Thursday, January 23, 2014
Riske Business: Movie Crazy
I think we’ve all been there, and I want to hear everyone’s stories. This is a safe place among friends. After sharing, we’re going to take these stories and put them in a box. Then we’re going to close this box and throw it in the ocean. I’ll get us started.
From age 6 to 15, I was a movie exhibitor. I ran Adam’s Movie Theater, and the only people who knew about it were my immediate family. Scratch that. They knew about it for the first two years, but not the subsequent seven.
Adam’s Movie Theater was born out of a love for the movies that was instilled in me from my great uncle Abe and my uncle George, who would talk to me about movies that were well past my frame of reference. I was six and knew all about The Accidental Tourist. At seven, I was the authority in my elementary school on Do the Right Thing. I even used to recommend movies to my developmental teacher (a teacher I went to daily to work through childhood learning disabilities) even though I had not seen the movie. I remember specifically telling her she needed to see The Adventures of Baron Munchausen and described what I knew of the movie in full detail. I even cut out the newspaper ad to give to her as a keepsake. At a parent-teacher conference, my teacher told my parents about my passionate enthusiasm for Munchausen and my parents told her “Adam’s never seen that.”
Ernest Saves Christmas on page 3. I also used to pilfer the Sunday movie section for ads just in case I needed them. Often times, my dad would want to use the fireplace for a fire in the winter and tell me “Theater’s closed; I need to put in firewood.” This wreaked havoc on my holiday box office totals, but I understood. He was the building owner and I was renting the space. Just another reason you should never mix business with family.
Who attended these movies? Just who you’d expect. He-Man, army men (who did not get in for a military discount), Barbie and Ken on a date.
On Thanksgiving weekend 1993, I was ready for the next evolution. Jurassic Park had hit the dollar theater.
I would be remiss to talk about the next stage without telling you that I have always loved the dollar theater. If you were not lucky enough to grow up in an area with dollar theaters, they are theaters that show second-run movies sometimes weeks, often times months after their first release for about $1 or some other low price. I used to be obsessed with a dollar theater about 30 minutes from my childhood home called Barrington Square. It was a simple six-screen theater in a strip mall, but for some reason I romanticized that theater above all others. I was fascinated by the inner workings of the dollar theater. Why would Mrs. Doubtfire take 105 days to get there but Addams Family Values took 56 days? Who decides these things? It gave theatrical exhibition a sense that anything could happen. I used to call Barrington Square early in the week and ask what was going to start showing there on Friday. Then I would get off the phone and think “Oh man, they’re getting Demolition Man and it took 63 days.” I can only imagine the person on the other end of the phone who had to talk to me at age 11 every week.
Riske’s Mandarin Theaters was the Bronze Age -– a true “premium” dollar theater. The era ended when the heat got too hot. It came when my sister’s high school boyfriend found my notebook. He asked me what it was and I said “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” “There’s a notebook with page after page written into it with movies and show times, and it says Riske’s Mandarin Theater at the top of every page,” he said. I looked him in the eye and said “I don’t know what that is.” He eventually dropped it (and my sister dropped him because fuck that guy) and it became clear to me that this needed to stop. And so it did.
Epilogue: I still sometimes look at what’s playing at the dollar theater and think “Huh, Out of the Furnace, 49 days; interesting.” Who decides these things?
Now it’s your turn to share. Don’t hold back! What did you do that was movie crazy?
*Want to see something amazing? Just watch the Cineplex Odeon bumpers that used to run in the 1990s. I would get so excited to be at the movies when I saw these.