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My mom was born in rural Kansas in 1927, in a very poor family. Her childhood coincided with the worst years of the Great Depression. There was little leisure-time--she worked as a domestic in an upper-middle-class household in a small town--and less disposable cash. She did go to the movies now and then, and she would save her pennies to accrue the 25-cent admission. She usually attended with her sister who is two years older. She doesn't recall much about the films she saw in the 1930s or early 1940s. This is not surprising, given the years that have passed and the fact that that one of the avowed reasons for going to "the show," as they called it, was to meet and hang out with boys, not because of the cinematic fare. [1]

She recalls liking romantic stories and comedies a lot, westerns a little, but disliking musicals and gangster films. The earliest title that she can remember was The Trail of the Lonesome Pine , 1936, with Henry Fonda. One of her favorite films is [|The Shepherd of the Hills ]], 1941, with John Wayne. Mom goes to movies rarely now and deplores the sex and violence of recent films. In fact, her tastes have remained remarkably consistent. She does watch a lot of "old shows" on the AMC channel and on Turner Classic Movies, which she loves.

--posted by DC, 9/27/2008

My grandmother, _, was born in 1925 in Horse Creek, Nevada. The youngest of thirteen, my grandmother grew up on a ranch miles away from the nearest town. Her parents emigrated from the Basque region of northern Spain and struggled to feed thirteen hungry mouths. When my grandmother reached high school, her family was able to move to the nearby town of Winnemucca, Nevada. It was here that my grandmother first saw a movie, and essentially became integrated into American culture.

At fifteen, my grandmother saw her first movie. Prior to this, my grandmother had been completely unaware that such a thing existed. Growing up she seldom heard a radio. With a girlfriend she went and saw Sentimental Journey at the American Theater in Winnemucca. She was so moved by the character of Maureen O’Hara that the film sticks with her to this day. Shortly after seeing her first film, the movies quickly became a major aspect of my grandmother’s life. She was hired by the small theater and quickly began work as an usherette. As an usherette, my grandmother wore a very classy uniform of slacks, buttoned jacket, and hat. With her flashlight firmly in hand, it was my grandmother’s duty to ensure that “the kids” kept their feet off the seats, didn’t throw popcorn, or distract from the film.
While she worked at the theater every night, my grandmother still wasn’t able to see many films. As she put it, “The kids kept me too busy.” However, on a day off, my grandmother went on her very first date. Her young male suitor took her to a showing of Gone With the Wind at the American Theater and warned her ahead of time that the film was supposed to be very risqué. The scene of Scarlet O’Hara giving birth was not a bother to my innocent grandmother, however, and today she laughs at how big a fuss people made at the scene. Especially one that is so innocent by today’s standards. For my grandmother, Gone With the Wind remains the pinnacle of cinematic excellence.
The movies were a major component of my grandmother’s transition from childhood to adulthood. They offered her first taste of financial independence and introduced her to a world outside of Horse Creek and Winnemucca. More importantly, the movies were my grandmother’s way of transitioning from a young Basque girl unaware of the twentieth century to a modern, independent woman.

--posted by JZ 9/28/08

I tracked down the oldest member of my family, my Grandfather on my mom's side. He told me the first movie theater attending experience he could recall was when he was 10 or 11 years old living in Indianapolis. My Grandfather refuses to reveal his actual age, but according to my mother, he lied about his age and joined the army so he could fight in WWII. So my best guess is that he was 16 or 17 around 1944-45, which means his first theater experience was in 1939 or 1940. According to my Grandfather, going to the movie theater was a weekly ritual. Every Saturday afternoon he and his friends or family would go to the movie theater, which he said showed previews, serials and a main feature. Every week, he said, there was a new movie. Usually the films were cowboy and Indian movies and evidently every time the cowboy got together with his girlfriend and kissed, all the boys in the theater would boo until the action started again. A year or two later my Grandfather moved to Cincinnati where he ushered at a movie theater and saw Gary Cooper in Sergeant York about 24 times. I believeSergeant York was released in '41, making my guess as to the year of my Grandfather's Indianapolis theater-goings fairly accurate.

