Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Mi Cinema Paradiso, Part 1

My earliest moviegoing memories are two: I remember going to see Snow White and the Seven Dwarves at Radio City Music Hall when I was a really little kid and I remember going with my mom to see Young Frankenstein in the early 70s (also when I was a little kid, but I think later than Snow White).

I can remember going over to a friend's house in the late 70s to watch channel 100, which was like an early version of HBO. I don't really remember the movies that they showed on channel 100, but I think Jaws might have been one of them. I also remember having HBO and Cinemax in the early 80s, but I seem to remember that HBO always seemed to be showing the Apple Dumpling Gang non-stop. I guess they sucked back then as much as they suck now. Cinemax, on the other hand, rocked. We didn't always have HBO or Cinemax, but we always knew when there was going to be a free preview weekend. Cinemax always showed the good stuff late at night and I would stay up late whenever I could to watch Cinemax.

My second real job (first was a data-entry job over the summer and not counting tutoring or babysitting) was as an usher for UA Cinemas 3 at Parkway Plaza in El Cajon. This was back in the summer of 85, right after high school graduation. I worked all summer before college and then was re-hired as a "third-manager" (third-person in charge of the theater after the manager and assistant manager) in spring when I dropped out of USC. I stayed there for a few months until I got a much better job at Video Library, where I worked for 2 and a half years.

The coolest thing about working at the theater was being able to start my own screenings of films with friends after the regular showings were done for the day. I can remember many after-midnight private showings that I would run for myself and friends. And even after I stopped working at UA, just having worked there previously and still knowing the management gained me free entry to movies all over town for many years. That on top of my free, multiple, nightly viewings of videos from work meant that, after 3 years, I probably saw about 400 movies.

The downside, if any, to working at a movie theater, is the number of times you have to see some of the crappy films. I was an usher at the same time that a great movie, Aliens, was showing at my theater in 70mm, but I also had to suffer through the ending of Rambo: First Blood Part II several dozen times, so many times that I still remember Sylvester Stallone's last lines in the movie, a short absurd speech that I would repeat under my breath as I waited to open the doors in the back of the theater as soon as it ended.
I want, what they want, and every other guy that fought, spilled his blood, and gave everything he had... wants... for our county to love us, as much as we... love it. That's what I want.

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