Going to the movie theater is my favorite pastime. I can go to the movie theater once a week for every week of my life, that’s how much I love it. Sometimes, if a movie is really good or not, more than once a week.
COVID-19 has shut movie theaters down here in the US and it’s a sad predicament. With highly-anticipated films like Black Widow, Mulan, Wonder Woman 1984, and Tenet on my must-watch bucket list, it’s even sadder knowing that I can’t go to my local theater, sit down, enjoy some classic butter popcorn and a soda, and enjoy a movie that will either blow my mind or make me mildly happy.
However, there have been five movie theater experiences that I will never forget. Sometimes the experience comes via a film that honestly, isn’t that great, but in an IMAX theater, my mind was unexpectedly blown in ways that have stuck with me over the years. So, here are those five movie theater experiences in chronological order.
(This is a long read.)
2013: Jurassic Park
On a spring afternoon in 2013, my father took me and my sister to see Jurassic Park for the first time…ever! At the time, I didn’t know anything about Jurassic Park other than the idea that it had something to do with dinosaurs and I could recognize the lead character in the film.
Imagine my surprise as I sat in the front row of an IMAX theater, my eyes turned upward to the giant screen, watching the very beginning which begins in horrifying fashion as a caged velociraptor ends up killing a worker in a brutal fashion. The noise, the horror, the magic of it all, I was sitting there absolutely stunned.
Of course, after that, the movie only gets better and better.
I remember seeing this part for the first time and being like, “Whoa.” The way Steven Spielberg directs this scene where Grant and Ellie see the dinosaurs for the first time makes you feel just how magical this moment is. You must remember, at the beginning of the film, even though we hear and see flashes of the velociraptor, we don’t actually see a dinosaur until this moment.
The music, the shock, and the incredible special effects left me absolutely stunned. Stunned, I tell you!
After that, the movie had my utmost attention and when things turn bad ooh, I was scared to death. I have never jumped or yelped that much in a movie theater. The horror, the suspense, Steven Spielberg crafted a perfect film that leaves you constantly believing every person on the island is in peril.
When I walked out of that theater I was blown away and so thankful that my first experience with this movie was in an IMAX theater. Such an incredible experience!
2014: Transformers: Age of Extinction
Transformers: Age of Extinction was nominated as one of the worst films in 2014 yet it made over a billion! dollars. How is that possible? I’ll tell you how. It was an AMAZING action movie. My father took my sister and I to go see it (it was my first time ever watching a Transformers film) and we sat in that IMAX (we’re an IMAX family) theater for nearly three hours utterly blown away by how incredible the action was.
The movie was so loud that the chairs in the theater were literally rumbling. I cannot fully express to you how incredible this film was in the theater but when we walked out into the bright summer sunshine it was very clear that I had seen one of the best action movies ever.
No, the story isn’t brilliant and the characters can be annoying sometimes but what I enjoyed were the Transformers and heck, there were a lot of them providing a LOT of awesome Transformers action to unpack and enjoy.
And don’t get me started on the Dino Bots.
Throughout my movie theater ventures in 2014, I would always see the teaser and eventually the official trailer for Interstellar. The teaser made me want to see the film, the trailer…eh, not so much but thankfully we went to see it anyway.
It was my first Christopher Nolan movie and I didn’t know what I was in for. It was Thanksgiving, my family and I were visiting a relative in Arlington, VA, and at the end of the night, we decided to go watch this movie.
We went to the AMC theater at Tyson’s Corner and went to a late eleven o’clock showing of the film. As we sat in that mostly empty theater, I was mildly excited. Would this movie be any good or would it be a waste of my time? I was sucked in instantly. I’m talking about…INSTANTLY.
The chill-inducing theme Hans Zimmer made for the film during the movie’s opening moments was so loud in IMAX, its single musical whine filling the theater with an eye-widening purpose. I didn’t know that I was about to have the most out-of-body experience I could ever have in a theater but that’s what happened.
Matthew McConaughey’s tears had me weeping, the story yanked me from emotion to emotion, and the visuals were beyond impressive. The fact that this movie wasn’t nominated for Best Picture is outrageous. Outrageous, I tell you!
If Interstellar is re-released in theaters here in the US just go watch it. Please. It’s worth the time and money, seriously.
