Film & Water #101 – Tales From The Movie Theater



By popular demand, David "Ace" Gutierrez is back to talk movies with Rob, this time focusing on their experiences--good and bad--seeing them as they were meant to be seen: in the movie theater!

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29 responses to “Film & Water #101 – Tales From The Movie Theater

  1. Great show!

    As a lifelong movie goer and as someone who worked in a theater from 1986-1993, I have plenty of stories about the theater experience. I felt like I could add to every part of the discussion of this show. So this might be a long comment. Trust me, this is the truncated list.

    My earliest movie memory is of The Strongest Man In The World, one of the Kurt Russell Disney movies. I loved it. Like David, I definitely think my Dad is the coolest guy who taught me to love movies. One of my best early memories is seeing the DeLaurentis King Kong in The Ocean State Theater in Rhode Island, a classic old super-ornate goldleafed cinema (it now is the Providence Performing Arts Center). We sat in the balcony!!

    I also remember that my Dad really wanted to see Close Encounters of the Third Kind. We went to the theater (I must have been 7 or 8) only to be told the movie was sold out. My Dad bought us tickets for a Benji movie but instead we walked into Close Encounters!!! My dad is a ‘by the book’ guy but his bending the rules was such an awesome thing. We had to sit apart because the place was mobbed. His trusting me to sit alone was also a big deal!

    You talk about being in a theater filled with ‘your people’. I went to the midnight show the first night that directors cut of Blade Runner was released. I brought my wife (then girlfriend). I had talked about it a ton (back when she acted like she was interested). When the ‘unicorn scene’ happened, the place erupted in cheers. These were my people!!

    I have a soft spot for Sleepwalkers. Machen Amick!!!

    But there are two movies that I was watching where the theater was openly talking.
    The first was ‘The People Under The Stairs’. This was when the name Wes Craven meant brutal slash horror. This movie was so ridiculous. In the middle people started chuckling and openly mocking, like a cinema full version of MST3K.

    The second was I went to see Akira when it was brought to the state, showing at a little art house. As the ending became more and more inscrutable, one guy just kept saying ‘what the F?’ louder and louder. Finally, when the credits rolled after a bizarre ending, spurred by that guy half the theater said ‘What the F!!!’

    I also saw The Transformers movie in the theater. I was in high school. I went with a buddy who also liked the TV show. The place was filled with 8 yr old boys and us. It was then I think we realized why we didn’t have girlfriends.

    Lastly, I saw one movie without knowing anything about it … The 13th Warrior. I was in the middle of my residency. The clinic I was supposed to work at in the afternoon actually had no patients scheduled. So I had an unanticipated afternoon off. I drove right to a theater, looked at the posters and picked that. It is one of those awesome bad movies, Vikings (joined by an Arab) fighting a tribe of cultish Norse cannibals. Apparently, the movie was so bad that Omar Sharif (in a small role) quit making movies. I was the only one in the theater (bonus). Because who would see this at 1pm on a Tuesday. I love that movie. I would have never seen it had it not been for a scheduling snafu.

  2. I don’t normally do this, but I’m writing while I’m in the middle of the episode. First off, I love that you guys did this episode! There really is something special about going to the theatre and watching a movie. Completely agree with David in that I miss the sound of a projector. It’s not essential, but you do miss it once it’s gone.

    But once you guys started talking about people pulling out their cell phones in theatres, you bet your ass I had to comment on it because that drives me up the wall when I go to the movies! I remember a couple of years ago going to see Krampus opening night. Now I could kind of deal with the group of teenagers sitting behind me who CLEARLY snuck in. I could even deal with the couple all the way in front who brought their baby with them. What drove me crazy was this lady sitting two seats to my left who was on her phone the entire time. And it’s not just the light from the screen drawing my eye, it was the blinking light notification that went off every five seconds when she got a text!

    When I go to see a movie, I turn my Bluetooth headphones off (because there’s a blinking light on the side when it’s on) and I turn my phone OFF! I live in Manhattan and believe you me, ticket prices ain’t getting lower, so when I pay my money to see a movie, I’m gonna watch the movie in peace. Sadly, people don’t have that kind of respect anymore. And when theatres encourage you to take selfies and hashtag the theatre to show you were there, it encourages people to be on their phones because they’re like “Okay, the theatre said it was okay”

    Trust me, I actually have some good theatre experiences, but yea, had to get this one out lol I’ll continue listening to the episode now.

