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Best theatrical experiences

Jeremy Blackman · 12 · 1473

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Jeremy Blackman

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on: December 08, 2020, 05:11:34 PM
What are your personal best theatrical experiences?

Here's mine:

1. Magnolia
A life-changing experience. For subsequent viewings I brought back everyone I could convince to see it.

2. Titanic
I was 14 years old. This was honestly the movie that first really got me into movies. It was all about that 3-hour epic theatrical experience with absolutely perfect and very loud sound. Saw it with my dad. Afterwards, we just turned to each other and had exactly the same reaction.

3. Requiem For A Dream
Coming off the heels of Magnolia, I was looking for the most aesthetically bold stuff I could find. So I had anticipated Requiem for months and months. Saw it opening night at the Uptown Theater in the front row. I brought my mom because I was too young for the NC-17. (Yeah...) The moment that first chapter card slammed down ó CHILLS.

4. Avatar
I felt like the medium had been shattered. When people said they were depressed because they couldn't live in Pandora, I was pretty much right there with them. Have yet to see better 3D.

5. Punch-Drunk Love
Even my prolonged and very online anticipation of PDL couldn't prepare me. I saw the earliest screening, then went back for a late afternoon screening. It was a full day of trying to figure out a piece of art and meshing with it on its own terms.
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Reply #1 on: December 08, 2020, 07:20:42 PM
Ooh, good idea for a thread.  I wanna play, too.  With your indulgences, I'll change best to most memorable or otherwise noteworthy.  In no particular order...

1. The High and the Mighty
I'm told this was my very first theatrical experience.  I would have only been a few months old at the time, so I remember nothing about it.

2. The Hindenberg
At the Reseda Theatre with a woman I worked with that I had a bit of a crush on.  She was a serious stoner, and thought it would be fun to get me stoned, too.  I remember almost nothing about the film--except that it looked like the screen was floating in front of the wall that it was attached to. That was very cool. 

3. King of Kings (1961)
My parents were inveterate filmgoers and my dad and I would often see movies together if Mom wasn't interested--or wanted to stay home and read.  I was so moved at the end of this film, I started crying and couldn't stop. It was past time to leave the theatre so my dad put his palm over my face as we exited thru the lobby in an attempt to spare me some embarrassment.  It only draw more attention to this sobbing child, and I was even more mortified.

4. 2001: A Space Odyssey
Probably my first true peak experience in a theatre. (Was going to say 'religious', but see #3).  Front row of the balcony in Cinerama.  An avid watcher of the American space program since it's inception, this was transformative.  It started my obsession with the films of Kubrick and the books of Clarke.

5. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Pops took me to see this the only place left it was screening in L.A. at the time: An 'inner-city' theatre with a full audience. (I offer the demographic detail only because in my young life, suburban audiences were much more sedate.) They screamed at every appropriate moment which was just sensory overload for this sensory-sensitive kid.  I don't think I ever suffered more in a theatre (scared and overloaded).

6. Mr. Hulot's Holiday
I remember almost nothing of the film, because of the guy a few rows down across the aisle from me jerking-off during the screening.  That would have been bad enough, but he was staring back over his shoulder at me the entire time.  I must have been 12 or 13, and was there with my parents and my younger sister.  I was mortified and didn't want to make it worse by telling my parents and traumatizing my sister by making a scene.  I had to get up and pace around the lobby for awhile until I could calm down.

7. Close Encounters and Apocalypse Now (separately)
I've grouped them because they were very similar experiences: Long waits to get inside the Dome, followed by 2+ hours of solid, mouth-agape imagery and sound.  (And I think they were both near my birthday?)

8. The Exorcist
In it's first few weeks of release, you couldn't see this film without literally having to wait multiple hours in line.  Dad was an Academy member by this time, and we jumped at the chance to see it (for free, and sans long wait) at the old Academy screening theatre on Melrose.  We snagged one of the prime leather-clad seats in the primo rows--and I proceeded to sweat completely thru my t-shirt and outer shirt from the tension and fear. 

9. Poltergeist
The only film that, after the lights came up, I couldn't leave and wanted to see it again immediately. I remember moving down a dozen rows to be closer to the screen and enjoying it just as much that second time.

10. Magnolia
An afternoon, nearly-empty theatre screening of this in the first week or two of release.  At the end of the prologue I literally sat up and rhetorically announced to the other 10 patrons in the theatre, "WHO IS THIS GUY?!" (referring the filmmaker).  It was love at second sight (having enjoyed Boogie Nights two years earlier).

