An Ode to the Summer Cinema Experience

If you have been following my blog, you no doubt have noticed that I dedicate a number of posts to films. This, by the way, is where the “shelf” part of From the Desk and Shelf originated. While I, like many other bloggers, have neglected the publishing of blog articles over the summer, I would like to plead my case as to explain my absence, but using my defense as a transition into the main point of this article.

First, I am a person who keeps busy. Sure I work a job like most people out there, and that occupies a percentage of my time, but I also: have been working on my master’s thesis (yes, that journey continues), working around the house (painting, etc.), catching up on reading, movie watching, secret creative projects (which may be revealed in time), traveling, committing myself to a new, healthier lifestyle, and all around enjoying life to its fullest. Cop out explanation? Well, probably. The summer is and always has been a busy time. But, on to my main point, and the reason you decided to read this post.

As I mentioned, I like to dedicate a chunk of my summer months to movie watching. For many years, this took the form of both the usual summer blockbusters and theatrical offerings as well as catching up on classics. Who does not love a good film viewing in the summer? I have written before about the magic I experience with a bowl of freshly popped popcorn with an ice-cold Coke and a good movie. Certainly, this sentiment extends into the summer months as well.

This summer, I have added a new dimension to movie viewing. In addition to watching a wide range of movies, and going out to the movies more often, my significant other and I have experienced cinema going in different formats. Thus far, we have been to the usual multiplex, but we have also made it to the drive-in (a personal favorite of mine) and a local independent theater.

For me, there is something fulfilling about watching a movie in a setting different from the regular multiplex. After thinking about it, I have narrowed it down to two simple reasons. First, the combination of lack quality movies and price typically drive people away from the major theater chains. Honestly, between the ticket and snacks, who wants to drop $20-$25 per person in a theater on a movie that might be mediocre at best (exceptions do apply)? The drive-in I frequent charges $7.50 a person, and that is for a double feature. Besides, what could be better than having a horrible first feature, and making fun of it with the person you’re with, then enjoying an entertaining second feature? This, by the way, was the case last time we went. Tammy was the first feature and A Million Ways to Die in the West the second.

The second reason I love drive-ins and independent theaters is the crowd. The people that frequent these establishments tend to not be the typical movie-going crowd. They are a little different, very fun, and seem to find the joy in watching a film. That is the key to any public viewing of a movie; it has to be a fun and joyful experience. Otherwise, what is the point? Why let the price and crowds create a negative experience at the multiplex? Why go and sit and deal with the constant glow of cellphone screen from people whose attention span cannot grasp a 90 minute moving picture, with other people talking, and people constantly shuffling. No, for me, the best crowds are the ones that are there for the enjoyment of the experiment.

Also, regarding the independent theater, the Belcourt Theater here in Nashville, played host to a brewery a few weeks ago, which also provided a screening of Caddyshack. An open bar, with local beers, and a screening of Caddyshack? Yes, I was in heaven. We will be making our way back for other films this summer, including a new documentary on Roger Ebert as well as Rifftrax Live.

On a final note, I also want to recommend a book that, partly, inspired this post. Kevin Murphy of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Rifftrax fame wrote a book entitled, “A Year at the Movies,” in which he committed himself to viewing a movie in public (whether a standard multiplex, art-house, or film festival), every day, for an entire year. This book was not only entertaining, but got me interested in finding locations around Nashville that showed alternative films. Sadly, I had to miss our own film festival a few months ago.

So go out readers and enjoy films this summer! Some pretty good ones have already come and gone, but many great ones have yet to be released. Make that trip to the drive-in, find that small independent theater or heck, just have a bunch of friends over and throw on one of your personal favorites. Happy viewing and thanks for reading.


–   Andrew



The Star Dust Drive-In

The Belcourt

Kevin Murphy’s “A year at the Movies”

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