2014: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Yeah, this movie compared to The Lord of the Rings is pretty dismal but in the movie theaters, it was amazing. My family and I went to an IMAX midnight viewing of the film in 2014. It was my first-midnight viewing and I was super excited.
I was actually pretty enthusiastic about the movie. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was fun to watch in the theater despite having its faults which mainly accumulated in the last hour of the film. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug felt like a massive upgrade, providing one of the best movie theater experiences of my life.
The barrel escape sequence was mind-blowing when I watched it for the first time, especially when we got to see superhero Legolas in action. Gandalf’s face-to-face confrontation with Sauron was eye-widening and Smaug, oh my goodness, Smaug. He made me feel tiny in the theater as he towered over Bilbo, his baritone voice trembling through my senses as his very presence overwhelmed me.
No, this isn’t nearly as good as The Lord of the Rings movies, but it was pretty great in IMAX.
2019: Avengers: Endgame
Every town provides a different theater experience. Where I live, audiences in theaters are often rather conservative, laughing when it’s appropriate to laugh, crying when something sad happens, but there are rarely cheers of joy in the theater or a bunch of clapping.
Marvel Studios, up to the point of Endgame, had given us quality entertainment for over eleven years with storylines that impacted us. Infinity War left our heroes in a rut and we were ready to see how they would bounce back.
Throughout the film, there was plenty of laughter from the audience as the film’s classic brand of humor let loose, dampening the gloom and bringing back the fun adventure, this time in the version of a scintillating time heist.
Black Widow dies, things start to get grim again. Hulk uses the Infinity Gauntlet to snap everybody back. Thanos shows up and destroys the Avengers facility, nearly killing the Avengers within its confines. And then, the cheering brigade began.
The first roar that swelled in the movie theater was when Cap summoned Mjolnir to his hand in the fight against Thanos. Everyone in the theater, including me and my family, clapped and cheered at this incredible moment as we watched Captain America wield the hammer for the first time. As he momentarily kicked Thanos’ butt I remember the theater still reverberating with excitement. That excitement, of course, was shortlived as Thanos took control and left Cap defeated.
Just when it seemed that all hope was lost, that the Avengers would be defeated once and for all, a man offscreen spoke. It was so quiet in the theater a penny could’ve dropped at the bottom of the auditorium and everyone would’ve heard it. And then, there were the iconic words, “On your left.”
As Cap turned with genuine surprise, we see a portal opening and out from this portal arrived none other than Black Panther himself with Okoye and Shuri at his side. The theater erupted, I started crying, and after that, you pretty much couldn’t even hear the music because everyone was cheering so loudly.
It was pretty much deafening when Spidey swang onto the screen as the theater erupted yet again. Meanwhile, like I said before, I was profusely weeping with joy. The cheers didn’t stop coming either.
There were so many fantastic moments during this final battle sequence, including the all-female Avenger charge that had people clapping and expressing their joy with abundance. But, all great things have to come to an end, and it wasn’t long before I was crying with genuine sadness as Iron Man sacrificed his life to save everyone else’s. The theater was filled with sniffling through the silence and as I walked out of that theater with red eyes and a headache from crying so hard I knew that I had experienced one of the best movie theater experiences I’ll ever know.
These are the five movie theater experiences I have been lucky enough to enjoy and I have had a really fun time sharing them. I’d like to share a couple of honorable mentions: one for Avengers: Age of Ultron which I watched with my father and sister on opening day in New York City. It was the first rowdy theater I had ever been in and it was so much fun as the audience engaged with the movie abundantly from beginning to end.
The second honorable mention belongs to The Force Awakens which was another experience I will never forget. It was only my second time seeing a Star Wars movie in theaters (I saw Revenge of the Sith but I don’t remember it very well, I was nearly seven at the time) and there were so many things to be excited about. One, the story and characters were really great, it was my first time getting a chance to see and hear the Millennium Falcon in a theater, and by the film’s conclusion, I was a weeping mess. Man, it was fun.
Hopefully, sooner rather than later, we will get to walk back into our local theaters and sit down to watch a great movie on the big screen. When that day comes, I will treasure those new experiences. Or maybe, this pastime we took for granted will be no more and drive-ins will become the new norm again. We shall see.
I thank you for reading and I hope you have a fantastic day.