When I was a kid I saw Romancing the Stone six times at the New Prague movie theater. Six times. When I tell people that, they naturally have a lot of questions: Was this the series of events that set you on the path to being becoming a movie buff? Do you do this same sort of thing now? Didn’t this seem a bit excessive, even at a young age? Did you know at the time how bad a movie Romancing the Stone really was? How was it that your parents allowed you to see this movie six times? Were they even aware of it, and if so, weren’t they at least slightly disturbed?
They’re all valid questions. Yes, I think my obsession with this movie made me aware that I like the movie-going experience more than most people. No, I very rarely see movies in the theater more than once, the last time being Saving Private Ryan. No, six times did not seem excessive because I had a cousin who told me he saw Star Wars in the theater more than 20 times. I thought that was cool, and maybe I was trying to be like him. I never confirmed his story – it was better for me if it was true.
No, at the time I thought Romancing the Stone was the coolest movie ever, particularly because Kathleen Turner just had to be most beautiful woman ever on film, and Michael Douglas was either shooting guns, swinging machetes, cracking jokes or swearing in every scene. He was Han Solo in the jungle. And I thought the crazy romance-novel-reading-off-road-truck-driving Colombian drug lord was hilarious.
I don’t remember if my parents came with me to one or more of these six showings. Maybe the first one. I have no idea how many days or weeks it took to see all six, or how I justified it. I don’t know who was with me. I may have lied about where I was going, and now I can’t remember it because of my guilt. Who knows – maybe everybody but me was disturbed about the whole thing. But of course I don’t remember – when I’m in a theater, I get sucked into that movie 100 percent. It’s still like that.
A few years later, I graduated to buying tickets to G-rated matinees in suburban theaters, and then sneaking into R-rated movies instead. Sometimes I stayed for two or even three different movies by sneaking from theater to theater before leaving the building. I wasn’t 16 yet, so I have no idea how I even got to these theaters, or how I was left to my own devices for such long periods of time.
There was a time where my movie going, although prolific, was relatively normal. But then I hit my mid-twenties, and starting going to the movies by myself for the first time. Yes, I felt a little odd about it, maybe a little pathetic, but I was getting older and running out of people to go to with me. I mean, come on, I wasn’t just going to stop! Most people end up de-prioritizing movies out of their lives as they get busier with jobs and relationships and kids. I just can’t do that.
The Riverview Theater in Minneapolis is my enabler now. It’s a great old theater that reminds you that going to the movies used to be a very big deal, perfect for people like me who still think movies are a very big deal. I saw this year’s Oscar winner for Best Picture, The Departed, by myself a few weeks ago late on a weekday night. It’s already out on DVD, but seeing that movie at home wouldn’t have been the same. How do you beat a 60-foot screen and a pro sound system? How do you beat a place that’s full of popcorn and anticipation as the lights go down? Scorcese doesn’t make movies for living rooms.
The best thing about the Riverview is that, in this day and age of shopping center multiplexes, some kid in my neighborhood could still walk to this theater and buy a $3 ticket, and another, and another, and another, and another, and another…if he were so compelled. As long as the Riverview and places like it are open, there will continue to be more people like me. And even if the first movie they see six times is as bad as Romancing the Stone, I’ll cut these kids some slack.
You’re too young for The Departed, kids, but if I see you sneak in, your parents won’t hear about it from me.
The Head Fake is featured on Twin Cities Daily Planet and The Bridge. You can email Jay Kelly at jk@the headfake.com, or visit his web site at www.theAheadfake.com.