Let’s say you had a time machine. You could use it to go back and prevent world wars or save the mother of the future leader of the human resistance from a cyborg assassin. Sure sure sure, that’s all well and good. Or, as a movie buff, you could attend the opening weekend premieres of your favorite movies with their first paying audiences. Which movies would you pick?
Although I didn’t see it on opening weekend, I was lucky enough to see ‘Star Wars’ back during its original theatrical run. So while I suspect that may be a popular answer here, I’ll refrain from naming it as my personal pick.
Instead, I’ll go with the movie that ‘Star Wars’ replaced as the biggest box office hit of that time, Steven Spielberg’s ‘Jaws‘. I didn’t get a chance to see that one in a theater until just a couple weeks ago when the movie’s 40th anniversary was celebrated with a new limited theatrical run. Of course, I’ve seen ‘Jaws’ on TV, VHS, Laserdisc, DVD and Blu-ray many times over the years, but I wonder what those very first audiences were like. The movie is still pretty terrifying by even today’s standards, so I’m guessing it scared the willies out of people in 1975. I would love to see the reaction from an audience that had no idea what to expect from a young, virtually unknown director who was about to change the way they watched movies forever.
Chris Chiarella (Sound & Vision)
I’m going to use the ‘Quantum Leap’ theory and stick to movies released during my lifetime. ‘The Graduate‘ was certainly one of those movies that changed everything. Mike Nichols’ daring film represented a definite movement away from the staid, “safe” moviemaking of 1960s Hollywood, set to a Simon & Garfunkel soundtrack that even my parents bought. It was a revolution – a successful one, thank goodness – and I wish I could have been there to hear the audience gasp at the final confrontation between bride Katharine Ross and her unfulfilled mother Anne Bancroft, and to witness the much-buzzed-about changing of the guard.
I’m sure that the time travel angle influenced this pick a little, but I would love to go back and see ‘Back to the Future‘ on the big screen. I wasn’t too up on movies when the original ‘BTTF’ debuted, so the first time I saw it was during a special movie day at the Boys & Girls Club in Farmington, NM. I still remember sitting way back in basketball bleachers, seeing the clocks in the opening scene ticking away on two tiny tube TVs, with coax cables and a splitter connected to a VHS player that sat on the table between them. Even then, I remember thinking that probably wasn’t doing the movie justice.
M. Enois Duarte
If I could, I would love to travel back to 1902 when Georges Méliès’s massively influential ‘A Trip to the Moon‘ was originally circulated throughout Europe and the United States. My reason is simple: The film is widely recognized as the birth of modern cinema, what essentially sparked the use of fictional narrative in movies. During these early years of cinema, it was Méliès who introduced theatricality and special effects while also telling a linear story using the at-the-time revolutionary technique of continuity editing. For moviegoers of the period, seeing this beautiful, wildly imaginative film was a stunning, mind-blowing experience. I would love to be there to see the audiences’ reaction, especially because they’d be unaware it would become the future of cinema.
I’m thinking that the test previews for ‘Blade Runner‘ would be pretty interesting. Just being there in 1982 for that cut of the film as audiences react would be one heck of an experience. I don’t really know what kind of audience reaction a studio is looking for in such a case, so that might be a drawback for me. Clapping? Jittery excitement? Happy murmuring on the way out? But still, matching up exactly what was on screen with an audience that was likely somewhere between stunned and bored would be fascinating.
Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)
I’ve been to two classic movie palaces but have somehow managed to avoid seeing an actual film at either of them. The horror revivals I’ve caught at the Carolina Theatre in Durham, NC were in a tiny, adjoining theater rather than the main hall that seats more than a thousand, and my only experience at Atlanta’s Fox Theatre to date has been seeing Conan O’Brien perform live.
If I could roll back the clock, I’d eagerly right that wrong. As tough as it would be to choose just one classic film to watch on opening night in a grand movie palace, I think I’d have to go for the original 1933 ‘King Kong‘. The screens in these palaces dwarfed what we see in most theaters nowadays, and I can only imagine how awe-inspiring a sight the mighty Kong must have been on a towering 40’ tall screen. No cynicism, no cell phones – just a shared, visual spectacle like no other.
I have two picks for this.
According to legend, the Lumière brothers’ 1896 short ‘Train Pulling into a Station‘ terrorized viewers who were overcome by the realism of the image and believed that an actual train was barreling towards them. Some film scholars have contested this story as a myth. I’d like to find out what really happened.
After that, I’d definitely want to go see the opening of the third James Bond film, ‘Goldfinger‘, at either its British premiere at the Odeon Leicester Square cinema in London or its American premiere at the DeMille Theatre in New York City. Oh hell, I’d need to go to both. By the time of this movie’s release in 1964, 007 Fever had reached a frenzy. The DeMille Theatre, one of the great movie palaces of old that was still in operation at the time, had to remain open 24 hours a day from Christmas Eve to New Year’s to accommodate the thronging crowds. I would have loved to be there as waves of excitement flowed through the audience during the film’s many now-iconic scenes.
If you had this magic time machine, what movies would you be most excited to experience with an opening weekend crowd? Tell us in the Comments.