Remember the Stone Age, when you snagged that bulky videotape of Grease II (from Blockbuster, of course) and then didn’t watch it until you had accrued at least $15 in late fees? I recall the eventual death throes of that video rental behemoth, when suddenly all late fees were suspended! Forever! Just come back, please!!!!! The money I have saved ever since, has funded a prime spot in Meadowoodbrookaire 55+ Retirement Community someday! Actually, the money I have saved must be under the sofa cushions somewhere.
Our ways of watching movies have evolved, no doubt about it. In my early childhood there was the occasional trek to Radio City Music Hall for the latest Julie Andrews epic (I do believe the beloved British songbird starred in every single musical in the 1960s, including Sweet Charity, where she winningly portrayed a hooker with a heart of gold turned magical nanny, unless I’m mistaken.) At home, I could watch flicks from years gone by on “Million Dollar Movie,” which aired on TV at 4:30 PM daily in New York City. I was five years old then, and only dimly aware of Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart (though I did notice that, while they smoked incessantly, my dad smoked more).
Later in elementary school, the family moved to Atlanta, where our apartment was thisclose to North Springs Movie Theatre! Walking distance to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the Franco Zeffirelli version of Romeo and Juliet, and Patton (which I inexplicably adored). Tickets were, I think, $.75, so for a mere three hours of babysitting the Butler Kids from Hell @$.35), I could afford to go, multiple times.
During my 20s, I became quite the aficionado of foreign films, making weekly pilgrimages to the Film Forum in Buckhead to watch either shocking sliced Spanish eyeballs (Bunuel) or the slow, moody Scandinavian dissolution of a marriage (Bergmann). I became such a snob that I ONLY watched subtitled movies, thinking them far superior to those filmed in the language I spoke.
Then came the childbearing years, when at cocktail parties I would discuss the relative artistic merits of Aladdin III and Land Before Time VI. I was aware that films for grownups were still being produced, but I was too tired to watch them. There was a brief period when the kids were older, but still home, and we could enjoy actually excellent films together (I would push for Ordinary People and Tootsie, while Steve would opt to introduce them to that timeless horror classic, The Blob).
Now it’s all HBO and Netflix, mostly at home since the pandemic began. We never have to wait a millisecond for our celluloid gratification, as absolutely everything is “on demand.” And I appreciate the convenience for sure. But there are times I find myself missing the eager anticipation of a Friday night trip to Blockbuster, where we’d survey the VHS tape boxes lined up on the shelves. And then hustle home with our prize. The Mighty Ducks. Again.