  3. Great show fellas. So many memories brought up by your discussion. I’ve often mentioned that Superman: The Movie was the first movie I remember seeing in a theater, but around the same time (maybe for the summer re-release the next year), my sister and her friend took me to see Grease. I don’t remember much about watching the movie, but I do recall the seat folding up with me, and my bucket of popcorn flying backwards, covering the rows behind me with corn and butter.

    Our local theater was pretty lax with “carding” kids. Just a few months after watching Transformers: The Movie (which blew our ever loving minds), my friends and I just walked right into the R-rated Predator, with no parents in sight. And we had pop cans and sandwiches from the local gas station under our coats to boot!

    I was said to hear David say kids at his Superman screening were bored. My kids grew up on the movie, so Dani had no problem with it, and I didn’t see anyone fidgeting at our screening a few years back either. We started taking our kids to the movies EARLY, so they’ve always been great about sitting still and actually WATCHING THE MOVIE. Parents mileage may vary, but just start them early. Maybe not with The Omen, but still…;-)

    I remember my dad taking me to see Crocodile Dundee. Dad wasn’t much of a moviegoer. We’d go see the Star Trek films, and that was about it. But with Dundee, we both got squirmy when Linda Kowalzki showed up in her bikini or whatever revealing top she had on that left much to the imagination. Awkward.

    At first I wasn’t sure I liked the pre-seating process, but having stood in line for Spider-Man: Homecoming to get a seat, despite having already BOUGHT the ticket online, I now think I’ll stick only to those who let you pick beforehand.

    Luckily, my encounters with cell phones at movies have been negligible. I did have a loud mother once bring in a case of pops and bags upon bags of chips into some animated film Cindy and I were watching. And then there’s the folks who brought their infant to Logan. Sheesh!

    Again, great show fellas, keep ’em coming, and just let me know when you get around to the Ernest festival.


    1. Franklin, not sure how old your kids are, but I have a feeling they might have just missed the age of when everything started looking like a video game. These kids were “soooo bored” around me. Might have been because they didn’t want to go to begin with and were dragged by their parents.

        1. Soda pops. Cola. We just call it “pop” around here.

          But the “Mystery of the Missing Kelly” sounds like a job for the Scooby Gang…or maybe a lesser group like The Clue Club.

  4. Another fun and meandering story-telling episode, gentlemen. I also make a point of sitting through the closing credits out of respect for the people who made the movie, which took a while for my wife to learn to accept. The one exception I make to that practice is when I’m watching the last movie showing that night. If no one else hangs around to watch the credits, then I’ll sometimes leave early out of respect for the people who have to clean up and close the theater. I suppose I’d also make an exception if the theater were on fire.

    Fun Fact: The word meander comes from the Meander (or Maeander) River in southwest Turkey. The river is famous for its winding course, and is mentioned in Homer’s Illiad. I learned that earlier this week on PBS.

  5. Great episode that brought back a ton of memories similar to what you guys experienced in the 70s and 80s. Also…it’s nice to see Rob softening to the Transformers! It’s not just me right? Can’t wait to hear him cover the animated film.

  6. Rob, I can almost top your ‘Hateful Eight’ experience. I also went to see the movie in 70mm. There were a ton of guys on the theater who looked like Duck Dynasty characters. Every time the n-word was said or Daisy got hit they would laugh uproariously. Very off putting

  7. I’ve also seen a surge in movie theatres that serve food and booze. I’ve been to the Nitehawk Cinema in Brooklyn. While they show a lot of art house movies, they also show older movies on the weekends whether it’s at midnight or an early brunch showing. I’ve seen Big Trouble in Little China, Transformers the Movie, Top Secret, Wayne’s World (and Kurt Fuller was in the audience) and I also got to see two of my favorite movies on the big screen: The Neverending Story and Die Hard. I like the idea of ordering and eating food while you watch a movie you love…and the booze ain’t bad either, but I also like the atmosphere. Much like the Drafthouse, no one’s really on their phones and if someone is talking they enforce their rules.

    Sadly, I haven’t gone in a while because I’ve recently moved into my first apartment and money is tight, but I would give anything to see Superman: The Movie or Streets of Fire on the big screen.

    It’s strange wanting to see a movie you’ve already seen before, but seeing it for the first time on the big screen with a crowd has a magical quality. And that’s what going to the theatre is supposed to be. Rather than people being on their phones or some jerkoff wanting to make it their own person episode of Mystery Science Theatre 3000, it’s supposed to be about sitting down to enjoy something with an audience.

