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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