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The Dead-Rat-Covered Truth About Movie Theater Nostalgia

The Dead-Rat-Covered Truth About Movie Theater Nostalgia (photo)

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The Internet is a dangerous, dangerous place. One minute you’re watching a heist movie on Netflix Watch Instantly, the next you’re looking up an actor’s name on IMDb, and before you know it you’re watching videos of actual robberies on YouTube, four and a half hours have gone by and you’ve watched exactly six minutes and seventeen seconds of that streaming movie.

On a recent journey down the Internet rabbit hole I randomly found my way to CinemaTreasures.org, a website founded by a filmmaker and a film historian in order to build a living history of every movie theater past and present in the United States. It’s a monumental but potentially invaluable website. And, for slightly more casual readers like myself, it’s a place readjust my nostalgic impressions about the movie theaters of my youth.

Personally I get almost as nostalgic about movie theaters as I do about movies themselves. Though I can’t remember the ending to the movie I saw on Tuesday (it was the one about the guy with that face who’s on that show…what’s his name?), I can still vividly recall where I saw the important movies of my childhood right down to my seat in the auditorium. Even as I do this I know: I am romanticizing these things to an insane degree. I wasn’t going to the classic movie palaces of Hollywood’s golden age; I was going to cruddy subdivided multiplexes in the ‘burbs in Jersey.

That’s one of the things I love about Cinema Treasures. Each theater’s page is devoted entirely to reader submissions. Most of these readers are employees of those theaters, often writing with lenses just a shade less rose-colored than mine. It’s hilarious to compare the beautiful images in my head with their unflinching accounts of reality. For example:


Movie City 5, East Brunswick, NJ
Nostalgic Recollections:Watching “UHF” with my mom and discovering Michael Richards before he became Kramer on “Seinfeld; paying for one movie and getting a free second feature (I remember it being “Flight of the Navigator” and “The Rescuers Down Under” but those movies were released so far apart that can’t be right); rounding up as many friends as could fit into two cars to go see Jean-Claude Van Damme’s “Street Fighter” for my 14th birthday party.

Unflinching Cinema Treasure Reality: “Where else could you earn $3.35 an hour, wear bad bowties, have an unlimited supply of Savor-All and be berated by management? Good memories include: cleaning garbage cans, disposing of rats falling from the ceiling tiles, breaking bon bon freezers and drinking in the storage room. Not a bad days work!” — Lateguy

Movie City 5 Is Now: a furniture store.


Loews Cinema 6, Freehold, NJ
Nostalgic Recollections: Seeing my first R-rated movie, “Terminator 2: Judgment Day;” watching “Being John Malkovich” there for the first time in a completely empty auditorium and feeling like I was discovering the greatest cinematic secret in the history of the world.

Unflinching Cinema Treasures Reality: “It really was a piece of crap. Started as one theater [then expanded]… you could see the break in sections between each duo of theaters and in horrible rain theose sections would leak. Amazing place.” — Dave B.

Loews Cinema 6 Is Now: a Work Out World gym.


Amboys Multiplex Cinemas, Sayreville, NJ
Nostalgic Recollections: Being awestruck by the sheer size of this 14-screen behemoth, the biggest in my area; taking raindy day camp trips to the theater and the neighboring arcade, Razzmatazz, for movies and games; going to Hulk Hogan’s “No Holds Barred” with my best friend and his father and loving it like I had loved no movie before.

Unflinching Cinema Treasures Reality: (Excerpted from Associated Press News Item) “Three police officers and one civilian were injured when violence erupted after a showing of the new drug-gang movie ‘New Jack City’ at the Amboy Multiplex Cinemas, police said…The incident began between 11 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. as a fight between two people in the theater lobby escalated into several other fights, and two trash dumpsters outside were set afire.” — sl

Unflinching Cinema Treasures Reality #2: “I have heard that the Amboy structure has been deemed uninhabitable. The structure was built on partial land-fill on the marshlands of the Raritan River. The ground beneath the foundation of the lobby and concession area had begun to collapse and make the building unstable.” — MovieManBill

Amboys Multiplex Cinemas is Now: an empty, abandoned building.


I included those where-are-they-nows? because whenever I pass these places, I think back with fondness about those old movie theaters. Reading Cinema Treasures, though, I see them for what they really were: strip mall dumps. They didn’t have stadium seating or digital sound. Literally any place I could see a movie today would look and sound better than it did back then. It’s easy to get lost in back-in-my-day, get-off-my-lawn-you-3D-loving-kids thinking. Once in a while it’s worth remembering that remembrances aren’t always perfect.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.