's a straight showing of the movie and disrupt things. They creep me out.
I'm with you on Dark Knight. I went to the midnight show but sat in the theater from 9pm onward. The funny thing was the energy in the theater was so awesome that it didn't feel like a chore waiting that long.ReplyDelete
I went to see Hostel opening night with my older brother. I was in 7th grade at the time. They were checking IDs and tickets at the door and my brother wasn't yet 21. Some tall guy with a mohawk overheard us talking and offered to get me in. The theater was packed to its limit. As I walked in everyone shouted profanities at me. I didn't let it ruin my experience though, it was great!ReplyDelete
Seeing The Dark Knight/Get Smart with my then girlfriend/now wife at the local drive-in before it closed down. It was magical.ReplyDelete