--posted by MW 9/28/08

My grandmother had to drive to the next town over with her parents and her sister to see her first film because there was no theater in the town she lived in (a small town in Minnesota). She was only about 3 years old and went to see an Amos 'n' Andy film, Check and Double Check . She said she remembered that they were in black face and she watched the film sitting on her father's knee. She remembers the experience somewhat vividly for several reasons, it was such an ordeal to get to the movies, it was one of the last memories she had of her father who died a year later, and she became good friends with Charles Correll some years later.

--posted by SM 9/28/08

I spoke with my grandpa over the phone about his first memorable movie-going experience. He described two movies that stood out from his childhood. The first was Dracula,which he saw in 1931. My grandpa remembered in particular how quiet the movie theater was because everyone was so afraid of the movie. He described Bela Lugosi, who played the titular character, as a "truly horrible-looking guy." He described how he had nightmares for weeks from that movie. The other film that my grandpa mentioned wasKing Kong . He saw this film in 1933 when it came out. He said he was overwhelmed by the sheer spectacle of the film. He described the monster as "sensational."

--posted by JH 9/28/08

I asked my grandmother what her first movie-going experience was. She said she saw a movie about, "a newspaper man doing WWII who was killed...the story of Ernie Pyle" According to his Wikipedia article, I think the movie was called "The Story of G.I. Joe" (1945).

She also commented that she remembered being left at home when her parents and older sister saw the movie "Mrs. Miniver", which was deemed too heavy for a girl of her age.

Also, she said "Most movies were about the war, growing up".

--posted by AS 9/28/08

I spoke with my grandmother, _ (she is about 78), about the first times she went to the movie theater in New York, her hometown, and she recalled being about 11 and going to see feature films that also included short serials. She would go each weekend with some friends of hers and would follow the serials regularly. She remarked that it was something of a baby-sitting service for her parents, as they did not have to worry about her whereabouts while she was at the theater.

--posted by KS 9/28/08

My grandmother, born around 1930, recalls that her first moviegoing experience was around 1936 or 1937. As the youngest in her family, she was rarely allowed to join her older brother and sister because it was a long walk to the movie theater from her house in Philadelphia. The first movie she saw, and some of her favorites after that, was a black and white Shirley Temple film. She recalls that there was a tap-dancing scene in the film that scared her, but that she found Shirley Temple very entertaining and even purchased a Shirley Temple doll which she still has. It was fairly easy for her to go to the movies back then, as it was only 11 cents per ticket. At six or seven years old, she was not allowed to attend night time showings and instead would be treated to matinees by her father.

-- posted by MM 9/28/08

My grandmother said that when she would go to movie, they were usually either cartoons or serials. She would have go to back to the movies every week to see what happened to the hero of the movie. She said that she was sure the main characters were going to die but somehow they survived in the next weeks film. She and her brothers would stay at the theatre all afternoon and would get a penny to buy candy at the bakery next door. She emphasized that it was a really big deal to go see a movie, because televisions were not invented yet. The first feature length films that she remembers seeing are David Copperfield (1935) and Man In Iron Mask (1939). These movies scared her, and she said it was because of seeing violence on screen at a young age that she still is turned off by violent and horror films.

--posted by TP, 9/28/08

My grandmother, _, was twelve years old when she emigrated to New York City. She was born in 1938. New York City was where she saw her first movie. She doesn't remember what it was, but she said she liked to go by herself. She remembers paying ten cents for a movie. And she stressed how much she loved Elvis Presley's movies. She calls him "my cutie."

--posted by RM, 9/28/08

I had the pleasure of speaking to _, the live in priest at Pasquerilla West. I wasn't brave enough to ask Fr. Joe what year he was born, but I do know he graduated Notre Dame in 1962. Fr. Joe recalls his first movie-going experience occurring around the age of 9. He and his family were visiting relatives in upstate New York. He did not remember the name of the film but he remembers that he and his sisters were 10 minutes late to the show. After the film was over, his sister insisted that they sneak into the next showing in order to see the beginning of the film.

