Memories of the Ellen Theater (and any theater lately)

By JUDSON GILBERT 03/08/2021

This is a first for me. First website, first blog, first real attempt at Twitter, etc. (@poorcritic) I’ve always been a creative person (If I do say so…).  And I’ve always been the kind of person who, thanks to my mother, enjoyed going out to a show!  Movie theaters were the most common, but concerts were mixed in there too.  I have very fond memories of attending Gandhi as a 10-year-old in 1982 (skip the math).  I remember this film, starring Oscar winner Ben Kingsley, because it was soooooo long that it had an intermission.  Back in those days, a 3-hour movie was rare because the projector reels couldn’t fit that much film. Digital projectors have changed that forever, and not necessarily for the best.  Who wouldn’t like to stretch their legs and get another bucket?

Who remembers the summer movie series back in grade school?  At the end of school each year they would sell a 10 pack of tickets.  Each pack let you tear off the ticket at the perforation.  These were an absolute JOY!!!  Every Wednesday another film was shown.  I can remember only one of them well: Pippi Longstocking. But certainly, The Muppet Movie, The Dark Crystal, Six Pack, and The Secret of Nimh were mixed into some of those summers as well.  With great fondness I recently watched The Muppet Movie with my two youngest children.  Pure joy indeed as my daughter learned all the words to The Rainbow Connection.

But seriously, the closure of movie theaters is killing me.  The greatest wound that COVID inflicts upon me is the inability to get sweaty next to another superfan at a Rob Zombie show or hang out with a slightly boozy smelling fellow Parrothead at a Jimmy Buffett concert.  And I’m desperate to see Top Gun: Maverick, and James Bond in No Time to Die.  Sadly, with COVID, it really is no time to die.  What an awful way to go. Add the fact that winter is not over, and my soul is crying out for an escape from reality that movie theaters offer.  But most of them are still closed as some states remove mask restrictions.

My mother introduced me to James Bond films with Moonraker in 1979.  I was hooked.  In fact, this may even be the origin of my fascination with NASA and the Space Shuttle program.  She and I saw almost every Bond film together up through Quantum of Solace in 2008. It was like a Thanksgiving tradition.  She passed away in 2011, so my wife continued the tradition with Skyfall and Spectre.  We mark time and events around the entertainments in our lives, which means 2020 will hopefully be easy to forget.  Especially since it has become the year we did nothing.  There won’t be anything fun to associate the memories with.

But I believe we need movies more than ever for the escape they do provide.  Thankfully we have so many options for streaming so we can see so many great older movies, and so many new ones too.  Theaters need to figure things out though.  Hire the people, create the cleaning and distancing protocols, and start selling tickets.  Figure it out already!  If restaurants can do it so can theaters.  I think Hollywood can help with this.  RELEASE ALL THE GREAT MOVIES YOU ARE HOLDING!  If you release it the people will come and we will all figure out how to do it together, just like everything else this year. It’s time.

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