There wasn’t a whole lot to do in undergrad. I wasn’t old enough to get into bars, not that Birmingham had the greatest bar scene in the world in the early 1990s. I wasn’t in a fraternity, so I had no social life available to me through my college. I’d exhausted most of the amusement possibilities available to me in the greater Birmingham area during my high school years, so there wasn’t much available to explore that I hadn’t already seen enough of.
But there was one thing I could do which wasn’t available to me at home in high school. And that was the midnight movie. Matinee prices for a picture that started on or around 12 AM? Something to do late at night, something date-worthy and less expensive than it would otherwise be? Sign me up. The early 90s were the one time in my life where I actually went to the movies on a regular basis. I mean, think about it – there was no percentage in going back and forth to Blockbuster looking at the same tired selection again, not everyone had a VCR or cable or even a TV in the dorm room, and this was an era when Hollywood was able to turn out movies other than blockbuster adaptations of existing intellectual property or endless sequels. There was space in between the indie darlings and the Jurassic Parks and Dances With Wolves, where an assortment of romantic comedies and middling dramas and such sat in that $20-30M budget range.
I mean, look at the films that were number one at the box office for 1991: Sleeping With The Enemy. Silence Of The Lambs. What About Bob? City Slickers. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Naked Gun 2 1/2. Terminator 2. Hot Shots! Dead Again. Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare. The Fisher King. Hook. I saw every one of them in the theater. In fact, I saw 11 of the top 12 grossing films of 1991 in the theater (how did I miss on The Addams Family?) The more amazing thing, to me, is that I could drink one or even two of those 44 oz “Cobbster”-size sodas and then go back to the dorms and fall asleep.
That seems like the last gasp of another world. That was before I had internet access or a cell phone or even so much as a pager; I had an answering machine on my dorm phone which I could call and check messages (it wouldn’t pick up until the 4th ring if there were no messages, but it would pick up on the second if there were, thus saving you the quarter if you were calling from a pay phone) and if someone didn’t make the meeting point on time, you had no option but to wait around. Not that there was a lot of meeting; it was a rare occasion that anyone but just me and the girlfriend were going to the movies (or anywhere else for that matter). But then, when you’re in a relationship with someone who doesn’t really get you at all, which has to be maintained just so you won’t be completely alone, the best kind of date is one where you sit in the dark and don’t have to talk for two hours.
Maybe that explains why my wife and I never go to the movies much anymore. =)