Friday, July 23, 2021

My Most Memorable Theater Experiences

I've done it! Despite my best efforts on several occasions, I managed to keep waking up for fifty consecutive years, as of last weekend if you're reading this the day it posts. Naturally, it's got me feeling a little reflective. Since this is a movie blog, I wanted a way to bring cinema into this moment. Well, I've been going to movie theaters for all of that life. A lot of those trips run together, but some stand out, for reasons good and bad. I decided to share some on this breezy stroll down memory lane. I hope you enjoy it with me.

Superman: The Movie
Age 7

When Mama Dell took me to see this one, it was automatically going to be a winner. I was seven years old going to see Superman. I'm not sure what day or time we went to, but I distinctly remember there were only three other people in the theater besides us. It felt like we were watching at home with a few friends over to see our giant TV. This was especially impressive in the era when the 27" television was king. When we got home that night, I pulled out a yellow legal pad and tried to rewrite the script of the movie from memory. I'm not sure how well I did, but fully acknowledge that's a delightfully odd thing for a child to do.

The Empire Strikes Back

Age 9

I did see the original Star Wars in theaters. What I remember more about that movie, however, was watching it on HBO about a thousand times in the mid-80s. For this one, we went opening weekend and it's all about that one moment. Nowadays, it would be leaked and debated on social media for months leading up to the movie's release, or even worse, it would be in the trailer. I had no idea what to expect when I walked into the theater and it's the way I prefer to see movies. I mean, I can proudly say I was among the first wave of human beings to have their head explode when Darth Vader uttered the words, "No. I am your father." 

Silent Rage

Age 11

This is the first of only two Chuck Norris movies that I've seen on the big screen. That's not what makes it memorable. It's one of the first movies where I saw boobies on the big screen. That not quite what makes it memorable, either. What does it was my grandmother's reaction to the boobies. Reaction is the key word. Whenever a pair popped out she would hurriedly reach over and cover my eyes with her hands. Hilariously, her fingers weren't all together, so I could still see them, anyway. 

Eddie Murphy Raw

Age 16

Not only was Mama Dell really lenient with what I was watching, movie theaters weren't all that strict back then, either. Sure you were supposed to be 17 to go see an R-rated movie without an adult, but no one ever checked IDs. Therefore it was no problem for me and my best friend and my girlfriend to go to the movies and see this Eddie Murphy stand-up concert flick. I was sitting between them. Everything was going along just fine and we were yukking it up. Eddie gets into the relationship part of his show and drops this gem, "Imagine your best friend fucking your girl." Soooooo awkward. 

Pet Sematary

Age 18

This is one of the last movies I went to with Mama Dell before shipping out for the army. I really love this movie and there's one moment I will never forget. It instantly replays in my head whenever I rewatch it. It's when Gage, the main character's really young son (about 3 or 4 years old), goes into the road with a huge semi bearing down on him. I leaned forward in my seat and felt the entire theater simultaneously do the same thing. This is the most unforced synergy I've ever experienced.  


Age 18

I had been looking forward to this movie for over a year. The posters were up everywhere. I walked by them on my way to school, in the subway, on the bus, and anywhere else there was advertising. Everyone else was looking forward to it, too. My girlfriend and I got there fairly early. This was in New York and a few celebrities starting strolling in. Dr. Dre, not THAT Dr. Dre, the other one - the one from Yo! MTV Raps came in, with his co-host Ed Lover, no less, and sat a few rows in front of me. Then New York Knick (current NBA analyst on ABC) Mark Jackson and his wife Desiree Coleman strolled right by us. She was in a Broadway play at the time. There was lots of shmoozing going on before the show. It quieted down once the movie started. People were even paying attention to the opening credits. The names Tim Burton, Jack Nicholson, and Michael Keaton passed quietly. A cheer erupted when the words "Music by Prince." appeared on the screen. Another cheer erupted a few minutes later when the film properly started and Keaton uttered the now iconic phrase, "I'm Batman!" Two hours later, the film ended to a round of applause.