  8. This episode was a lot of fun to listen to Rob and David! While I am hard-pressed to remember the first movie I saw in the theaters, the infamous story is that Star Wars was the last film my mother saw before she gave birth to me. So that always served as the explanation of why I loved Star Wars so much as a kid. I remember seeing Star Wars and Empire a lot as a kid. I don’t know if the theater I saw these in is still around, but I have vague memories of either Sunnyvale, San Jose or Palo Alto.

    I think once 1982 rolls around my memory gets a lot better, Tron, Firefox, Star Trek II, Blade Runner, Creepshow, The Dark Crystal and E.T. all come to mind. When Return of the Jedi came out in 1983, I remember my Mom trying to keep my high expectations down, saying “I’m not sure we’ll get the tickets for opening night, it might sell out.” But my Dad was able to get the tickets for opening night and I remember how great it was that all these (I guess) actors were dressed up as Star Wars characters for the opening. They were in Star Wars era costumes, but I still loved it. Chewbacca, Darth Vader, Stormtroopers and Han and Leia. I remember all of us kids felt like we were Luke Skywalker b/c the actor dressed up as Han would come by and call you “kid.” That theater is now a 24 hour fitness by the way.

    That same theater is where we waited in a long line to get tickets to see Batman ’89 on the opening day. My mom was actually able to walk all the way to the Burger King and get me and my pal food while we waited (probably a two block walk and back). Like Michael Bailey and what was mentioned on the podcast, I too, devoured the novelization, prior to watching the film. I had this weird concept of Michael Keaton swinging on Batlines in a Ski-Mask after getting shot by the Joker, that was of course only visualized in my head rather than in the film based on some excerpts that never made it to the final film.

    Believe it or not, even though I begged to be taken to Transformers the Movie, I would only first see the film on VHS. It was promised we would go “next month”, but the films from Sunbow really did abysmally at the box office. Transformers was out of the theaters in about 3 weeks, So by the time the month was up, it was long gone. The powers that be always said they should have released GI Joe the Movie theatrically first. However, the way they went was with the weakest box office draws first. My Little Pony, then Transformers and then it would have been GI Joe, but by that point, GI Joe only got a television release and also on home video. That was when the Marvel Comics Adaptation came in really handy, so I could know what had happened. To a kid, waiting until the VHS release was forever, although it was probably only a few months.

    Also, I have Mr. Kelly’s back on Batman Forever. I liked that film when it came out. I probably watched it in the theater as many times as I did the ’89 Batman. (6 times)

    They would sometimes screen old films at Loyola Marymount University’s Mayer Theater. The first time I ever saw the Silver Surfer short film was at Mayer.

    I think from 1995-1999 it was akin to your description of how you gents saw everything under the sun that was released when you were at the Kubert School. I can’t remember the name of the theater now, and it may not exist any more, but in Westwood (up by UCLA, maybe DAG knows, it was “behind” the big ones like the Bruin, maybe the Landmark?) there was a theater that would usually show art house films. But at midnight would play these beat up to hell prints of older films. That was the only time I’d seen Planet of the Apes on the big screen. We also went and saw Raiders of the Lost Ark there as well.

    Jumping ahead a bit, my first encounter with alcohol and food at movie theaters came with the opening of the Cinemark 18 & XD (The Promenade at Howard Hughes Center) in Los Angeles. Because I was living in Playa Del Rey at the time and this was the nicest and closest theater, it would eventually become my default for watching your basic wide-release films. Probably most wide release movies from 2002 to 2007 I would go see there.

    Myself, I have gone to an Alamo Drafthouse as recently as this year to see the double-feature of Ultraman films below. I have to say, while I wouldn’t go to San Francisco all the time to do this, that having the little stage-hand waiter dudes bring you a burger and a steaming pot of green tea while watching Ultraman was the best!

    If you do ever go to Los Angeles, I’d recommend at least seeing (hopefully something you like) at Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre. I have so many great memories of that theater. I remember seeing James Hong promoting some new film he was in and was in awe at his Jim Steranko level of cool with the ladies. He was like 100 years old and had these (in the words of Shagg) “smoking hot” 40 year old babes with him. Great releases of films that most folks would never see theatrically, like Dagon, Castle Freak, Godzilla Final Wars, Ultraman The Next, Gamera The Brave, Ultraman Mebius & Ultraman Brothers and The Great Yokai War. When waiting for one of those films to start, I was reading Mark Milar’s Superman Adventures in Digest form! So, it all comes back to Superman….and Digestcast!

