Tuesday, January 24, 2017

the first movie I ever saw

For no particular reason whatsoever, I've been trying to remember the first film I ever saw in a theater. Obviously as I am a white North American male in my 40s, the big cinema event in my early life was STAR WARS (1977). I believe we saw it the summer it came out. I was not sold on it at first; the ads seemed to involve a lot of people in robes standing around in the desert, and I believe there was some standing in line involved which I probably complained about a lot. Of course after seeing the movie, my brother and I  were all THIS IS THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER MADE EVER!!! and we spent the next couple of years contriving to see the thing as often as possible. 

But what are some of the other movies we saw at the Miracle Theater, at the Belmont Hills, at the Akers Mill General Cinema where I'd wind up with a part time job? What was the first? 

I know we saw OH GOD - that one came out fall of '77, so it's post SW -in the Belmont Hills theater in Belmont Hills, at one time the South's largest shopping center, now demolished. It was already run-down when I was a kid, and I'd spend most of my Belmont Hills time in the Turtle's Records or digging through comics at the Book Trader than seeing movies there.  I didn't get to see CLOSE ENCOUNTERS on its first release, we tried three times and it was sold out each time. There's a bunch of films from '77 that I've subsequently seen, but lord knows you wouldn't want a seven year old to see, say, SLAP SHOT. 

I know we saw SNOW WHITE ('75 re-release) and PINOCCHIO ('78 re-release). We saw MESSAGE FROM SPACE ('78) at the Cobb Center theater with a gang of friends and we all thought it was just as good as STAR WARS, an opinion I still hold. I saw ISLAND AT THE TOP OF THE WORLD (1974) starring future Good Morning America host David Hartman, and that's a good three years before Star Wars. 

A similar picture, WARLORDS OF ATLANTIS (1978) starring Doug McClure was screened with friends at the Town & Country theater that was in the Town & Country shopping center behind the Miracle on South Cobb. Actually it was more directly behind the old Dairy Queen. That's also where we saw the quasi-documentary THE LATE GREAT PLANET EARTH (1979), planting within me both an apocalyptic no-future worldview AND a healthy regard for the work of Hal Lindsey. The Miracle, on the other hand, is (I believe) the theater where we saw MOONRAKER (1979), the first James Bond film I ever saw. Strangely enough, the film's amazing badness didn't prevent me from seeing other Bond movies. There was yet ANOTHER movie theater in this vicinity, the free-standing Cobb Cinema, built behind the Miracle, and that might have been where we saw Moonraker. 

FLASH GORDON (1980), on the other hand, was seen in the Belmont Hills theater, a crumbling edifice that dated from the shopping center's construction in 1954. I loved that movie in 1980, felt it was rubbish in 1990, and came to realize its campy glory again later in life.

I never saw FREAKY FRIDAY (1976) or THE BAD NEWS BEARS (1976) but I did see GUS (also '76), the Disney film about the mule that kicked field goals. GUS was screened in Cobb Center Mall - not in the theaters outside the mall, but in a small auditorium INSIDE the mall that appeared to be a community room that showed kids' movies during the summer. I have distinct memories of seeing THE STRONGEST MAN IN THE WORLD (1975) starring Kurt 'Snake Plissken' Russell, but where or when I cannot say.

I am pretty sure I saw Disney's ROBIN HOOD (1973) in a theater. It may have been in a drive in that was showing a Planet Of The Apes picture on another screen - I never saw any of the Apes movies in the theaters, but the TV show scared the bejeezus and fascinated me at the same time, and I can remember turning my head to watch the apes go about their apey business. I did not see the BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (1978) theatrical compliation film - though I watched a lot of the TV show - but I did see the BUCK ROGERS (1979) pilot film in a theater and liked it fine. Hey, I was 9. I did not see JAWS (1975) - would you take a 5 year old to see that? - but I did see JAWS 2 (1978) and was appropriately scared to go in the water even though I had not previously been under the assumption that the water had been in fact safe.

The whole family went to see STAR TREK THE MOTION PICTURE (1979) at Akers Mill and I fell asleep at some point when Spock was mind-melding with V'Ger. That summer me and every kid I knew saw THE MUPPET MOVIE (1979) over and over again - it was the default babysitter that year. I saw THE BLACK HOLE (1979) and enjoyed the great visual design and the ending where the bad guy is shown suffering in Hell. More movies should end that way. 

We actually got out of school the day THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980) premiered, because our parents loved us deeply. I think we saw it at Phipps Plaza. SUPERMAN II came out in 1980 as well and I enjoyed it more than the first SUPERMAN (1978). 

I never did get to see INFRAMAN (1975) or GODZILLA VERSUS MEGALON (1973) in theaters, though I desperately wanted to and probably made a pest out of myself about it. Of course, as soon as home video made them available, I immersed myself in the ultra-bionic world of Princess Dragon Mom and her legion of Inframan-fighting monsters, and to a lesser extent the cheesy Jet Jaguar badness of Godzilla Vs Megalon.  At the time I also really, really wanted to see LASERBLAST (1978) but thankfully did not. Sheesh. I know I have seen BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS (1971) but in a theater? I hope not. Don't take your 2-year old to movies.


Grant Goggans said...

Perhaps you saw the rerelease of Bedknobs and Broomsticks in 1979?

My first was Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo at the Miracle.

d merrill said...

I have a misty recollection of watching "Bedknobs & Broomsticks" on the Wonderful World Of Disney television show, but I may be conflating the whole "bed" motif of the film with me sitting on a bed watching the movie, and don't even get me started on Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.