Movies have been part of my life since childhood and by movies I mean theatres … places where one shares a big screen with a crowd of people, mostly strangers, where you laugh out loud with them, gasp when they do or hold your breath simultaneously as something threatening appears.
Real movies are places where you can cheer out loud for the hero or boo the villain while comforting yourself with a bag of popcorn or a hot dog with ketchup, relish and onions plus a cold drink. Some of my favourite earliest memories were from movies viewed with my parents. Movies had a way of making us feel better about ourselves and they helped to lift the weight of post-depression poverty.
Mention King Kong (1933) and I’m still hiding under my theatre seat as a giant gorilla lumbers across the screen from a jungle in far off Africa and later climbs the Empire State Building in New York City, places none of us had been nor had any hopes of visiting. Movies were extremely important factor in my socializing … dating … hanging out with my high school buddies. Later they were important to me in raising a family.
I took my children to see movies as soon as it was feasible. I remember taking turns with my wife, holding more than one sleeping child in my arms or feeding another formula from a bottle while we watched The Longest Day (1962) and The Sound of Music (1965). Movies were a source of reassurance while I was serving my country 8,000 miles from home during the so-called Korean conflict. I remember going to on-base movies near Seoul feeling the weight of serving in a war zone and coming out of the movie feeling normal again for a few hours because I had seen a movie playing back home.
Movies are still a source of feeling normal in my retirement and growing older … and when I say movies I think of all the things mentioned above … all communal experiences … being with a crowd … connected although often far away … not the same as sitting alone in my recliner at home watching a movie on television. I absolutely adore my wife and treasure her company in watching TV movies but I treasure even more the experience of going with her to my local hometown theatre for an old-fashioned community experience.
I admit that one can have similar experiences in watching stage performances by local thespians, but unfortunately that usually means a place where there is virtually no sound system or the acoustics are completely inadequate for someone with 85 per cent hearing loss. Most modern movie theatres have assisted hearing devices that make up for that.
Having shared all these things it should come as no surprise to hear me say that I and probably many others like me in Nelson are languishing for lack of “real movies” now that the Nelson movie theatre remains closed.
Two years ago some of our five adult children and seven grandchildren were visiting in Nelson. They stayed in a campground not far away and came to Nelson for sightseeing, shared meals and visiting. The evening before they were due to return to their respective homes someone suggested we go to Nelson’s theatre to see a movie for old time’s sake, just like we used to do when they were kids. We did so joyfully!
A Leonardo DiCaprio movie was playing called Inception … a sci-fi thriller … one of those we all loved watching when we were younger. Afterward, just like we did in the old days we went out to a restaurant for snacks, drinks and relaxing conversation about the movie. We connected with each other in ways that made us feel normal again … just for a little while. We filled two tables at a restaurant on Baker Street before saying good night and the next morning bidding them farewell.
If Nelson continues to go without a real movie theatre…there won’t be that kind of a next time for us, our children and grand-children should they come this way again … not in the same way surrounded by a larger community, thrilled and inspired by the things good movies are made and knowing that we are not so alone as we sometimes seem to be.