Fr. Joe also had other memories associated with movie-going. In his hometown of Detroit, the best form of entertainment on a Saturday afternoon was the matinee where one could watch two films for 25 cents. Fr. Joe also remembered that the first time he held a girl's hand was at the movies.

When Fr. Joe was a student at Notre Dame, he would often watch films on Saturday afternoons in Washington Hall. It was the best form of entertainment after football season. Because ND was an all male school at the time, crude marks were often shouted out during the film.

--posted by KE, 9/29/08

My grandfather, _, was born on September 24th, 1930, in the small town of Antonino, Kansas. He was one of twelve children, and thus did not get to see movies very often. His earliest recollections of the movies were as a young boy. He described men who came into town with "big cans and projectors" to show silent films on the outside of stores. My grandfather was unable to remember exactly, but he thought some of the films might have been with B-movie Western star Buck Jones.

My grandfather's first true moviegoing experience was to see the 1940 animated film Pinocchio. He recalled that he probably saw the movie with his school class, since it would've been difficult for his parents to load up twelve children to take to the movies. He described seeing the film as a "tremendous novelty", comparing it with a computer or a spaceship today. He said that he most remembered the big nose of Pinocchio, but also the fact that the film was animated: "We couldn't imagine what that was…I didn't know if they drew all those or what."

While my grandfather never said that seeing Pinocchio had a profound affect on his life, he did go into further detail about the evolution of cinema as a whole. He pointed out that of course they didn't have television at the time, and when you didn't have static you could listen to the radio—maybe a boxing match or the news. During World War II, however, he remembered the newsreels that were shown before films. He said the reels depicted the war, though of course were made to show our troops in the best light, and the enemies in the worst. Most important, however, was that he was able to see actual footage from the war, and it ultimately made the world a much smaller place. My grandfather said that it was such an amazing thing in those days, to see such up-to-date information, even though today he is able to watch every second of the Republican National Convention.

--posted by PD, 9/29/08

My grandmother was born in 1925. As a child she did not see many movies because the early part of her life was spent on a farm in rural Wisconsin. Also, the Great Depression left little money for her or her family to spend on a novelty like going to the movies. However, when she did get the opportunity she enjoyed watching westerns and adventure films. One film that she remembered rather vividly was “I Married Adventure.” It was a documentary style talkie that had a big effect on her life. It was from this film she gained her fear of big cats and her love of travel. From humble roots as a small farm girl in Wisconsin she would travel to twenty seven countries in her 83 years of life and she still to this day travels around the world.
--posted by LO, 9/29/08

I talked to my mom about her first movie experience. She was so excited about it while she was talking. Here's what she had to say:

"I'll never forget the first time I saw a movie on a big screen. It was Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty. It was released in 1959, so I must have been five or six years old. My grandmother took me and my sister Mary on the bus down Archer Avenue to the Loop downtown. Back then it was a big deal to go to a movie, so I even remember that Mary and I had dresses on. I wish I could remember what theater we went to. I'm sure it's gone now, but I remember the big neon marquee on State Street.

I remember being in awe of the colored pictures on the big screen. I've only seen Sleeping Beauty once more since then. I guess I didn't want to risk ruining the great memories I had, in case it didn't live up to what I remembered. Sleeping Beauty became my heroine. I named some of my dolls Aurora (Sleeping Beauty's real name). The movie is also the source of my love of fairies - Flora, Fauna, and Merriweather were Sleeping Beauty's godmothers and became popular before Tinkerbell did. I think Malificent is one of the great movie viillains of all time. She is pure evil. And the dragon scared the crap out of me.

Movie scores and soundtracks are an important part of the whole movie experience for me. 'Once Upon a Dream' is one of the songs in Sleeping Beauty. I heard it during the Electric Light Parade in the 1990's at Disney World and I freaked, because I hadn't heard it since I saw the movie but it brought back the whole movie for me.

