Most of the time I remember the dreams I have at night. They often follow a storyline that plays out very much like a film. I wake up in the morning and part of me is still in the realm of that dream and it takes me a while to be present to the world of awake.
The first film I ever saw was an animated short of Hansel and Gretel at a tiny theater in Star Lake, NY. I was three. We went to visit my grandmother afterwards, and I screamed when I saw her, because she had morphed, somehow, from my nice grammy into a witchy-looking woman I was convinced wanted to cook me in her oven. Such has been the power of movies on my imagination.
The theater was torn down a little later — not because they played such terrifying fare for children — but because, no longer a thriving summer tourist area, the community could no longer support it. Which left the nearest movie theater a winding 35-minute drive away.
Still, the passion had been ignited and I found ways to sustain it however I could. I’d spend the night at my grandmother’s. (Yes, the one I accused of witchery – I got over it.) She’d let me turn her living room into a pretend theater in which she’d pay me a nickel to watch her own TV. We’d close the curtains and set up all her chairs in a row. I’d make popcorn and put it in sandwich-sized paper bags and sell it to her for another nickel. It served for a time, but a movie on the small screen is not the same experience as a cavernous, dark theater with a giant screen and booming speakers. Where it’s truly possible to imagine yourself into the world you’re watching.
Now we have movies on DVDs and huge TV screens in high definition and when people do go to the theater they seem to think they’re still at home, and it’s not so easy for me to get lost in the film the way I used to. Which is why I prefer to see movies at art house cinemas. In general, I find that the people who frequent these kind of theaters are looking for the same kind of experience I am. They are quiet and reverential and keep their cell phones out of sight.
Tonight I’m headed out to my favorite cinema – The Jane Pickens Theater in Newport – where they are raising funds to convert their projector to digital. On the marquee for one night only: Cinema Paradiso. My favorite film of all time. If any movie so perfectly conveys my deep abiding love of film, it’s this one. I saw it at the theater three times when it came out, and I own the DVD, but this is the first time since 1989 that I will be able to watch it again on a movie screen. The way it should be seen.**
I am so stoked.
** If you’re in the Rhode Island area, or are apt to visit Newport sometime, consider donating the cost of a movie ticket to help Jane Pickens Theater convert to digital. Hollywood films are going all digital in early 2013, so all theaters will have to have digital projectors. You can check out their Kickstarter page here.