Going to the movies

Country Roads

The big news in our community right now is a new IMAX Theater. Ground was broken in Waukee late last month for a 15-screen movie theater that will include an 85-foot-wide IMAX screen which, it is claimed, will be the largest movie screen in Iowa.

This definitely will not be your grandfather’s movie theater. In addition to the IMAX screen, the complex will include 14 additional auditoriums, each being equipped with luxury recliners. Some of the auditoriums will feature in-seat food and beverages and a full wait staff.

Expected to be completed by the end of this year, the complex is being built by Fridley Theaters, an Iowa company which already owns and operates 20 theaters in Iowa and Nebraska.

While I’m not a frequent movie-goer, I have long had a fascination with the industry. I saw my first motion picture around the age of six when Dad took me to a movie at the now-defunct Strand Theater in Jewell. I was hooked.

In our small town of less than 1,200 it was safe for kids to go to a movie unaccompanied and when I was a few years older I went to some movies alone or, eventually, with my younger brothers. Little nerd boy that I was, I enjoyed the news reels and, of course, the cartoons that preceded the main feature.

Admission prices were low in those days. I remember that the price of admission increased when you reached 12 years of age. Being tall (and large) for my age, one night I was challenged by the ticket seller who insisted that I was 12 when I was actually younger. I argued until she let me in at the proper amount.

About the time we moved away from Jewell, my father decided that his boys should no longer go to the movies. He was concerned about the worldly influences on his sons.

Shortly after Dad made movies verboten we visited Uncle Gerrit and his family in Urbandale. My cousin, Cheryl, wanted to see a movie at the Varsity Theater near Drake University in Des Moines and asked me to go along. I was pleasantly surprised when Dad consented.

The Varsity Theater was much larger than the Strand back home and I was awestruck. Cousin Cheryl and I found seats toward the front and soon enough we were watching Ingrid Bergman in “The Inn of the Sixth Happiness.”

I don’t remember much of the story other than it was set in China and somewhere in the movie there was an execution – a beheading. Though the scene was not graphic, there was no question as to what was happening. Just as the sword fell the film cut away to a burst of firecrackers. I was tense from the story leading up to the execution and the first firecracker explosion nearly sent me out of my seat.

Even today when I drive by the Varsity Theater I chuckle at the memory.

That was the last movie I saw until I occasionally snuck away with friends with cars to see a movie at our county seat theater.

The first time I asked Dad for the family car for a date he insisted that I not take my date to a movie. “You’re not going to one of those Hellywood movies,” he insisted. Mom finally stepped in to support me and Dad relented.

A few years after I left home I convinced Dad to go with me to see “Tora, Tora, Tora,” which dramatized the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Dad was a World War II veteran and I know he appreciated the film. I appreciated Dad going with me.

I saw quite a few movies during my dating years but once I was married and we had children we were too busy and too broke to go to movies. As the kids grew older we went to a few drive-in movies.

Today, Julie and I go to a movie occasionally but it can be challenging to find a motion picture we enjoy. I must have finally grown up; I don’t enjoy hearing undue vulgarity and blasphemy or watching graphic violence and gratuitous sex.

Accordingly, when a good movie comes along we try to support it.

Maybe Hollywood will remake Old Yeller one of these days. Say, do you think they would remake Old Yeller for the IMAX screen?

COMMENTS