    There was also a wonderful 3-D film festival held at The Crest Theater in Westwood. Among “classics” like Parasite 3-D featuring a young, vibrant Demi Moore, the highlight was getting to see Friday The 13th Part 3 with the cast and crew. There was a Q&A after the film and it was a great theatrical experience.

    Again, this show was a lot of fun to listen to. Thanks Rob and David, for bringing up some fond memories and sharing your own.

  9. My son and I were actually at the Cinefamily “Tribute to the Flash” 25th anniversary event at the Silent Movie Theatre that David had mentioned. My son, sadly, fell asleep near the end of the Q&A and was in no mood to follow along with my attempt to meet the actors and behind-the-scenes people afterward…

    This was a fun discussion about movie-watching experiences. If I may, my most memorable experience was a viewing of “Goldeneye” in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia. As a preface, the Malaysian Information Ministry heavily edits content from imported films and television shows related to nudity and sex (even lip-to-lip kissing, which is frowned upon in public. For films, these edits are done by physically cutting the scene out and splicing the film in the reel. So when we see a movie’s romantic leads approach each other and the scene suddenly cuts to them talking while the background music jars, everyone in the seats knows they just missed a kiss.

    Regarding “Goldeneye”, the opening credits (like a number of James Bond films) depicts images of what are presumably naked women in shadow. However, I learned later that the Information Ministry was not allowed to cut out the opening credits sequence of the movie. So what did they do? They took a very thin black ink pen to the film print and scribbled over all of the “naughty bits” in each frame. As anyone who had ever done animation knows – whether in a studio production or in the margins or a thick paperback book – the result was a number of fast-moving “scribble clouds” in front of the women, which immediately drew the viewers’ attention to the areas of the screen that the Information Ministry did not want them to see. There was also much laughter from the audience…

    The Information Ministry had two years to devise a “better” strategy for “Tomorrow Never Dies”. Essentially, the theatre would turn off the lights to the projector right as the plane’s afterburners shattered the scene like glass While the Sheryl Crow song played, a slide-show presentation flashed the opening credits (basic typeface over somewhat simplistic colored backgrounds) onto the movie screen at what I presume would have been with the same timing as the film. Then the theatre switched the projector back on as we resumed the cut-up story…

    1. That was a great night! I got to meet Hamill and reconnect with the Flash gang. One of the highlights of my life.

  10. This was a really delightful episode! It was great to hear your cinema stories, and this post-show conversation is also a lot of fun. I don’t go out to movies nearly as much as any of you. So, each time is almost a big event. Last year we, my wife, my pre-teen daughter and me, went to see “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.” My daughter had been wanting to see it, and seeing it wide-screen with a room full of like-minded people was the best way to see it!

  11. Fantastic episode!

    Alone at a theater: Texas Chainsaw Massacre

    Movie that was rented out: a friend at school had rich parents they rented out the theater for the first run of Superman and all the kids got a corgi Superman car.

    Funniest Experience: I watched Dawn of the Dead (Romero version) and the reels were out of order. By the third reel they stopped the movie and asked for anyone an expert of the film in the audience so they could line up the reels.

    Second Funniest experience: My wife and I went to see “1984” in the east village and there was a woman that looked familiar waiting in line. After 15 minutes of trying to figure it out and trying not to stare I asked my wife and she said it was Olivia Wilde. So by this point Wilde was freaked out this guy kept glancing at her. We then got in the theater and I went to get popcorn and when I went to find my wife I couldn’t find where she was sitting. So I scanned and scanned the audience and I was right next to Wilde who looked a little freaked out like I was now stalking her. I felt like saying “no, I am not staring at you I am over that I am just looking for my wife”. On a side note: That movie was so depressing!

  12. Great random discussion about the movie theater experience, and it awakened all sorts of memories. I might even tell you about them some day.

    For now, I’ll just say theaters here have all sorts of warnings about phones and noise, and it’s very very rare that someone will have their phone turned on. People talking all over a movie though? That’s the blight of my existence. Because of a particularly horrendous audience at the Far from the Madding Crowd adaptation last year, we call those kinds of movie watchers “Madding Crowds” (a play on “maddening”, to our ears) and will frequently remark on their behavior each week. It takes the edge off.