This is bringing back great memories. I think it's time for me to watch it again."

--posted by MB 9/29/08

The first film my grandmother remembers seeing was a Bugs Bunny animation when she was five years old. However, it took her quite a while to remember what her first film was. The very first thing she said she remembered most vividly was all the war movies during the forties. She said that as a young girl, she would go to the pictures with her older brother, who would tell her when to close her eyes before the violent, frightening parts. Due to the concurrence of World War II, she felt that the war movies were even more real for her. She also remembers how these films tended to inspire patriotism in her. However, she could not remember any particular actors or filmmakers that affected her, as she did not really pay attention to such details back then. It seems that the films' general principles of good versus evil seemed to affect her the most, which transcended the means used to make the film, at least for her.

--posted by DM 9/29/08

My grandfather could not remember the very first movie he saw, but as an immigrant from Ireland he did not have many opportunities to see movies. He worked all the time in order to make a living, so when he was able to go to a movie it was a real treat for him. His favorite actors were Roy Rodgers and John Wayne. He loved westerns because of the grity action and the adventurous attitudes of the heroes. Movies were an escape for people like my grandfather and when he was able to go he enjoyed every minute of it. He also took my grandmother out on dates to the movies. His favorite date that he remembers was on a Sunday when my grandma and him spent the entire afternoon at the theater because it was a rainy day. I asked him what movies he saw, but he could not remember any exact titles. He did say however that since the theaters were so much cooler than their cramped apartment that it was enjoyable to go for that reason alone.

-posted by TD 9/29/08

I asked my friends mom about her first film, it was the film 'Red Shoes' in 1948, and it sparked her love for film immeadiately. She grew up in a small town in New Jersey, and the movie theatre there was the most popular activity within the town. It showed one movie per week, and her and all her friends would usually see it every Saturday night. She appreciated this film because she was so impressed with the music and the beautiful actors and actresses. Red Shoes is still one of her favorite films. She had been looking forward to seeing this film for weeks before it came to her theatre because she was a dancer herself. It also appealed to her because romance films are her favorite genre.

--posted by JS 9/30/08

My grandfather’s first experience with the cinema occurred at the age of 9 in 1931. Every Saturday, he and his friends would go down to the Bel Mar theatre in Pittsburgh and for the mere price of twenty – five cents, they would watch their favorite comic strips on the big screen, including Dick Tracy, Buck Rogers, and Superman. These comic strip cartoons were shown every Saturday morning at the Bel Mar, and he fondly remembers looking forward to the Saturday morning screenings each week. My grandpa also recollects the first feature length film he saw at the theatre, which was the Wizard of Oz starring Judy Garland. Although he only vaguely remembers the experience, he does recall being captivated by the story and by Judy Garland’s onscreen beauty.

--posted by CH 10/01/08

I spoke to my next door neighbor Jean about her first movie experience. She grew up in a small town in upstate New York that did not have any movie theaters at the time. The town was so small that the school she went to encompassed all twelve grades. Jean said that her school would organize weekly visits to a movie theater outside of town. Although every one else at her school would enjoy the movies, Jean was too scared to go and stayed back at the school instead. He fear of the movies became such a problem that it inhibited her family from going to them as well. Eventually, her parents took her to a very innocuous Liz Taylor movie called "National Velvet" that Jean went to and enjoyed, thereby overcoming her admittedly irrational fear of films.

--posted by ZD 10/1/08

I was not able to talk to anyone born before the 60s, but I did talk to my mom about her experiences with movies. My mom grew up in the South Bend area, and the earliest experience she can remember is going to the River Park Theatre during the summers. She said her mom would drop her and her brother off at the theatre once a week where they would watch children's movies. She couldn't really recall any specific movies that she saw during this time, but she said they were generally kid's movies like Disney films and were generally older releases. She said that the Theatre would have a special summer pass so the kids could see movies once a week at a discounted rate. She says she doesn't ever remember parents going to the movies with the kids, that generally the parents would just drop their kids off and pick them up when the movie was over. She remembers the experience as a fun thing that her and her brother (being the oldest kids in the family) would do together during the summer.

