We All Bond Better in Theaters

We sat together, father and son, in the darkened theater watching the reconciliation between father and son as the clock slowly ticked toward Father’s Day.

I’d learned earlier in the week that Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was playing at the Island Cinema this week, and even though I’d previously seen it on the big screen fifteen times, I really wanted to go again. The movie is special to me for a lot of reasons. First off, to me Indiana Jones is Star Wars’s little brother. I have nearly as much passion for Indy as I do for the Wars. Secondly, it was one of the first films I saw after I took my first screenwriting class, and it’s a textbook terrific screenplay. Thirdly, I became a fan and later a solid acquaintance of the writer of the film, the late Jeffrey Boam.

I made a bargain with my wife, who finally conceded it would make a nice Father’s Day outing, only to find my victory short-lived as there were no Sunday showings on the schedule.

But there was a Saturday night show.

Problem is, G-Man and I both had to work. We were two of iHeart’s three representatives at the Chamber of Commerce’s Business and Bytes/Chamber Experience evening under the oaks at Gascoigne Park. The event—which was fantastic, by the way—ran until nine. The movie started at 9:45. Figuring in breakdown time and the fact that my body just doesn’t function at extremely late hours anymore, it didn’t seem possible.

I mentioned it to Mrs. Ryfun anyway. She deferred. Saturday was her birthday, but she’d planned on spending it resting from a particularly exhausting week. I’d taken her out for a birthday celebration the night before, and at lunch that day we’d had a family get-together to celebrate every single birthday of everyone I’ve ever considered being related to (they’re all in June). After she deferred, though, she said the thing that puts impossible dreams into my head.

“You can go if you want to. I don’t mind.”

At that point, it was on. I bought tickets over the internet (there’s essentially a 30% markup on five dollar tickets doing it that way, just so you know), and looked forward to catching up with one of my all-time faves with G-Man that night.

The event started to wind down a little early, so we packed up and had plenty of time to drop off the equipment at the station before returning to the island to catch the flick. More than at any previous viewing, the themes of father and son; how they can be so different and yet so similar; how those similarities can actually seem like differences and drive a wedge between two people who, by virtue of genetics, should have one of the strongest bonds on earth really hit home with me. Watching the movie as it ended three minutes before Father’s Day compounded the feelings.

G-Man is nearing the end of his college experience. Next stop: the real world! And like Indy and Henry, Sr, we are often so much alike we find ourselves frustrated with each other, our minds spinning the similarities as differences. I didn’t say it out loud that night, but sitting there with him—watching this movie I love so much, knowing by his reactions to all the great moments that I’ve passed that love on to him—I realized that that evening was one of the most satisfying nights of my life. I’m proud of the young man he’s become, and I can’t wait to see what he makes of his endless possibilities.

So why did I go to Island Cinemas to see a movie I’ve already caught in theaters fifteen previous times? One I’ve bought on VHS, DVD, Blu-Ray (I won a second Blu-Ray in a Lucasfilm Indiana Jones contest, along with a hat, a book, and a signed poster), and digitally? Not mention the fact that I have a pretty nice home theater room in my house? Because there’s just no substitute for the movie theater experience. It’s not just about the size of the screen or the sound system. It’s not just about the popcorn or the candy. It’s about the shared experience of being immersed in a theater with a great movie and great people. You can’t pause it to go to the john. You can’t rewind it if you didn’t hear. You can’t shut it off and pick up where you left off in the morning, because you’re too tired. Seeing a movie in a theater is a sharing experience, with those you know and those you don’t.

When we were teenagers, we’d go see the opening night of a horror film at Lanier, even if we could see it somewhere else, because we knew the Lanier audience would be the most fun to view a scary movie with. When I was eleven, I remember our entire theater at the Brunswick Mall Cinema erupting, popcorn flying, when Rocky Balboa took out Clubber Lang in their rematch. I remember seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark in that same theater forty years ago this week, and my mom being so excited about it, we had to come back the very next week and see it again, but this time, we brought my dad. Fathers and sons spending time together seems to be a recurring theme with my Indiana Jones movies.

But last year, there was a point at which we feared we may lose our theaters. Fiscal prognosticators were projecting that AMC would never come back, and Georgia Theatre Company was holding popcorn sales to generate SOME revenue, ANY revenue. When the theaters opened back up, I made sure to support them, and since they initially were only booking theater rentals, I made sure to rent out several theaters. We called our group the Nerd Strike Team and we indulged in the timeless art of fellowship in a quiet theater, watching Superman, the Empire Strikes Back, and yes, even Raiders of the Lost Ark.

I could also bore you silly with hours of stories of spending the summer of 1991, bonding with a certain girl over viewings of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Terminator 2, Rocketeer, and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. I know I mentioned Prince of Thieves twice. Mind your own business. I said I wasn’t going to bore you with those stories.

Going to see a movie at the theater seems quaint in this day and age when you can literally watch the latest releases on the HBOMax app on your iPad. But it’s not the same. It’s not the same audio-visual experience, and it’s not the same social experience.

Now that the theaters have finally opened back up, do yourself and our society a favor: go to the theaters and watch movies, lots of them. Support our local theaters (gtcmovies.com). Help preserve this unique cultural experience, so that far into the future fathers and sons can continue to bond over the adventures of the Jones boys in a darkened cinema.

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