    Sins that carry the death penalty include laughing inappropriately, explaining the movie loudly to your 3 year-old (now an orphan), wondering aloud what’s going on because your brain can’t process dream sequences or any kind of non-chronological order or metaphorical element, shouting at the screen as if it were a Punch & Judy show, smugly announcing you figured out the plot minutes after everyone else quietly has, going to the movies while evidently dying of whooping cough, eating a whole rotisserie chicken bought at the next door grocery, rolling your popcorn bag closed then open then closed then open every time you want a bite, and many more. Going to the bathroom at ill-judged moments (the obvious climax, for example) or racing to the exit at the mere whiff of the possibility the credits might start rolling soon only carries a sentence of “tsk tsk”. Unless it’s a Marvel Cinematic Movie, in which case, 3 tsks are indicated.

  13. Fantastic show, gentlemen!

    The Alamo Drafthouse is a fantastic experience that I highly recommend to any film lover. While waiting for Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 to start, there were no insipid Coke ads or infomercials for M&Ms. Instead, I was treated to a short pictorial history of the Guardians in comics and an amusing look at raccoons in film. Only three trailers were played; all for appropriate genre films (no horror, thank goodness). Using the slips of paper provided, I was able to have my popcorn bowl and soda refilled almost magically with zero verbal interaction required.

    Unfortunately, the closest location is a bit out of the way, so visits require a bit more planning than usual. Despite such a hurdle, I cannot wait to see another film there because even the expensive theaters here in the DC area are still rife with Chatty Cathys and those who insist on using their mobiles when bored. I encountered both types during this past weekend’s screening of Spider-Man: Homecoming in a theater where tickets were $20 per adult.

    Not to end on a dour note, a couple of other cool movie-going experiences include:

    *The Elvis-style screening of Dr. Strange where it was solely my daughter and I.
    *The press screening of Captain America: The Winter Soldier where I was able to see the film two weeks before it opened.
    *The preview screening of the 2009 Star Trek movie hosted by the local radio station that held a Captain Kirk impression contest. While everyone else seemed to mimic Kevin Pollak and Jim Carey, I shouted “KHAAAAANNN!!!” and won a free pass.

  14. Oh David, its Condiment KING – hand your Batman shirt over to the Skater kids at once.

    Great show boys, my first memory of going to the pictures is Saturday mornings at the Miners’ Welfare Hall in Peterlee (‘the place to be for industry’ as the post frank had it) – ancient Batman serials, Droopy cartoons and those boring Disney wildlife films.

    My first trip with the family was Bedknobs and Broomsticks, that was magical. My second was Anne of 1000 Days. Thanks Mam 🙁

    The first ‘grown up’ film I saw without parents, with a school pal, was Audrey Rose – well creepy.

    I’ve only seen films in US cinemas a couple of times. Never again. Nothing but ignoramuses and loonies. One trip saw an obviously drugged-up woman take her brood of obnoxious toddlers to a film far too old for them and she did a running commentary, not a sniff of a whisper. Oh, and she had them sitting in a supermarket trolley.

    How do you stand it? I cannot let a person use a phone for 30 seconds without telling them to put it off, then I can’t concentrate on the film because I’m waiting for the inevitable.

    Happily, one of the UK’s most popular BBC radio podcasts, Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review, came up with a Code of Conduct – it’s basic manners – and it’s catching on over here.

    Here’s the short video version.

    God, I hate popcorn. Tasteless, stinky styrofoam.

    In the UK anyone talking out loud gets shushed and told to shut up or get out. I wonder if US behaviour is so much worse because you call it ‘theatre’ – I mean, clapping a bit of film? It’s rather sweet, I suppose.

  15. You were talking about live accompaniments. Every year Steve and I attend the Hippodrome Festival of Silent Cinema at Bo’ness here in Scotland … we’re even in some of the promo videos:

    Ahem. Yes, my tie is skew whiff and I look like a potato. Anyway, it’s five days of beautifully restored prints accompanied by newly composed music, or there’s an experienced accompanist who improvises in the traditional style. Do you know Neil Brand, musician, composer and film historian behind numerous BBC shows such as the Sound of Cinema? He’s a regular participant, and ruddy good.

    Heck there’s even the occasional Film Explainer, a role I hadn’t previously known had existed. This year there was an outdoor screening at the railway station of two serials with damsels in danger of the rail track kind, The Hazards of Helen and Teddy at the Throttle, and it was magical. I realise I’m going link crazy but just look at this year’s programme of screenings and allied events… if anyone wishes to attend, we’ll put you up with the joy that is characteristic of the Fire and Water Podcast Network!

    I finally saw The Magnificent Ambersons this year, having heard about what a messed-with masterpiece it was… perhaps I just wasn’t in the right mood.

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