--posted by BH 10/1/08

My grandmother was born in Spruce Pine, a small town in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina, in 1917. At the time, Spruce Pine was a very conservative, predominantly white Southern Baptist railroad industry-based town that had only been founded 10 years before my grandmother’s birth. Nevertheless, it had one movie theater that would show a new film every few weeks. Grandma emphasized that her parents were very “careful” about which movies they would allow her and her brother Tommy to attend. The first film she recalls seeing was The Birth of a Nation with her mother and brother, when she was 5 years old. I was unsure about these dates, so after we talked on the phone, I did some research and learned that The Birth of a Nation first debuted in 1915, but was re-released in 1922- in other words, my grandmother remembered correctly! She also remembered that it was an “important” film, and although she couldn’t understand all of the plot, she recalls that it was about the history of the United States. Grandma mentioned that, even at the time, she understood that The Birth of a Nation was “one of the first better movies”. My grandmother attended movies with her parents throughout her youth, but admitted that she was not allowed to see many of the ones that came to the theatre. Perhaps because of this parental censorship, she still prefers reading a book to watching a movie.

--posted by EH 10/1/08

The first movie my grandmother went to was 1935's "The Personal History, Adventures, Experience, & Observation of David Copperfield the Younger" from MGM. My great-grandmother was a very educated woman, and she read all her children the Dickens classics. She dressed them all up one day and took them to the movies. My grandma and her siblings loved it, but when their mother tried to read the book to them, they didn't want to hear it. All they wanted to do was go see the movie. My grandma markes this movie as the event that turned her family off of reading. She was very factual about it, but I could sense a bit of regret in her story. I think, looking back on it, she regrets not letting her mother read her the story of David Copperfield, even after she'd seen the movie.

-- posted by SD 10/1/08

My Grandmother, who grew up in England, remembers seeing her first movie in 1934 when she was 9 years old. She said the hand operated reel of the cameraman often broke, it cost only a penny to get in, and there was usually an intermission during which drinks and food were sold. The stars she remembers watching are Clark Gable, Charlie Chaplin, and Shirley Temple. At the end of every movie the crowd stood and sang the British National Anthem “God Save the King.”

posted by TP 10/1/08

For this assignment, I decided to ask my dad about his first experience at a movie theater. My father is 56 years old so he has been around for a good while. He said he would watch old Pedro Infante movies in Mexico as a child but never in a theater setting. He would occasionally watch those in a community setting at the church courtyard in the town he was born in down in Mexico. Once he migrated to the U.S he wasn't much of a fan for films as, he put it, "his money would be better spent on food or saving it for the future." He vaguely remembers going to see Coppola's The Godfather in the theaters as he was about 21 years old when it came out and had been here for about 4 years by that time. For him, being a lackluster fan of films, it was probably a good and bad film for him to see at first as it's about three hours long, but the film is a classic. Pretty much the only effect it had on him was that he would compare future films to this film, whether it was in length, content, and/or entertainment value.

-posted by RL 10/1/08


While I don't have any living relatives or family friends that are of "grandparent" age, I do have a mother who is from out of the country. As a child, her father owned a small movie theater in Pusan, South Korea. Being a relatively poor young girl without a lot of passtimes, she spent hours upon hours in this movie theater obsessed with imported movies "from the west." She collected movie posters, ticket stubs, American fan magazines and anything she could get her hands on. Western cinema and the world of Hollywood fascinated her. Due to the war and constant dispute with North Korea as well as the oppression of China and Japan, the Korean film industry was very slow to develop. While American narrative films were huge and complex, Korean cinema was still figuring out its place in the industry in regards to proper techniques! It was because of this that American cinema was so prominent. It is also very true that much of my mother's English (while taught basically in her school system) was learned from the subtitles in the movie theaters. She became an expert on western cinema, rivaling even my Long Island born-and-bred father and his friends! In many ways, had it not been for the Hollywood movies that she fell in love with as a young girl, she may not have been able to speak as fluently to my American father when he was traveling in Korea and she may not have assimilated as well into American life when we moved here 16 years ago. It is also very possible that thanks to American Hollywood, I exist!

