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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Documentary Now! Robert Evans Mansion

The Reel Deal

Everything You Need To Know About “Mr. Runner Up” Inspiration Robert Evans

Watch the two-part finale of Documentary Now! this Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

In its upcoming two-part finale, Documentary Now! spoofs the crown jewel of docs: The Kid Stays In The Picture. It’s the autobiographical documentary about Robert Evans, the unlikely Hollywood mogul whose mix of self-aggrandizing bravado, classic good looks and extremely circumstantial good luck took him from being a salesman to an actor to the head of Paramount Pictures.

If you’ve never seen the film, it’s totally worth it. Rotten Tomatoes agrees, with a staggeringly-high approval rating. Watch it before, or watch it after — doesn’t matter. You’ll appreciate it whenever.

In the meantime, here’s a bit of background that will come in handy…

Robert Loves Robert

Robert Evans desk

USA Films/Everett Collection

Robert Evans is the ultimate Robert Evans fan. The movie was narrated by Robert Evans and based on his memoir of the same name. It is totally unbiased.

He’s Kind Of A Big Deal

Robert Evans, Chinatown
Paramount Pictures

Evans produced some of Hollywood’s true classics: Chinatown, Rosemary’s Baby, The Godfather, Love Story…the list goes on. Totally legit and amazing movies.

He’s Also Kind Of A Joke

Wag The Dog
New Line Cinema

Evans has been parodied in TV shows and movies like Entourage and Wag The Dog. He is the quintessential “producer” you already have in your head.

So Wrong He’s Right

Robert Evans Slap
20th Century Film Corp

Robert Evans is a notorious narcissist whose love of self is so blind and sincere that it’s actually adorable.

There’s Something Missing

via Giphy

Entire sections of Robert Evans’ life are left out of the documentary. Maybe it’s because of timing. Maybe it’s because real life isn’t a tidy narrative. Who knows.

He Blew It

Spider coke

Evans had a pretty spectacular fall from grace. He was convicted of cocaine trafficking in the early 80’s, and was connected to a contract killing during the production of The Cotton Club. Oops.

Losing Is For Losers

Everett Collection
Everett Collection

In the Robert Evans mythology, all tragedies are just triumphs in disguise, and every story has a happy ending…for Robert Evans.

Bill Hader Jerry Wallach

With these simple facts in hand you are now prepared to thoroughly enjoy the two-part finale of Documentary Now! starting this Wednesday at 10/9c on IFC.

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Weird Roles

Anthony Michael Hall’s Most Rotten Movies

Catch Anthony Michael Hall in Weird Science on Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

Anthony Michael Hall was the quintessential ’80s nerd. We love him in classics like The Breakfast Club and National Lampoon’s Vacation. But even the brainiest among us has his weak spots. In honor of Weird Science airing this Rotten Friday, we analyze Hall’s worst movies.

Weird Science (1985) 56%

A low point for John Hughes, Weird Science is way too wacky for its own good. Anthony Michael Hall’s Gary and his pal Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) create the “perfect woman.” Supernatural chaos ensues. The film costars a young Bill Paxton, floppy disks, and a general disconnect from all reality.

The Caveman’s Valentine (2001) 46%

This ambitious drama starring Samuel L. Jackson couldn’t live up to its rich premise. Jackson plays Romulus, a Juilliard-educated, paranoid schizophrenic who lives in a cave. Hall co-stars as Bob, a rich man, who wants to see Romulus play the piano. The plot centers around Romulus investigating a murder, but with so much going on, the movie never quite finds its rhythm.

All About the Benjamins (2002) 30%

Ice Cube plays a bounty hunter who teams up with Mike Epps’ con man to catch diamond thieves. Hall plays Lil J, a small-time drug dealer. It’s definitely a role we’ve never seen Hall in, but overall the movie isn’t funny or original enough to justify its violence.

Freddy Got Fingered (2001) 11%

This showcase for Tom Green’s goofy gross-out comedy is often hailed as one of the worst films of all time. Green plays Gord, a 20-something slacker, who dreams of having his own animated series. Hall is Dave Davidson, a CEO of an animation studio who eventually helps Gord find success. Too bad Tom Green wasn’t so lucky.

Johnny Be Good (1988) 0%

Hall plays against type as Johnny Walker, a star quarterback. Robert Downey Jr. is his best friend and Uma Thurman plays his devoted girlfriend. Despite the support of a future A-list cast, the movie lacks central conflict and charm. Or, as TV Guide put it, “Johnny be worthless.” Ouch.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” Weird Science this Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Season 6: Episode 1: Pickathon

Binge Fest

Portlandia Season 6 Now Available On DVD

The perfect addition to your locally-sourced, artisanal DVD collection.

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End of summer got you feeling like:

Portlandia Toni Screaming GIF

Ease into fall with Portlandia‘s sixth season. Relive the latest exploits of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s cast of characters, including Doug and Claire’s poignant breakup, Lance’s foray into intellectual society, and the terrifying rampage of a tsukemen Noodle Monster! Plus, guest stars The Flaming Lips, Glenn Danzig, Louis C.K., Kevin Corrigan, Zoë Kravitz, and more stop by to experience what Portlandia is all about.

Pick up a copy of the DVD today, or watch full episodes and series extras now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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