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When Movies Were Magical

My mother took me to see the movie Gremlins in the theater. I was probably way too young to be seeing it. I think it was maybe the second time it came around in theaters. (Back in the olden days of my youth, if a movie was really, really popular, they used to send it around in theaters again after the initial run. There was still a demand for it, and people weren’t able to just go out and buy a VHS tape of it to watch in their home endlessly at their leisure. VHS—see, I dated myself again.) It wasn’t a giant multiplex like they have now. It was a small theater downtown with only two screens, one theater was not much bigger than the average living room. Somehow this made the viewing experience more intimate.

Okay, I may have shown my own son Gremlins too early as well.

Okay, I may have shown my own son Gremlins too early as well.

And I would not even have suspected walking out of the theater that the movie had affected me at all. But then we went to go eat at McDonald’s. We ate in our car, because my mom is weird like that, then she sent me over with the empty bag and wrappers to the garbage can, a duty I usually loved. But suddenly I didn’t want to push open the little brown swinging door and leave my hand so exposed like that. The scene from Gremlins flashed in my head where the guy is trying to mail a letter and a gremlin pops out of the mailbox and starts chewing on the guy’s hand. My overactive child’s imagination could picture that happening, and it scared me.

How many movies now a days do that for you? For any child, even? Do they believe that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will really pop up out of the manholes in the street?

I remember when my mom took me to the same theater to see The NeverEnding Story. I don’t even remember any marketing for it. I don’t think there were ads on television; I didn’t beg to go see it. She just took me because she thought I would like it. Or maybe because she wanted to see it, I don’t know.

"It's not real; it's only a story!"

“It’s not real; it’s only a story!”

Because the theater was downtown in our closest, but small local city, we had to walk down a block, through an alley, and back to the parking lot where our car was after the movie. The tallest buildings are probably only four stories, tops. But the alley and the tall buildings were enough to give me the impression of the city Bastian lived in in the movie. And so I looked up in the blue, sunny sky at the smattering of clouds, and I BELIEVED that Falkor could fly over us at any moment, as he had at the conclusion of the movie. It was thrilling. I felt it in my blood. I have NEVER forgotten that feeling.

And I am not sure that I have ever experienced it since.

Yaaaaaaaaa!

“Yaaaaaaaaa!”

Are children going to walk out of the theater and believe that Transformers can really fly through the sky over their heads?  Maybe. But they also can go home and play with plastic toy versions on the floor in their bedrooms.

Part of Falkor’s magic was that you could not go buy a stuffed one in the store then. (You probably can now. If so, buy me one and then call 555-GUN-GLOW for the address to ship it to.)

This weekend the Rave theater near us had special showings of The NeverEnding Story. It might be greedy or stupid, but I yearned to be in that theater again when the theme song blared through the speakers, blocking out all the other sounds of popcorn and candy wrappers and slurping straws as clouds churned on the screen. I wanted to walk out of that theater again and believe that Falkor could be flying in the sky. Really, I was hoping my son would have a similar experience to what I had in 1984*. It turned out he wasn’t as impressed by it as I was. There could be several factors to that, including that he has seen the movie before on DVD in his own living room.

But, seeing it again was AWESOME. Maybe, sometimes, movies can still be magic.

Ever wonder what happened to Bastian, played by Barret Oliver? So did I. So I found out and wrote a post about it. It angers the dreadlock community. You can read it here: https://imnotstalkingyou.com/2013/01/13/what-i-learned-this-week-1132013/

Just a reminder I have an event this Sunday: The Kerrytown BookFest in Ann Arbor, Michigan. For more details, click here: https://imnotstalkingyou.com/events/

*All the awesome things came out in 1984: The NeverEnding Story, Punky Brewster, Night Court

Follow the romantic entanglements of The Riley Sisters in my books:
Be Careful What You Wish ForAVAILABLE NOW!
When You Least Expect It THE CONTINUING ROMANCE!
The Wind Could Blow a BugWHERE IT ALL BEGAN!

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The Clinton Theater

There is a little place I sometimes go. It is cheap and entertaining (Not many places can say that these days).

Do you know how in movies whenever they show a small town street scene from the 1950’s there is always a tiny movie theater? Unbelievably, some of them still exist.

Clinton Theater, Clinton, Michigan. Image owned by The Clinton Theater


The Clinton Theater is one of these theaters. Located in Clinton, Michigan, pop. 2,336, their movies were only $3 when my husband and I first went to a show there. The refreshment prices were incredibly reasonable as well. The theater only has one screen. They only have one showtime a day in the evening, sometimes two on Saturday and Sunday. My theory is that everyone who works there also has a day job and is therefore unavailable to show movies during the day. And that whoever works there are probably the same people who own it as well.

If the Clinton Theater is showing a popular movie, it is usually necessary to get there early, as seats are limited. The lobby is very small and is usually filled with the people in line for refreshments. The theater is small and cozy. They play an eclectic selection of interesting music (or maybe it is just really old music) while you wait for movie time. They store their extra bottles of pop in the front of the theater. They are very trusting of their customers. It adds to the small-town feel. I am not that trusting.

When the film (yes, 35mm film) begins to roll, first you see hand-drawn animation of…an alien maybe? (The official website informs me they are a bird and a fish.) who welcome you to The Clinton Theater. Then the previews. Watching the previews, you have no idea which films will play in this actual theater. Unlike the ten screen multiplex, this theater only has one screen, remember?

Which movie they show each week is based firstly on a website vote (how modern for such an old theater). Secondly, it is based on when they can get a physical copy of the film. Those are becoming harder and harder to come by, with all movie studios moving to release all their films in digital. This causes a delay for when The Clinton Theater can get a new hit movie. I assume that this process probably frustrates the hell out of the owners. I kind of like it because if I missed a movie when it was at the multiplex, (ex. Snow White and The Huntsman) I can watch for it to be showing in Clinton. Or if it was a movie I wanted to see again in theaters (ex. all Twilight Saga movies) without having to pay full price, I can go to Clinton.

They have since raised admission to $4 a movie, although they usually still have a $3 bargain night if you check their website. Which is a perfect price point if you see a movie advertised that you think you might want to rent, but you don’t want to have to wait that long (ex. Joyous Noise). They also sell refillable fountain cups and popcorn tubs that you can bring in on future visits and get a refill for a fraction of the price.

The Clinton Theater had a few fundraisers to raise money to buy a digital projector, as they knew the future of their business depended on it. I kept meaning to attend one of their fundraisers or send them a check. I figured I had plenty of time, as they would be collecting money for it for years to come.

Then last week they announced that they will be getting a digital projector, possibly as early as November. Well, dang. That was fast. I am guessing they must have received one huge donation to fill in the gaps in funding. I saw an article in Readers Digest where a small town won a contest run by the magazine to put in a digital projector for their own down-home movie house. They only won $25,000 toward their goal of the $70,000 needed to convert their theater.

Well, since I missed my chance to donate to The Clinton Theater, I guess I will just have to support local business and watch movies there more often. Nowadays, I have to go to the movies by myself, as my husband and I have a shortage of babysitters. I can’t wait until my son is old enough to sit through a movie with us. Maybe in a few years…

My parting thought: The Clinton Theater is awesome and cool! If you live close by, drive there for a movie sometime (additional parking in the back). If not, find the closest similar theater to you and enjoy the savings and fun. (The Maumee Indoor Theater is another great small theater I have been to.)

Image owned by The Clinton Theater


132 West Michigan Ave. (US-12)
Clinton, MI 49236

For Showtimes:
Call: 517-456-4315
Visit: http://www.clintontheatre.com/Home.html

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