In 1977, I was six when I saw Star Wars at the Stuart Theater in Lincoln, Nebraska with my brother. We were able to get in on the ending of one screening so I was able to see how Star Wars ended before I saw how it began and then we sat through the whole movie again. The Stuart Theater is an amazing theater. An actual opera house once, it was converted to be a movie theater. Great chandeliers and amazingly detailed walls hid behind drywall and lush red curtains. But the chairs were still there. Red leather seats still lined the floors and I have one I received as a gift that now resides in my basement. Later in 1994, I saw Pulp Fiction with my soon to be wife in the balcony of the Stuart. We did not make out during it.
In 1981, I was 10 when I saw Escape From New York at the Cooper Theater in Lincoln with my parents. They were pretty lenient to let me see such a film and I was able to truly grasp what I was seeing. I remember being disappointed that I wasn't able to witness Air Force One crash into a building (they showed the crash on a computer monitor) and there was no blood when Snake drove that nailed bat into the head of that bald behemoth he fought in the ring. The Cooper was a great theater with fake trees planted in rock gardens. The Cooper came from a time when curtains actually opened to reveal the screen that was so big it was cured at the ends. The carpet was pure cheese and I loved every inch of it.
In 1982, I was 11 when I saw Poltergeist at the Eastpark 3 Theater in Lincoln at a birthday party. It was my first horror movie in a theater. It was packed and when the clown wrapped his long red and white stripped arm around the boy, everyone screamed at the top of their lungs. It made the scene 100 times scarier and it was fantastic. I haven't been in a horror movie since where so many people enjoyed being scared. Eastpark 3 is a basic theater inside a mall and I loved waiting in long lines there that stretched past the Asian Shop where I would buy throwing stars by the gross.
In 1989, I was 18 when I saw Say Anything twice in one day at the Plaza 4 Theater in Lincoln. Once earlier in the day with a friend and then later that day with my girlfriend of the time. I declared that day that "In Your Eyes" by Peter Gabriel would be our song. The Plaza 4 Theater has nothing spectacular about it, but it did have a round concession stand in the middle of it which was strange and cool. Four years earlier I was in the Plaza 4 watching Moving Violations when a tornado hit downtown Lincoln. The Plaza 4 has no basement, so we were asked to walk out in the hall and assume the tornado position.
In 1995, I was 24 and married. My wife and I saw From Dusk til Dawn with a friend at The Dundee Theater in Omaha, Nebraska. The Dundee is a great old one screen theater. Walk in and you can smell the must from the years. The Dundee projector operator was not afraid to crank up the soundtrack to the point where the speakers crackled with every thump. A few doors down was the Dundee Dell, a wonderful gathering point to tip a few beers while you discussed the movie you just saw.
In 1996, I was 25 and thankfully still married. My wife and I saw Before and After at the Indian Hills Theater in Omaha. Dreadful movie, but Indian Hills is maybe one of my favorite theaters of all time. Concession stands ran along the walls inside every theater. They were closed when we were there, but I would occasionally glance at them and wonder of the time when they were fully functional.
In 1997, I was 26 and would soon have a baby on the way. I had decided the night before that I wanted to see the renewed Star Wars at the Glenwood Theater in Overland Park, Kansas. My wife agreed to see it with me and I couldn't sleep the night before. The Glenwood is also an old opera house and was built as THE premiere theater. Pointy roofs greeted you at the door as well as giant Italian statues once you got in.
In 2001, I was 30, had my first house, married and now had a 3 year old little boy. Movies were scarce but the wife and I ditched the boy at the in-laws and went to see the premiere of Lord Of The Rings: Fellowship Of The Rings at AMC Barrywoods 24. Not a great theater, but a great big one. It has a space theme (what's with the space themes) and a giant ceiling in front of the concession stand where if you stand in the right place you can make your voice echo throughout the building. My son would stand there for hours and yell if you would let him.
In 2001, I was still 30 and it was a few days after September 11th. My wife and I had been incredibly depressed the whole week. We were able to get out for a date night that weekend. We went out for dinner and then to The Barrywoods 24 to see The Glass House. Not a great movie, but it was just what we needed. As I sat there with Sweetarts in hand, I felt secure and comfortable and far, far away from all the horrible things happening around me.
In 2005, I was 34 had a seven year old boy Gabe and was getting ready to go to China to adopt our little girl Sing. Gabe was finally old enough to get excited for the premiere of the final installment of Star Wars Episode III. Again, we saw it at Barrywoods 24. It was a different time, a different setting, but it was childhood all over again as Gabe and I stood in a long line and waited in anticipation to see what was the final straw to turn Anakin to the dark side.
People mark milestones differently. Some by birthdays. Some by major occurrences. I measure mine by movies and the theater's I've seen them in. Like John Cusak's character in High Fidelity, movies (like music to him) provide more than entertainment for me. They are my memories, projected on the big screen with really comfortable seating.