I'll bet I think of some more, but let's leave it at 10 for now, shall we?
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Reply #2 on: December 08, 2020, 07:27:08 PM
Favorite Whole-Theatre-Gasp Memories:

Dancer In The Dark
Burn After Reading
Avengers: Endgame

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Reply #3 on: December 09, 2020, 02:56:52 AM
Odd there has never been such a thread before!

5. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
I'm being a bit sentimental about it, since that was the first movie I ever saw on the big screen. Fortunately it's a decent flick and considered to be one if not the best of the series (I never really cared for the HP franchise tbh, I just finished the whole thing a couple of years ago).

4.Under the Skin (2013) [Saw it in 2014]
I was recently hyped about Glazer's filmography, and actually read the book this was supposed to be based on just to be prepared for what I should expect to see. Two hours later I realised I've never been in a cinema to watch a movie less prepared in my life.

3.Phantom Thread (2017) [Saw it on February 2017]
This wasn't the first PTA movie I saw in theaters since I was obsessed with his work (I had seen IV when it was released). Avant-premiere in my country, with DDL himself for a Q&A afterwards. Many people just kept asking him "Why did you choose this role to be your last?", "What was the message of your movie?", "What was all that about?" etc. I"ll never forget how much humble and generous he was.

2.Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
The ending of the sandstorm sequence found me feeling like if I had just witnessed the second coming of Jesus Christ. Groundbreaking.


1.2001:A Space Odyssey (1968) [Saw it on 2018 4K re-release]
I've managed to watch many of my all-time favorites on the big screen, but this expectantly tops them all. Going on a full sentimental circle, this was simply a dream coming true: seeing your favorite movie the way it was always meant to be seen.


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Reply #4 on: December 09, 2020, 12:55:35 PM
Please forgive my sloppy prose, I haven't the time (yet) to make it better.

1. Inherent Vice Premiere - The 52nd New York Film Festival - Saturday, October 4, 2014 - 9:00pm - Alice Tully Hall, Starr Theater, Lincoln Center

     In attendance: WorldForgot, Paul Thomas Anderson, Joaquin Phoenix, Owen Wilson, Joanna Newsom, Maya Rudolph, Benicio Del Toro, Jena
     Malone, Martin Short, Sasha Pieterse, Michael K. Williams...(also spotted in the crowd: Elvis Mitchell, I think Mike Leigh, Safdies, Alex Ross
     Perry...maybe Pynchon? I'm choosing to believe it.)

I never expected to score tickets, yet there I found myself, Orchestra Level, Row W, Seat 115 - admittedly, not the best, but I wasn't complaining. I cannot think of a better place to see a movie on 35mm than Alice Tully Hall on Broadway @ 65th. Grand, quietly opulent, with the best projectionists in town and a sound system to beat The Band. PTA and co, after a brief and very nervous introduction: "Just roll it!", were sat high up in one of the balcony wings. The sound was cranked full of mischief to delightfully squirm-inducing degrees, loud enough to comb your hair and give you a sunburn, and all I can remember is this feeling of the thing just taking off and ceaselessly lurching forward, me leaning more and more precariously in my seat, head over toes, the whole affair striking me as far more melancholic and ragged than I was expecting (having read the book twice), and suddenly it was all over - the lights came up, the applause was long and intense, but there was a palpable unease whipping through the crowd as the spotlights swept the room, landing hard and white on PTA and cast crouched up in the wings like they were breaking out of Sing Sing, smiling and waving sheepishly, embarrassed...right away, I knew that I loved it, but I wasn't sure exactly how I loved it. Certainly not in the manner established by his previous films - even something of the ostensibly colder variety a la The Master. I was soon to learn that many others, erm, failed to love it. Rumors began to circulate about Vice being possibly PTA's first stinker. Boring, they said. Incomprehensible, they said. Miscast. Fails the Bechdel test. It was three months before I was able to see it again, and in that time I played it over and over obsessively in my mind, repeatedly watching whatever short clips and/or trailers found their way online in the wind up to the film's wide release. And in that time the question often re-occurred to me - was this indeed objectively PTA's worst film? Even his most diehard fans seemed ambivalent; many here even expressed indifference! It is true that, though I always maintained my intense affection for it, I at first couldn't bring myself to rank it any higher than Hard Eight in terms of his whole filmography; nowadays, it sits comfortably at the top of the whole lovely heap, which bottom grows soggier by the day. I may give The Master the official edge, but Vice is the one I like to watch most these days, and I also consider Joaquin's turn as Larry "Doc" Sportello to be far and away his greatest performance.

