In another thread over at the blu ray and UHD section, I was disheartened to see posts where some said they were pretty much over the theatrical experience since the closing of cinemas because of the pandemic and had no intention of “going back” and that their home theater set ups were good enough for them. While I realize this is the home theater forum, cinema means going to a movie theatre and experiencing the film to me. There’s just something about the cinematic experience that cannot be duplicated in your living room (or home theater if you prefer). It got me thinking of some of my film going memories and the experience of seeing a movie in a theater with others instead of watching a movie at home in my underwear and eating microwave popcorn. Please feel free to share some of your movie going memories. WARNING: spoilers ahead if you’ve not seen the films.

Alien (1979). I saw this opening weekend in a packed theater before anyone knew about the notorious chest buster scene. When it happened, there was literally pandemonium in the theatre. A woman behind me stood up and screamed, “I don’t need this sh*t!” before running up the aisle never to return. It took a minute before the audience calmed down.

Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (1977). I saw this in 70 millimeter at the Cinerama Dome in Los Angeles opening weekend. When the first wide shot of the mother ship was displayed, there was a loud audible collective gasp from the entire audience, held briefly and just as audibly exhaled. It was a true moment of cinematic wonder.

Carrie (1976). Yes, we thought the movie was over as Amy Irving moved toward Sissy Spacek’s grave with flowers in her hand. But suddenly that hand reached out from the grave and the person behind literally kicked my seat hard enough to thrust me forward making contact with the person sitting in front of me, who screamed even harder after that. I apologized to her but the person behind didn’t apologize to me.

The War At Home (1996). Unlike the three previous films mentioned, the theater was near empty. There were about 7 of us in the audience. By the film’s powerful conclusion, we were all audibly sobbing and we were all male.

North By Northwest (1959). This was at a rather run down revival house in the early 1980s. The theater was pretty crowded and I had an aisle seat. The film was about to start when I heard a female voice saying, “Excuse me please” and I moved my legs in so she and her young companions could get to their seats. When I looked up, I recognized the film’s star, Eva Marie Saint. She later did a spontaneous Q&A with the audience after the film. She said her children had never seen the film and she wanted their first experience watching the film to be in a theatre and not on television.
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Thomas T

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Joe Wong

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Aliens (1986): for intensity, dread, and especially atmosphere, as well as the suspense, and the chills and thrills, one of my favourite theatrical experiences. So good I went 5 times to see this in the cinema.

Saving Private Ryan (1998): 2 of the most intense sequences (Omaha Beach and the defence of the small town at the end) I had ever experienced. I felt like I had been punched in the gut and left shaking after surviving the D-Day assault, and I was never sure when the next bullet would whiz by and take someone out throughout the rest of the film. The surround sound captures all the chaos. Saw this 4 times in the cinema.

Interstellar (2014): Watched this in true IMAX (1.43:1). The sequence on the water planet was magnificent. Impossible to replicate, in a home setting, the awe I felt when the tidal wave fills the 76 ft high screen.

Avengers: Endgame (2019): For sheer crowd-pleasing enjoyment and the full gamut of emotions - the anticipation, the joy, the tears, the despair, the hope - the shared experience with an opening-night, MCU-invested audience was one of the greatest ever in all my years of going to a cinema.
 

Tommy R

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I saw Back to the Future in a smallish theater in 2010 and the house was packed. Everyone who was there clearly loved the movie going in. It turned a little MST3K here and there and it was amazing. I’ve never before and never since experienced such a lively crowd. The cheers when George knocked out Biff was louder than anything I’ve ever heard. It was a glorious night.
 

Jeffrey D

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Pulp Fiction. I saw it for the first time in Myrtle Beach (that theater no longer exists) during one of my golf vacations- January 1995. I knew the film was getting a lot of positive buzz, so I gave it a shot. The first scene with Pumpkin and Honey Bunny played, and I thought, OK- good scene. The opening credits came on, and Misirlou was switched to Jungle Boogie, and right then and there I thought it was going to be a really good experience. At the end of the film, I was
thrilled. I got to my car, looked at the time on the radio, and thought “That film sure didn’t feel like it was 2 hours 40 minutes”.
I went back to the same theater 2 days later, and watched it again. I know I’ve seen the film at least 50 times, and I feel good knowing I have played the film to friends and family for their first viewing.
Pulp and the first Godfather are my 2 favorite films.
 

TravisR

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I've undoubtedly told these stories on HTF before but the most memorable moviegoing experience for me was Star Wars: The Last Jedi when Kylo Ren kills Snoke and then he and Rey start to battle with the guards and it goes to slow-motion. Between the shock of them killing what everyone assumed would be the bad guy for the entire trilogy, some great shots (the lightsaber going to Rey's hand, the red light going across Kylo's face), John Williams bringing his excellent work, and then the slow-motion kicking in, I literally yelled out, "Oh shit!" and started laughing because it was so great. I know it's a controversial entry in the series but I don't care what anyone says- it was the best Star Wars movie in 35 years.

