Sunday, May 30, 2010

Moviegoing Then and Now

We actually went to a movie in a theater tonight.  We saw “City Island”, my kind of movie.  No violence and a happy ending.  As I was waiting for the movie to start, I couldn’t help thinking how movie going has changed since I was a kid.
Growing up in a small town in the Florida panhandle, there was just one movie theater, not counting the 3 drive-in theaters.  On Saturdays we went to the Martin Theater, where the ticket cost a quarter and popcorn and a Coke were each a dime.   I can vividly remember taking kids I was babysitting for on the bus to the movies.  It was a small town where nothing much bad ever happened.
Before the movie was shown, there was always a cartoon, the newsreel, and a couple of previews.  It was an all-white audience.  I remember well seeing movies like Goldfinger and Gidget Goes Hawaiian in that old theater.  
Today the Martin Theater is no more and instead the town’s theaters are mostly in shopping malls.
For tonight’s movie in the Virginia suburbs, we ordered our $10 tickets ahead of time with Fandango.  We went into one of 6 “digital screening rooms” with stadium seating.  We brought our own water.  We sat in seats that rocked and had a beverage holder in the armrest.  Even before the previews, there was First Look, basically a series of ads for TV shows, products like Coke and KIA cars, and even an invitation to give blood.  There was a fairly clever admonishment to turn off cell phones.  There were four previews.  There was no cartoon.  There was no roaring lion of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.  Then the movie started and there was no difference from the Martin Theater other than than the projector never malfunctioned.
For the most part, our movie-going is supplied by Netflix in the comfort of our family room.  But occasionally we go to an actual theater.  The whole experience has changed a lot in the last 50 years.


Blogger Cyndy said...

City Island is a delightful movie, isn't it? That's my kind of movie too, or least one of my kind of movies.

I was thinking about a lot of the same things you were tonight while we were waiting for "Carnal Knowledge" to start at the AFI. I was a little too young to be allowed into such a "risque" movie when it first came out, but I remember it being quite a sensation with the older kids in the neighborhood. So I finally saw it tonight, at the exact same theater (only fancier)that I used to go to fairly often as a teenager. I'm so glad they decided to restore the Silver Theater and make it the new home of the AFI. I go there a lot.

12:44 AM  
Blogger Pauline said...

When I was a child, there were two movie theaters, each seven miles in opposite directions from the town I lived in. Old Yeller was the first movie I ever saw in a theater. I do remember piling into cars as teens to get into the drive-in for a $1 a car load. Now one of those movie theaters hosts stage performances only, the other is a dinner theater combo and the drive-in is a lumber yard. I can't recall the last time I saw the inside of a movie theater!

6:06 AM  
Blogger Russell said...

Enjoyed this post very much. I am still a big fan of the small town, stand alone movie theatre.

Out here in Iowa we still have many such theatres but the large, multi-plex theatres have pretty much taken over.

I miss the cartoons before a movie! And the idea of paying so much money to watch ads before a movie is .... well, interesting.

In many ways the movie going experience is better than it ever was, but nothing beats the old movie house with a single screen!

Take care.

7:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Someone told me the Martin Theater did not have an all white audience. It just felt like it because we only saw white people. The Black audience used an outside entrance to go up to the balcony.


8:28 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

FL -- You know I had written that in this post and then I deleted it because I couldn't imagine it was true. And so it was! What a town we lived in where you couldn't even sit next to someone who looked the same as you when the lights were off. I wonder where the black people bought their tickets? Certainly not out front with the rest of us.

Did you go to the movies on Saturdays sometimes?

8:35 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

I also remember my friend Phyllis W finding a dollar out in front of the theater one Saturday. There was some discussion of what she should do with it, especially from those of us who saw it as 2 weeks of allowance. She kept it and probably bought went shopping at Woolworth's after the movie.

8:39 AM  
Blogger Merle Sneed said...

The movie theater of our youth was done in by the greed of Hollywood. Operators were squeezed by the movie companies and the only profit they can make is on refreshments. Hello $5 popcorn.

Now they are under siege from technology. I'm with you on Netflix, though.

11:39 AM  
Blogger Kristin said...

We had one of the big, old, red velvety theaters when I was growing up in smalltown Ohio in the 70s and 80s. It charged $2 per person with discounted tickets at $1 on Tuesday nights and for kids every night.

They stopped showing movies in the late 80s. We had to drive to another town (about a half hour away) to see films after that or borrow videos from the library.

7:45 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

I haven't seen "City Island." I'll have to check it out!

I gotta say, modern theaters are much more comfortable. But I resent paying money to watch commercials, and I'm always shocked at how expensive movies have become. I rely on Netflix these days, too, except for films I want to see right away.

7:37 AM  

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