2. Jurassic Park - June 11, 1993 - 7:00pm - Latham, New York - Regal Cinemas, Latham Circle Mall

I was six years old. It was the last day of Kindergarten. I had first seen the teaser TV spots in, I would imagine, the summer or fall of 92, and initially thought they were advertising a FOR REAL park featuring live dinosaurs somehow whisked back into existence by some modern miracle of science. My mother patiently explained to me that this was an advertisement for the new Steven Spielberg movie (I would have known E.T., Hook, Gremlins, Goonies, possibly Indiana Jones and Jaws at the time) and promised to take me to see it opening night. Cut to a few months later and...well, wait, first, let me explain: I was something of a troublemaker as a youngster, a four-foot Rebel Without a Cause rocking Oshkosh B'gosh and Nikes with velcro straps. My teacher had devised early in the year a system of discipline wherein one infraction would incur you a verbal warning, a second infraction would result in your name being written in bold CAPS on the chalkboard, and a third would see your name being UNDERLINED at which point one would usually be sent to the principal's office. I confess, I wracked up more infractions throughout the course of the school year than any other student, my name a daily blight upon the chalkboard, and by years end my parents (both barely 28 at the time) had had it up to the proverbial here with me. Nevertheless, as the big date drew nearer, my mom, having initially resolved to forbid me from seeing the film in theaters at all, decided to cut a deal with me: if, on the last day of school - which was coincidentally the date of JP's wide release - I managed to behave and keep my name off that chalkboard, she would take me. I readily agreed, silently working out how I might still be able to bring a proper finish to my proud year-long spree of junior delinquency without officially signing my name to it. It is to my regret that I can no longer remember the ins and outs of how exactly I managed to still pull one over on my kindergarten teacher without being blamed for it. Nevertheless: that night, my mother convinced anew of my innocence and purity, we eagerly read the early reviews as a terrible thunderstorm broiled outside - the headline read something like DO NOT BRING CHILDREN UNDER 12 - TOO INTENSE and my mother began to have second thoughts...I begged her not to reconsider while, deep inside, I was starting to get very anxious. Waiting in a long, snaking line at the Latham Circle Mall Regal about fifteen minutes before showtime, thunder and lightning rattling the windows, my imagination began to turn on me; palms sweating, bowels churning... My mother bought me a box of raptor shaped gummy bears to calm me down but I could barely eat them. As we moved into the dark theater packed wall to wall, taking our seats somewhere up front and center, the 35mm flicker burning on the screen, the comforting scent of over-buttered popcorn wafting through the air, I took a deep, secretly agonized breath and awaited my fate...and two hours later emerged buzzing with excitement! I had been exhilarated, terrified, thrilled, traumatized - and I begged my mom to take me again as soon as humanly possible! Tomorrow! And the next day! And the next! So energizing was my excitement I quickly downed that box of raptor gummies while perched on my knees sans seatbelt and yapping away in the backseat of the car on the way home...and later, around 3 or 4am, I awoke in bed soaked with puke, little regurgitated raptor heads dotting my Ninja Turtle sheets and (Burton) Batman pajamas. Right on.

Other honorable mentions that I may write more about later:

Melvin and Howard/Something Wild/Married to the Mob/Citizen's Band all on 35mm (CB on 16mm) @ BAM - with PTA in attendance, just a few months after Demme's passing. This was truly intimate - just watching Demme movies with PTA. After his various intros, interviews with Demme collabs etc, Paul would just set his mic down and come sit in the audience amongst the rest of us, calling out at random during the screenings: "We tried to do that shot! That shot! That shot! All failed!" lol

The night I saw Double Indemnity on 35mm at Metrograph then ran several miles across lower Manhattan to Film Forum just in time for The Third Man.

The day I saw 2001 in IMAX 70mm at the AMC Lincoln Square IMAX (best in the USA come at me) - then ran across the street to Walter Reade at Lincoln Center and caught the 4K restoration of Tarkovsky's Andrei Rublev - then ran back across the street to the Lincoln Square IMAX again and caught The Dark Knight in IMAX 70mm...

The night I saw Dressed to Kill at Metrograph and DePalma entered the theater to a standing ovation, which he urged to quickly subside and said, "Okay - I'm building a wall now."

Seeing Wiseman's High School on my 20th birthday at some documentary symposium in Massachusetts and having Werner Herzog sit down right next to me. Later I approached him to autograph my dvd copy of Land of Silence and Darkness, knowing it would make an impression as it was one of his least known yet personal fave of his films... he took the dvd, paused a moment, then looked me dead in the eyes and said, "You know, this is a GREAT film."