Another great one for me was seeing all (at the time) seven Star Wars movies in 2015. It was a ridiculously long day because I think I got there around 1:30 AM to get a good seat for me and my friend. The movies started at 4:30 AM and ended at 9:45 PM. They played them in chronological order and the theater already smelled just like a zoo by the time that the original trilogy started.

I've seen Jaws a bunch of times in a theater and that's always fun because the movie still works so well that even after decades, the crowd is completely in suspense.

Another fun one was the climax of Once Upon A Time... In Hollywood when Rick comes out and takes care of business (to keep it spoiler friendly). The crowd erupted with laughter and applause every time I saw it... and I saw it a lot.


I saw Back to the Future in a smallish theater in 2010 and the house was packed. Everyone who was there clearly loved the movie going in. It turned a little MST3K here and there and it was amazing. I’ve never before and never since experienced such a lively crowd. The cheers when George knocked out Biff was louder than anything I’ve ever heard. It was a glorious night.
I saw the Back To The Future triple feature on October 21, 2015 and when Doc said the date in Part II, people started clapping. That was a ton of fun because every person in the theater loved the movies so people laughed, cheered, and clapped all throughout.


Just to hammer home the point of this thread, you don't get any of that joy watching movies on your TV at home.
 

Tino

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One of the most memorable moments ever in my moviegoing life was the moment in Raiders Of The Lost Ark when Indy shot the huge swordsman. The sold out crowd erupted with laughter and cheers that lasted forever it seemed. Nothing has come close since to that amazing audience reaction.

You cannot replicate that at home.
 

Tino

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Another was seeing Jaws at Radio City Music Hall in the late 90’s. It was a sold out crowd with a personal live introduction by Peter Benchley. The crowd laughed and cheered and jumped at every classic moment. It was awesome!
 

RBailey

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My favorite moviegoing experience was seeing the original version of THE LONGEST YARD (1974) with a packed house. During the climactic football game between the prisoners and the guards, I felt as if I was at an actual football game. The sound of people cheering and laughing at the top of their lungs was incredible. And, to top it off, the very ending of the film as Burt Reynolds walks away from warden Eddie Albert topped the football game reaction followed by a large exclamation of relief as it ended.
 

Thomas T

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Another indelible movie going experience for me was seeing Abel Gance's Napoleon (1928) at the Shrine auditorium in Los Angeles with a live symphony orchestra accompanying it. When the three panel triptych finale was revealed, the audience went crazy! The applause was deafening! That moment could never be recreated in a home theater environment.
 

John Sparks

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I built a home theater in 2011 so I wouldn't have to go to a movie theater and so far it has worked out perfectly.

My best memory of going to a movie theater was watching the first run of STAR WARS at the Manns Chinese Theater in Hollywood and firefighting a fire behind the screen in an old movie theater (Century Theater) in downtown LA. The theater was a total loss.
 

Jeffrey D

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In another thread over at the blu ray and UHD section, I was disheartened to see posts where some said they were pretty much over the theatrical experience since the closing of cinemas because of the pandemic and had no intention of "going back" and that their home theater set ups were good enough for them. While I realize this is the home theater forum, cinema means going to a movie theatre and experiencing the film to me. There's just something about the cinematic experience that cannot be duplicated in your living room (or home theater if you prefer). It got me thinking of some of my film going memories and the experience of seeing a movie in a theater with others instead of watching a movie at home in my underwear and eating microwave popcorn. Please feel free to share some of your movie going memories. WARNING: spoilers ahead if you've not seen the films.

Alien (1979). I saw this opening weekend in a packed theater before anyone knew about the notorious chest buster scene. When it happened, there was literally pandemonium in the theatre. A woman behind me stood up and screamed, "I don't need this sh*t!" before running up the aisle never to return. It took a minute before the audience calmed down.

Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (1977). I saw this in 70 millimeter at the Cinerama Dome in Los Angeles opening weekend. When the first wide shot of the mother ship was displayed, there was a loud audible collective gasp from the entire audience, held briefly and just as audibly exhaled. It was a true moment of cinematic wonder.

Carrie (1976). Yes, we thought the movie was over as Amy Irving moved toward Sissy Spacek's grave with flowers in her hand. But suddenly that hand reached out from the grave and the person behind literally kicked my seat hard enough to thrust me forward making contact with the person sitting in front of me, who screamed even harder after that. I apologized to her but the person behind didn't apologize to me.

