A few days ago, I subjected myself to an activity that modern technology has allowed me to avoid for the most part for the past ten years-a family trip to the movies. Why people would willingly suffer this indignity on a regular basis when they can enjoy the same experience (minus the inconvenience, irritation and astronomical expense) at home escapes me. I think we are all wired in some way with an innate desire to experience the entertainment of magnified, electronic images displayed on an enormous screen, accompanied by sound at earsplitting volumes. We all remember as children being warned by our parents not to sit too close to the television set or our brains would melt and leak out of our ears into the bowls of Cap’n Crunch balanced in our laps. (Man, that stuff is delicious-even an hour after you eat it and are still picking it out of your teeth.) Sitting with our noses pressed against the t.v. screen was simply our way of satisfying the need to be inundated with electronic imagery and noise that could only be otherwise found at a movie theater. Shirley Hemphill just belonged on the big screen, and if she couldn’t be found at the movie theater, I could at least simulate the effect at home.
Today, though, there simply is no reason to leave the comfort of my living room (or put on pants) to experience a big screen and high definition sound. Most of us have television sets today the size of our garage doors, and the sound they are capable of producing is surely satisfactorily damaging our eardrums. So why go to the movies? I asked myself that very question as I reached the cashier and arranged a payment plan so that my family of five could at least see a movie before we were forced to move into a tent and eat Vienna Sausages for the rest of our lives.
After putting my three children up as collateral to pay for our tickets, I was then guilted into standing in line to purchase refreshments. Our movie was to begin in ten minutes, and the line in which we were standing was like the line for the new Xbox the night before Black Friday. (I think there were actually people camping out.) Standing in line gave us plenty of time to peruse the selection and the prices. After failing to convince my kids that a cup of water from the restroom sink and a couple of old peppermints in the bottom of my wife’s purse would be a great movie snack (the hair stuck to the peppermints was probably hers, anyway), I found myself paying $45.00 for three sodas, a cup of partly-frozen blue sugar, and three small boxes of candy (because we’re healthy like that).
Once we finally made it to the theater for the first half hour of movie trailers, I was reminded that the staggering cost wasn’t the only reason I dreaded going to the movies. The first irritation came in the form of a middle-aged gentlemen sitting in front of me to the left. The light from his cellphone was at the precise angle and brightness to burn a hole in my left retina. Apparently, he had paid the $12 bucks for the movie ticket for a really dark place to watch YouTube videos of cats whose “meows” sound like words. (There’s actually a cat that can say, “no, no, no, no, no.” It’s hilarious-at least a lot more hilarious than this so-called comedy I was paying to see.)
Next, I was treated to a two-hour commentary by a toddler behind me to the right. My wife had taken two of my daughters to see The Secret Life of Pets, and my older daughter and I opted for the more serious and mature remake of Ghostbusters. Clearly, Ghostbusters is not a film designed for toddlers, but this didn’t seem to bother his parents, whose other three small children managed to fall asleep from exhaustion after an hour of bickering and crying. The toddler, however, insisted on repeating every line of dialog (profanity included), after which he would ask, “What did she/he say?” Oh, well, at least I had the cat videos to distract me.
Despite all of this, I must admit that I did enjoy spending time with my eldest child and sharing the experience of going to the movies with her. Neither the toddler nor the cellphone seemed to bother her a bit as she sat ruining her braces with the Cookie Dough Bites and that semi-frozen blue goo she was drinking. She even shared some with me. I only wish she could have lived in the more innocent years of my childhood, when a trip to the movies was no match for sitting eleven inches from the t.v. cabinet with a bowl of Cap’n Crunch and “Big Shirl” to keep me company.