Earlier today we took our kids to see Monsters University. (It’s really good. I’ll write it up on Monday.) This is the first time the Little One has been to the movies, and only the second time I’ve been with the Big One in a theater, though he has seen a couple other kiddie movies with friends.
When I was growing up, going to movie theaters was frowned upon in our church. It was a holdover from the days before home video, the idea being that a church should not be giving money to a corrupt and morally bankrupt industry like the movie business. That’s an admirable goal, but it became moot when people would rent videos to watch them after theatrical runs, so it really started to loosen up after I got to high school. As a result, I went through a phase when going to the movies was a huge event, something that was special and frequent. I actually have a clear memory of watching the original Monsters Inc. with several friends from college in my freshman year.
I’ve commented elsewhere how movies are treated more and more like a commodity not just by studios, but by the viewers as well. It’s why we get so many sequels to established properties, and why so many people go to see them. But it’s also affected the experience at the theater, where many people my own age are now a little exhausted by crowds of unruly fans and people who refuse to bunch up next to someone else so you can have two seats together. The cost, both in time and money, has also skyrocketed for me. Ticket prices go up, and now I generally need to plan a couple weeks out to see something with my wife. So the movies haven’t just stopped being special. They’ve actually become a bit of a pain.
But today as the lights darkened and the previews rolled, my son leaned over to me and said, “This is going to be fun!” He told me this again after a couple more previews. It wasn’t old news for him. He didn’t have to deal with the cost or with the organization to get there. All he saw was an enormous screen, colorful characters, and his family sitting next to him. Of course he thought that was special.
And in that moment, it was special for me too.