The Last Picture Show

Why I Still go to the Movie Theaters

The year 2020 brought with it so much heartache, pain, and confusion. Uncertainty was the daily norm, and businesses worldwide had to say goodbye and close their doors forever. The fallout of the events that led up to the pandemic is still in effect, and the fear that more businesses will file bankruptcy is more prevalent than ever.  

One of the businesses that were hit the hardest was movie theaters. The rule of keeping everyone six feet apart is hard to accomplish in a theater setting where people are literally stacked onto if each other. Although there are larger issues to worry about in this pandemic, the movie business’s financial downfall concerns me. Not only affects my wallet as a paid freelance writer but also affects traditions I care deeply about.  

Growing up in rural Indiana, we did not have the money to take family vacations or go out to eat more than a few times a year. One thing we did make time for, however, trips to the movies. I always felt like it was an escape from the hardships of my reality, and for the briefest moment, I could live a different life. These glimpses into other realities paved the way for the career I would one day have. For a small amount of time when I was a teenager, we lived in an apartment directly above the local movie theater. Those months were some of the happiest of my life. My bedroom closet had a door that opened onto a balcony in the theater! I am not saying I ever snuck into movies, but let’s just say I never missed a double feature.  

These memories are treasures I will always look upon fondly, and that is why I make sure to give my children the same type of memories. Although they live a better childhood than I did (at least I hope so), I still want them to feel the excitement of escaping day-to-day life. We started out with a monthly visit to the local big screen, and once the kids got a little bigger, we made it a weekly stay. Some of the movies we went to go see were not the best, but the trip was always a great time. One of the most memorable times taking them to the movies was the opening weekend of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I have been a Star Wars fan my entire life (my uncle first showed me A New Hope when I was under a year old), and the ability to share that love with my kids was something I will never forget. When the theme music started, I looked over to my two boys, and they had their necks stretched towards the screen so far, I was worried they would hurt themselves. Since then, we have been to every opening weekend for the Star Wars franchise and watched every episode of The Mandalorian the moment they were available.  

I also have had some great times going to the movies solo. Some may look down on this, but the ability to walk into a dark theater and be alone for screening is one of the best feelings in the world for me. I always wait to go on one of the last weekends a movie is available in the theater and go on a Sunday night too late to ensure few people in the theater with me. At times, I would also bring one friend or relative along for these empty room viewings, and they always enjoy themselves. I got my brother with me one night, and as it was the final movie of the night, the workers allowed us to bring in some fast food and have dinner while watching the film Richard Jewell. Although this was a serious film with dark undertones, we had a great night and will never forget the laughter we shared.  

Now that theaters across the globe are being forced to close their doors, I wonder if I will be able to keep this tradition alive. Of course, I can take them to the Drive-In, but I am not sure it has the same effect. The fact that Drive-In is making a huge comeback is a silver lining to the world’s state. The attraction to a Drive-In is how often they show older films along with new releases. Last summer, we took our children for a double feature of Jaws and Jurassic Park. I do enjoy the freedom of bringing your own food and drinks, spreading out a blanket, and having a picnic-style dinner while watching a film. However, this does not affect feeling transported to another reality while leaving yours behind.  

Looking at the coming years, I hope that the local theaters can come out of the hardships they are currently facing and keep their doors open. There have already been many forced to say goodbye, but I am rooting for the ones still holding on. I look forward to the day that I can resume my weekly routine of sneaking away for a private viewing and late-night dinner. However, I will continue to visit the Drive-In with my children. I have learned that the kids’ freedom to run around and play, their ability to fall asleep in the vehicle led to a new tradition that we will ensure lives on for years to come.  

Written exclusively for TheLastPicture.Show by Jacob Ruble

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