Phantom Thread premiere at the DGA theater in Manhattan. PTA, Vicky, Lesley, and DDL and his extensive arm tats, all present.

The Other Side of the Wind premiere at NYFF - played hooky on Joker to go see it.

All 70mm screenings of Once Upon a Time... In Hollywood, particularly those at the Village East on 2nd Ave.

12 hour 35mm Kurt Russell marathon at Alamo Drafthouse in Yonkers. Tango and Cash, Breakdown, Used Cars, Executive Decision, Escape From LA.

Seeing Apocalypse Now: Final Cut with Coppola in attendance, hosted by Steven Soderbergh. The screening itself was just okay, but the Q and A afterwards began delightfully with Soderbergh, totally poker-faced, leaning in towards Coppola, saying, "Okay Francis, before we begin, is there anything you want to ask me?"

And all the other amazing screenings largely concentrated in NYC over the last decade I've been lucky enough to attend - I didn't know how good I had it - please come back...soon.


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Reply #5 on: December 09, 2020, 04:59:17 PM
eward's post reminded me of another one.  (How could I have forgotten this one?)

11. Phantom Thread
The day after Thanksgiving, 2017.  Stinking hot that day, but I was invited by our very own matt35mm to be his plus-one for what I think was the very first 'public' (industry) screening in L.A.   Fine Arts Theater, afternoon screening.   Full house, and we were jazzed. 

I was excited, but cautiously so--you'll recall I was still quite butthurt about Inherent Vice--but I remember relaxing quite a bit only 10 minutes or so into it.  It was working!

It was only after the lights came up that we discovered that Paul and Leslie and Vicky had been sitting just a few rows behind us.  They came up front for a Q & A, and Paul admitted how nervous he was--I think this was the very first time he'd seen the film with an audience.  I remember he congratulated us on being a very good audience.  "You laughed in all the right places and got quiet in all the right places..."

We made eye contact in the lobby afterwords when he spotted my "MOVIE REFERENCE" sweatshirt (in the Boogie Nights font)--and smiled at each other.  I chickened out on approaching him.  He'd been at the center of a Nerd Scrum earlier, and now he was talking to 2 of the Haim girls.  I didn't want to interrupt, nor geek out--and couldn't think of anything particularly brilliant to say in the moment.

Oh, and I just thought of a twelfth one...
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Reply #6 on: December 09, 2020, 05:47:12 PM

2. The Hindenberg
At the Reseda Theatre with a woman I worked with that I had a bit of a crush on.  She was a serious stoner, and thought it would be fun to get me stoned, too.  I remember almost nothing about the film--except that it looked like the screen was floating in front of the wall that it was attached to. That was very cool. 

Heh heh, this reminds me of one, maybe I told it on here earlier at some point...
2008, I hadn't been smoking weed long and thought  I was teetering from "stupid-high" into "maintaining-in-public."
I went to go see "You Don't Mess with the Zohan" and it was the funniest thing I had ever seen (instantly forgot it, haven't watched it since.) But somewhere in the middle of the movie, I realized a guy was sitting in the same row, way at the other end. I got fixated on them and was shocked at how well my peripheral vision worked. I remember thinking "Damn, I could maybe be a sleuth with this new found talent! I am totally able to watch the movie, and keep an eye on this guy! He has no idea! ...or maybe he does? Why's he look so nervous?..."
I realized at that point, I was just staring directly at him, ear to the screen... I didn't know how to turn away, but he freaked out first and got up and left.

Good times.
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Reply #7 on: December 12, 2020, 11:45:23 AM
C'mon guys, this is a fun thread, what's the matter, too painful to recall actual theater-going? Let's get posting!


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Reply #8 on: December 12, 2020, 01:08:58 PM
I've had so many good experiences that I don't really recall one over another.

First movie I saw was Pinocchio when I was 4.  Rerelease in a theatre.  I remember dozing on and off, and awaking during Lampwick's transformation and the whale.

I walked into an in-progress showing of CMBB before my screening started, and I saw the scene here Plainview is talking to HW and HW takes a swing at him.

I also saw The Master right when it opened, but don't remember too much except being happily perplexed.

What really stands out is me walking about on an overcast day in college, the day I was to see Lost in Translation and Kill Bill on a double matinee.  It was wet, and something caught my eye in an alley: two crumbled up, soggy $5 bills.  It just so happened the cost of a matinee was $5 then, so I got to see both of those flicks for free.

Oh yeah, sure there was the time a then-girlfriend and I made out pretty much the whole time during The Kids Are All Right.  She liked Mark Ruffalo and I like redheads.