Age 24

I had another celebrity sighting, this time in Durham, North Carolina. Grant Hill had just recently won the Rookie of the Year award in the NBA and was back in Durham where he went to college, with some of his guys. He sat right across the aisle from me. I didn't say anything to him, but I could tell news spread through the multiplex that he was there. Before the show started, random girls kept coming into our theater, pointing and giggling. Strangely, none actually approached him. After the movie, my date and I walked out ahead of him. Just ahead of him. We could feel the throng of people gathering and following behind him. We quickly got to my car and pulled out while noticing that he was getting into the vehicle right next to ours. I'm not sure if he was able to get out of there in a decent amount of time or not. We escaped and never looked back. However, that was not the most memorable part of all this. As it turns out, my date that night was the future, and still, Mrs. Dell, and this was our first date.

The Dark Knight Rises

Age 41

I went to see this all alone on its opening weekend in North Carolina, I forget why, but I promised to take my family with me the following weekend. Between those two events, a gunman strolled into a theater in Colorado showing the same movie and opened fire. Of course, this was all over the news and my whole clan was aware. Determined not to let the terrorists win, we decided to carry on with our plan and go see it together. It was so crowded my wife and son had to sit on a separate row from my daughters and I. They were 10 and 12 at the time. We were closer to the exits. With the news in the back of all of our heads, my eyes continuously darted back and forth between the doors and the screen. The girls, seated on either side of me, leaned into me and held on tighter than they ever have for the entire film.

Sorry to Bother You

Age 47

My youngest daughter and I went to see this one together. By this time, she was 16 and frequently made trips to the theater with me. This movie is an odd duck that most people don't get the first time. Even if you do, it gives you plenty of food for thought. And it's a dark comedy. That last part is lost on most. How do I know? The theater we were in was about half full. Several times, something happened on screen and the entire theater was dead silent except for me laughing my ass off. My fellow patrons probably thought I was off my rocker because I get several confused looks from people in the row with us and in front of us. I then laughed at them and others on the way out because the sheer befuddlement on all their faces cracked me up to no end.

I have some more memorable theater experiences. However, I'm going to save them for another post. I hope you enjoyed my little self indulgent nostalgia trip.


  1. Happy 50th birthday. I hope whatever film you see for your 50th birthday. It's a fucking good one. Grant Hill and Doctor Dre. That is awesome.

    1. I thought it was awesome. I actually left out part that I'm going to correct. Ed Lover wad with Dre.

  2. Happy belated birthday! This was so much fun to read. I'm glad you have these memories. I love that you and Mrs. Dell's first date was Species. How were people NOT laughing at Sorry To Bother You? That film was great. I hate that awkward feeling where you're the only one in the theater laughing. Been there lol

    1. Thanks! It was a bit weird. I would laugh & immediately think, "What about this aren't they getting?"

  3. Happy Birthday! What a beautiful post to read. Streaming might have a whole heap of benefits but nothing will beat the theater experience. I love that you have (or had!) regular trips with your daughter, I hope to have that with my own little girl in the future!

    1. Thanks! Yeah, streaming is convenient, but doesn't hold a candle to the theater experience.

  4. I knew there was a reason that you and I were simpatico on a lot of movies. Turns out that it's likely because I'm just a couple of years older than you (54 in October), so you and I have a lot of similar movie experiences.

    For me, The Thing and Raider of the Lost Ark are the two most memorable theater experiences I have, and there's a reason that both of those rank in my list of favorite movies.

    1. Yeah, I'm sure we saw a lot of the same movies in theaters as kids. That said, I did not see The Thing at all until maybe 10 or 15 years ago. As for Raiders, I actually talked about that theater experience before, but I will most certainly bring it up when I bring this topic back (maybe) in a few weeks.

  5. Happy belated birthday, hope you have many more!
    This was such a great post to read. It made me think back of my first cinema experiences and the best and worst times I've had watching movies. Empire Strikes Back really stands out for me. I can't imagine that feeling of hearing those words for the first time with no prior knowledge. That's something definitely missing from modern cinema. My first cinema experience was quite delayed in life (seeing how much I love movies). I was 12 and BEGGED my mother to let me see Spider-Man. It's an experience that I'll never forget and that movie and that version of Spider-Man will stick with me forever.

    Here's hoping you have plenty more cinema experiences and healthy years ahead.