-posted by MW 10/2/08

The person I interviewed was a black man named Riley born in 1954. The first
movie he saw in a theater was Enter the Dragon, directed by Robert Clouse
featuring Bruce Lee. The movie was made in 1973, making Riley nineteen years
old when he saw the film.

Riley was born in Bloomfield, Connecticut, and lived with his mother and three other siblings. Because they were poor, he couldn't afford to go to the movies or buy VHS tapes. He said contrary to the present, in the 60's and 70's the theater was the only way to see a movie with full sound and color, as home televisions and VCRs had poor sound and picture quality.

Riley went to see Enter the Dragon because his friends told him about Fists of Fury, which came out two years prior. He said that tickets were $.99 for the matinee showing, which he and his friends went to. Although he is not a big movie buff, he said there is something personal and magical about going to the theater, because it transports him back to his youth when the only way to escape the Vietnam situation was to read comic books or go see the pictures at the theater.


I spoke with my mom earlier today about her first movie going experience. My mom was born in 1947 in Huntington, IN. She said that their town didn't even have a movie theater until she was four or five years old, and to celebrate its inaugural opening, the theater played several classic films over the course of the weekend. Her parents went to see Gone With the Wind on Friday night, leaving my mom with her two brothers with a babysitter (they ended up having nine children), and the following day, the three children went with their dad to see The Wizard of Oz.

My mom described it as a terrifying experience. She said that it opened up a world for her which she had not known existed, and the world was a scary place. She particularly remembered seeing the face of the Wicked Witch of the West, larger than life, in such bright, vivid color. She said it provided the fodder of many successive nightmares.

The other aspect which struck my mom was walking into the theater in the late afternoon and walking out of it in the dark of evening. She said it felt like full days had flown by since she first sat in her seat; she'd journeyed all the way to Kansas, to Oz and back. It was amazing to think the she could have gone so far in so short a time.

My Grandmother was born in Washington, D.C., in 1922. She explained to me that her first movie experience was in 1939. She remembered being enthralled with Charles Laughton in "The Hunchback of Notre Dame". My grandmother explained to me that Laughton was one of the consummate English speaking actors of his day and that he initially had difficulty playing the part of the hunchback because it demanded that he garble his words and present himself in a manner that was atypical of his usual performances. However, with a great amount of determination Laughton was successful in presenting the character of the hunchback, and my grandmother believed that it was one of his finest roles.

My grandmother also cited "Gone With the Wind" as one of her most memorable movie experiences. She explained to me that she this movie the same year that she saw "The Hunchback of Notre Dame". Moreover, she cited the use of color as one of the film's main attractions, and argued that it brought the film closer to reality.

My grandpa was born in Downers Grove, IL, in 1933. Back then, Downers Grove was much smaller then it is now: consequently, the few movies made there way to the town. My grandpa did not see his first movie until he was fifteen or sixteen, but he very rarely went to movies until the mid-50s, when he was at Northwestern. There, movies were a big part of campus life, and he subsequently became a large fan. The first movie he remembers watching was from this period: it was Rear Window by Alfred Hitchcock, and to this day he views Hitchcock as his favorite filmmaker. Since my grandpa was first seriously exposed to movies during this period when the Classic Hollywood style was beginning to wane, he does not have the attachment to Classic Hollywood films like many people of his generation do. Although he does not endorse the explicit violence in many of todays movies, he still enjoys going to dramas, thrillers, and other movies that rely more so on intellectual stimulation than visual eye candy and gratuitous violence.