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A Night at the Movies

by Laura W. Haywood


It had been several years since I'd been to the movies.  I prefer seeing films when they come out on video.  I like to curl up on the couch dressed in my bathrobe, and I like being able to pause the movie if I want to grab a drink or a snack.
     But I was curious about The Patriot.  My father had passed down his interest in Francis Marion, and I like Mel Gibson's work.  So I got dressed and joined my husband and son for a night at the movies.  I wasn't disappointed; it's a good film.
     When I last went to the movies at the mall, there had been six theaters in the complex.  Now, there are two dozen, each with stadium seating and drink holders in the arms of the seats.  To accommodate the additional theaters and a lobby that isn't really big enough for a regulation football game, but seems to be, the complex was built out into the already inadequate parking lot.  The theaters are right next to a huge, discount book store that has heavy traffic.  The result is 24 theaters with 23 parking spaces.  I refuse to think what's going to happen at Christmas.
     We had intended to see a four o'clock showing, but were delayed, so we wound up eating dinner at a ridiculously early hour and taking in a seven-thirty showing.
      As I sat in the theatre, watching slides urging me to drink Coca Cola, patronize the concession stand, buy a car, or go to church, I found myself remembering going to movies as a child.
     And the first thing I remembered was that you didn't have to arrive at a fixed time.  Oh, some people would call up, find out when the main attraction started, and show up then.  But most of us simply went when we felt like it, arriving in the middle of one of the two films -- they had double features in those days, though the second film was usually a western.  We'd watch that through to the end, see the other film from beginning to end, and then see the beginning of the first film.  When you got in during the "B" picture, you usually waited until it got to the part you'd already seen, and then leave.  "This is where I came in," you'd say and exit.  If you'd arrived during the main attraction, you might stay and see it through to the end again.
      As I watched the slide show and lost count of the number of slides in backwards, I suddenly understood a difference between my son and me.  If  I discover a show is on TV that I'd like to see, but that it started twenty minutes earlier, I'll watch it.  He won't.  Of course he won't.  He has no practice in putting together what went before.  I usually have no problem grasping the situation.
     And that got me to worrying.  I can walk into a meeting that's been running for a half-hour, and pick up the threads fairly easily and I credit that to the double features of my childhood.  But will Generation X be able to do that?  Will they be able to make sense of overheard conversations in the office that could provide crucial information?  Will they be able to follow what their children aren't telling them?
     I think the movies will have a lot to answer for in the future, but it isn't the sex or violence.  It's the loss of the double feature and the training in figuring out what already happened.


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