Laughed so hard my cheeks hurt, seeing Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls with my brothers and a friend.  Smiled so hard during Finding Nemo.  Same feeling but for so many different reasons during the first time I saw Phantom Thread.


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Reply #9 on: December 13, 2020, 08:06:12 AM
The movie itself wasn't awful, but not something special either. We saw The King of Staten Island which was fine. But the thing that made it special was that my boyfriend had gone on a 10-hour train ride just to see me for the weekend and we hadn't seen each other for two years at that point. Before the movie, we ate pizza on a blanket in a park and drank n/a bubblies and pretended we were cool and not at all nearing the crippling point of no return that is turning 30. Now, this was in September, it was still super warm here in Sweden but for some reason, the movie theater is always cold af.

Aaaaand in comes the blanket from our picnic in the park. Now I have never, in my at this point almost 30 years of living, brought a blanket to a movie theater. I will however always do it from now on. Life changer. Never shall I huddle under my coat in a somewhat fetal position ever again and ask myself if it is worth putting my hand out of the warmth for a handful of popcorn.

Now, this wasn't the BEST theatrical experience ever but it was the latest good one. And quite frankly, these days, good is good enough.


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Reply #10 on: December 16, 2020, 04:02:56 PM
some Star Trek movie in the Dayton mall theater -- I think my father maybe took me to a handful of movies, he was never married to my mother (they were never in love) and I saw him on the weekends when I was younger you see, anyway I can't remember the other movies he took me to but I remember not seeing this movie and actually I just remembered we saw the poster while leaving another movie and my father said something about the poster, no wait we did see this movie that I can't remember the title of except it was Star Trek, or wait did we see this movie I really can't remember

Pocahontas in the old theater by the Dayton mall -- ngl we had intended to see Species but we were fourth graders and Species is r rated so we ended up in Pocahontas and I saw this with my friend whose mother was a school bus driver and his father never loved anybody neither (so common in the midwest) and he was white trash pretty much my hero, why I was friends with him, because he didn't like doing nothing and he made that seem like a good idea so anyway we ended up in Pocahontas and we sat in the back and made fun of it out loud the whole time, since it was more fun to make fun of than watch, this event embedded itself in my life, and this friend also told me about beaver and butthead and the band green jelly, and I did end up owning a cassette tape of both green jelly and the Pocahontas soundtrack. now and then I do still think about hearing that wolf cry to the blue corn moon

Final Destination 2 and Daredevil at the dollar theater I later worked at as an usher -- now I saw this with two friends who saw movies like normal people in terms of just something fun to do, and this set the footprint for what would later become the new beverly

Van Helsing at the new theater by the Dayton mall -- I fucking went there to meet my friend but he wasn't there and his parents were instead I'll never forget that shit

Superman Returns/Lady in the Water somewhere in Orange County -- genuinely the defining year in which I realized I didn't ~actually~ like comic book movies or Hollywood in general

The Simpsons at Century City -- look so before this midnight screening back when midnight screenings were normalized and that seemed dope anyway this dude stood up and he said hey I'm with my friend Joe who helped write this movie and we all cheered because we felt happy for ourselves and also for Joe except then the opening credits rolled and there was no Joe and someone said "aww, Joe" and it was the saddest I've ever felt in a theater

the Mario Bava retrospective at the Egyptian -- I haven't visited any other retrospective so thoroughly basically. specials guests left and right but I just remember showing up because I needed to and I can't remember if they sold out or not, I wasn't thinking about it

a Roger Corman double at the new bev with Roger Corman in attendance -- nah yeah yes definitely it still cracks me up that I waited on the sidewalk over an hour before because I expected it to sell out but it didn't and I was with a friend we drank beer but didn't become drunk everything was different back then you can't explain it you had to be there so realistic really

Tobe Hooper and Mick Garris doing a live commentary of Texas Chainsaw Massacre at the aero -- it's cool to be around a bad idea imo. it feels so authentic. this was my first time seeing Mick Garris who was dressed SoCal Nice and I found it fascinating, they did not continue this series


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Reply #11 on: December 16, 2020, 07:35:48 PM
My dadís company rented out a theater when The Phantom Menace came out for all the employees and their families. For some reason, someone decided to tie bunches of balloons to the aisle handrails down toward the front, and one of the balloons slipped free halfway through the movie and floated around the theater for a little while before eventually getting stuck to the screen (presumably through static electricity) near the left edge about two-thirds of the way up. Sometimes it looked like the characters were shooting at it; it was pretty cool. I didnít care much about Star Wars back then, either.
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