The War At Home (1996). Unlike the three previous films mentioned, the theater was near empty. There were about 7 of us in the audience. By the film's powerful conclusion, we were all audibly sobbing and we were all male.

North By Northwest (1959). This was at a rather run down revival house in the early 1980s. The theater was pretty crowded and I had an aisle seat. The film was about to start when I heard a female voice saying, "Excuse me please" and I moved my legs in so she and her young companions could get to their seats. When I looked up, I recognized the film's star, Eva Marie Saint. She later did a spontaneous Q&A with the audience after the film. She said her children had never seen the film and she wanted their first experience watching the film to be in a theatre and not on television.
Great story about Alien. I was very uncomfortable with that scene on my first viewing- on my 32” Sony.

A fun experience I just remembered is when I saw Lethal Weapon 2 at the theater- the bad guy- “Diplomatic immunity!” Murtaugh “Has just been revoked!”- the crowd roared. Tino is right-
we can’t get the crowd reaction in our living room.
 

sleroi

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I was 14 and in 9th grade when Christine came out and my friend and I snuck in to see it. The usher came by, shined his light, and asked to see our ticket. Before we could even try to come up with an excuse the man sitting directly behind us said its okay and that we were with him. It was our science teacher.
 

Bryan^H

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My friend and I went to a midnight show of 'Operation Condor' when it came out. Two other people in the theater...smoking crack.


Last Boy Scout, again midnight show. Packed theater, crazy fight in the back of the theater. Movie stopped, most people left. Movie resumed about twenty minutes later.

Ok, positive memorable experience.

I mentioned this already in another thread, but watching 'Return of the Jedi' in August 1983 at a matinee. Not a soul in the theater except me and two friends. I was ten years old. Magic.


People clapping, and cheering at the end of 'Inglorious Basterds' in a packed theater.
 
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Mysto

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My favorite theater experience was at the Detroit Organ Club at the Redford Theater in Michigan. They were showing a group of Laurel and Hardy silent films with live organ accompaniment. The audience had a lot of kids and teenagers and they were all laughing all the way through. I kept thinking not only did they find out that good film was good film even in black and white and silent but just perhaps some would go on with a love of older film after the experience.
 

Jeffrey D

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My friend and I went to a midnight show of 'Operation Condor' when it came out. Two other people in the theater...smoking crack.


Last Boy Scout, again midnight show. Packed theater, crazy fight in the back of the theater. Movie stopped, most people left. Movie resumed about twenty minutes later.

Ok, positive memorable experience.

I mentioned this already in another thread, but watching 'Return of the Jedi' in August 1983 at a matinee. Not a soul in the theater except me and two friends. I was ten years old. Magic.
A shame that some people insist upon ruining other people’s theater experiences.
I haven’t seen a lot of films in a theater, but I’ve been lucky to not have had problems with others while watching the film.

I remember seeing The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou- I was the only one in the auditorium. I think the film Blockers is another one that I watched alone.
 

Jeffrey D

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One of the most memorable moments ever in my moviegoing life was the moment in Raiders Of The Lost Ark when Indy shot the huge swordsman. The sold out crowd erupted with laughter and cheers that lasted forever it seemed. Nothing has come close since to that amazing audience reaction.

You cannot replicate that at home.
Yes the “Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight” scene- my dad took the family to the theater to watch this. He was ultra conservative on what should and shouldn’t be shown to the public- he wasn’t keen on violence in film or television, but when this scene happened, even he got a kick out of it. Great scene.
 

Mike2001

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Saw The Long Kiss Goodnight on opening night in a packed theater. The scene where Gina Davis’s character kicks Samuel Jackson’s character out of the car got one of the most sustained laughs I’ve ever heard. I’ve had a soft spot in my heart for this movie ever since.
 

Thomas T

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I mentioned this already in another thread, but watching 'Return of the Jedi' in August 1983 at a matinee. Not a soul in the theater except me and two friends. I was ten years old. Magic.
My own Return Of The Jedi story: a friend and I worked in the same office for the federal government in 1983. We both wanted to see Jedi opening day which was a work day (a Friday if I recollect). So several days before we both told our supervisor (separately) that we had doctor appointments on Friday so we would be in late. In reality, we were going to the 9:00 AM showing of Jedi. Well, the the theater was packed and the audience reaction was crazy. So after the movie/"dr. appointment" we go to work. Our supervisor asked me how the doctor appointment went and I said fine. A bit later she asked Joe (my friend) how his doctor appointment went. He said, "Thom and I decided to see Return Of The Jedi instead!". Needless to say, she was furious at us and I was furious at Joe. Joe had a screw loose somewhere and eventually ended up in prison but that's a whole other story.