The story: Why I'm still going to movie theaters
“Oh, boy– you are in for a show tonight, son!” –older cop from The Dark Knight Rises
This is a particularly chilling quote from the latest Batman movie— in light of the horrific tragedy of its opening-night showing in Aurora, Colorado on July 20. The world now knows that 12 movie-goers died and 59 were injured when a gunman entered a midnight showing in Theater 9 at Cinema 16 and started shooting at adults and children.
Though more comparable to the Columbine tragedy (thirteen miles away) than the 9/11 disaster, all three incidents have countless future repercussions for the victims, their families, and society as a whole. Add church bombings and shootings to this mix, and it becomes apparent that we are not safe anywhere these days.
Christopher Nolan, director of The Dark Knight Rises, released a public statement saying: “I would not presume to know anything about the victims of the shooting but that they were there last night to watch a movie. I believe movies are one of the great American art forms, and the shared experience of watching a story unfold on the screen is an important and joyful pastime. The movie theater is my home, and the idea that someone would violate that innocent and hopeful place in such an unbearably savage way is devastating to me…”
And that’s what gets me: We're not safe in movie houses now. Okay, there have been incidents throughout the years, such as gang violence at showings of Colors and Warriors years ago, and random stabbings at a horror movie, but nothing on a scale like this.
I love movies. I grew up in Charlottesville theaters. I saw matinees in the Paramount and the Jefferson. I worked for Vinegar Hill Theatre and The Movie Palace, and ushered at both the (now-defunct) Barracks Road and University Theatres. I took dates to the Ridge Drive-In, to the Terrace Twin (later known as Terrace Triple) and the Greenbriar Theaters, and still visit the Carmike and both Regals. I am very much looking forward to our new Regal multiplex and its Imax.
(As a side note: I am a Batman Fan and proved it during the “Batmania” of the mid-sixties. I spent almost five hours with hundreds of other kids on a Saturday afternoon, watching all 17 chapters of a 1940 Batman Serial during a marathon showing at the Jefferson.)
I know we can watch movies everywhere now– from our home theaters to our iPhones and iPads– but movie theaters are where the real magic is. They offer what film critic Roger Ebert (at a scene-by-scene seminar here in C'ville) called “an out-body-experience …[where] you’re not looking at your watch or thinking about what you’re going to do later…” And to share this big screen experience with family, friends and/or strangers amplifies the magic.
Story is the foundation of good film. Story is a part of our lives. The art of film (including on TV) puts Story in front of us to share in a way no other medium can. Movies in a theater have us work to get there and focus– together– on their magic.
For many, this experience has been taken away by a madman. The dead and the traumatized can’t return. Many others may reconsider whether they ever see a movie in public again.
So now what? Will movie theaters become like airports, with security lines at metal detectors? Will Theaters close due to security risks and costs? Will people stop attending out of fear? Will one psychopath change the way we live?
We’ll see how the story unravels…
Carroll Trainum still holds hope for the Boston Red Sox, is now enjoying the Washington Nationals’ season, and will continue to go to a movie theater every chance he gets.