Kids rule the multiplex. That's why they're the most targeted audience and the most targeted consumers as far as Hollywood and concession suppliers are respectively concerned. But where would the kids be without their parents? Perhaps they'd still be watching movies, but maybe not at the cinema. To see a movie at the multiplex, they need a ride from their mom, or they require the companionship of their blockbuster-loving dad. Sure, things may be a little different today, but my experience of being a moviegoing child entailed a lot of assistance and encouragement from my mom and dad.
It's hard to decide which parent had greater influence on my cinephilia, especially since I only recently recognized my mother's contributions. My father was the one who usually took my brothers and me to the movies every other weekend, and each time we stayed with him we seemed to rent more videos than could be watched in a 48-hour period. Meanwhile my mother let us watch cable, including as much R-rated fare as HBO would broadcast. At a very, very young age I was already familiar with a lot of horror, violence, swearing, nudity and other "restricted" content that the MPAA was only OK with me seeing if it was OK with my "accompanying parent or adult guardian."
Of course, my mother wasn't always interested in accompanying, mostly because she knew my brothers and I were intelligent kids who weren't aversely affected by the evils of hard language and adult themes and activities. In fact, my mother fought with many an usher, box office attendant and manager about the rules of the ratings. The most vivid memory I have is of trying to get into Outrageous Fortune with my younger brother when I was nine and he was eight. I'm not sure why we even wanted to see it -- I guess I thought Shelley Long was funny at the time -- but my mother brought us to the theater and even bought us the tickets, only to find out that she would also have to attend the movie herself. Boy was she upset.
As vivid as my memory of that lobby experience is, though, I can't recall if she did actually sit in the theater with us or if my brother and I even ended up seeing that specific film in the theater at all. Maybe we didn't see it until it came out on VHS. It's not really a memorable enough movie that the format of my viewing it has stayed with me after twenty-one years. Plus, if my mother did stay for the show, we probably weren't too aware of her. My brother and I would have sat somewhere close to the front while my mother would have been napping in the back row.
If there's one thing that's consistent about my mom it's that she always falls asleep at the movies. It doesn't matter what the movie is or how much she's enjoying it. Even if she makes it all the way to the last scene, she at least nods off during that last scene. Of course, it doesn't only happen in the theater. The last time I was home, we sat down to watch a DVD and my mom was snoozing before the opening credits were through.
Occasionally it's a good thing. I might have been more uncomfortable watching The Crying Game with my mom had she been awake for the big reveal. Other times, such as when she begins snoring, it's quite a nuisance. The worst thing, though, is that it's a hereditary thing. Now that I'm an adult, I fall asleep at the movies every now and then. Fortunately it doesn't happen to me as much as it does to her, and typically it only happens under special circumstances. I've dozed off during early morning film festival screenings, as everyone has, and I've zonked out during midnight shows of three-hour movies like The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring. I've also passed out when the air conditioning is broken, when the projection is too dark and when the film is a bore (all three were factors in my sleeping through much of Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes). After a long day of work or school a wordy foreign film can do it, but I also caught some z's during Transformers in the middle of a day in which I did nothing else.
Still, it beats trying to watch movies at home, where I fall asleep on the couch if I'm not already fidgeting, looking out the window, distracted by the computer, distracted by the kitchen (movies need snacks, and more snacks, and more snacks) or inside my own head, which is usually producing more interesting discourse than any recent film I've received from Netflix. It also beats watching movies at my mom's house, where a billion movie channels are a distraction to themselves. Every time I'm back home I find myself flipping through stations, unable to decide which movie is most worth watching -- if any at all.
In any event, I'm not bothered by the cinematic narcolepsy I may have inherited from my mother, because I also have her to thank for much of my love for movies, as well as my career writing about them. In addition to allowing me to watch more than just cartoons and other G-rated fare when I was a kid, she also introduced me to musicals. And through my interest in musicals I began appearing in community and high-school theater (in which I acted alongside John Mayer and Justin Long), which led to an interest in playwriting and directing, which in turn took me to film school, where I realized I appreciated film studies and criticism far more than I enjoyed working in film production.
And perhaps she also influenced my interest in the exhibition industry by moving us next door to a movie theater when I was 6 years old or by moving us near to a multiplex when I was 17 and needed a job I could walk to. It's funny for me to realize after all this time that my mom may have contributed so much to my cinephilia and cinemaphilia since I really can't remember more than a couple movies we actually saw in the theater together. Perhaps I should repay her by taking her out to the multiplex this weekend. I can't imagine that even she could sleep through the bright flashiness of Speed Racer.