I have racked my brain to try to remember the first movie I ever saw in a theater and I don’t know. I can remember my sitter, Mrs. Riordan, taking me to see Fantasia when I was very little but I’m sure my parents took me to something before that. Its hard remembering back that far and it seems 1984 is kind of the cutoff point for my memory. The Black Cauldron, American Tale, Goonies, Howard The Duck, The Muppets Take Manhattan and so on. I can remember Raiders of The Lost Ark (1981) and E.T. (1982) but it is hard to say if they were my first or if I saw them after they were first released in theaters. Maybe my folks know but both my boys were baptized into the light of the projector on the same day. Sunday, August 10 2014 my wife Kate, her mother Kathy (Nan), and I took Max and Dodge to see what they had been asking for: Planes: Fire & Rescue!
Max (3) is afraid of the dark and hates loud noises so I was prepared to leave early if need be. To date the only theater experience he’d had was the dolphin show at the Atlanta Aquarium which was a disaster resulting in months of nightmares. Dodge (1) is pretty much down for whatever so long as there is juice and food there. I (30-something) am an over-controlling grownup with anxiety being around large groups. Fun!
I prepared Max by telling him exactly what was going to happen. I explained that the lights would dim, there would be previews which are like commercials for other movies, and then the movie would start…and the movie was going to be like watching a TV the size of our house. Max had many questions about the dimming of the lights and if we could leave the lights on. I explained I didn’t control the lights and unlike TV we could not pause it so any bathroom breaks would have to take place prior to the movie. The theater we were in did not have a cry room and that ended up being fine because everyone there was either a kid or a parent. Almost every parent uttered the same thing to each other in the minutes leading up to the movie, “Mine gets scared before but settles down once the movie starts.” The room seemed to swell with nervous kids…one would start to sniffle, then another, then tears from the back row, then cries from the front, then a wave of crying followed by the returning tide of “shhhhhh” from the parents. Max and Dodge looked around and took it all in. I snuck off and grabbed a bucket of popcorn, a large water, and a box of Goobers. Then the lights went down and the curtain opened. Showtime!
Max was pretty scared of the THX sound demo and covered his ears. Dodge was enthralled. The previews got Max relaxed and laughing and he scooched closer to me in his seat till he was hugged right up next to our shared armrest. He clutched his toy planes in his hands, Skipper and El Chu, as the opening credits rolled and the boys’ eyes lit up like a Christmas tree. Planes! Lots of planes! On a giant screen! I think Max forgot to breathe and then caught himself before he blacked out. Dodge was like a moth to the flame, sitting in Kate’s lap with his mouth agape. I pulled the giant popcorn bucket from under my seat and Max hugged it as if it were his most cherished stuffed animal as he and Dodge devoured the contents. Occasionally, Dodge would shout over to me for more popcorn or juice which we all shared. Max stayed quiet the entire time and only once burst out shouting with a question for me before remembering we were in a theater. Time flew by…flew…eh? See what I did there? Cause the movie was Planes. Fire & Rescue. Okay moving on.
When the closing credits rolled Max would not leave until his eyes and brain had soaked up every last bit of the film. We watched every credit and listened to every song. He was a fan. To my surprise Dodge had stayed awake and engaged for the entire film! He had occasionally found the kids sitting behind us more interesting and of course there was the popcorn…but he sat still(ish) for almost 2 hours! It…was…lovely. Max and I had put a good dent on the Goobers when the lights came up and he stood for the first time. We all asked if he liked it and he jumped for joy while shouting, “Yeah!” Then he took off running down the long hallway of the theater with his arms out like wings. Dodge took off after him, wings spread wide.
I cannot wait to take them to the movies again. It was the first movie I have seen in a theater in almost 4 years! …and I loved it! Sure, the boys aren’t going to go see Dawn of the Planet of The Apes with me…but maybe Guardians of the Galaxy? Definitely a sitter for The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies. Mad Max: Fury Road is coming out soon…just saying. Sure, I can’t take them to the action shoot-em-ups I like but I can happily go see things like Big Hero 6 if it means we can go as a family. It’s like a whole new thing we can do when the weather sucks!
I need to talk to my folks and figure out what my first movie in a theater was. Max and Dodge?
You boys were sitting at the 13th Street Warren Theater in Wichita, KS on Sunday, August 10th for the 4:30 PM showing of Planes: Fire & Rescue…and you both loved it. Max, you got a Fire & Rescue Dusty toy plane a few days later for good behavior and having to give blood which scared you, and you were a champ. Dodge, you got a light up toy microphone because you loved the music in the movie and were dancing the entire time…you’ve been shouting into it since. You both hugged Nan extra hard that night (she bought your tickets) and you cried when she had to leave Tuesday morning. Max, you bawled in the front door waving bye-bye. You both love your Nan very much. She cried too. It was a special weekend and I don’t know if you will remember it when you are 30-something, but I will. I’ll never forget it. I love you both. -Dada.
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