A family friend, named Jane Nicholson, was born in Baltimore Maryland to an upper middle class family in 1916. She has a hard time remembering many of the details surrounding her first film experience, but does recall that it was around the age of nine or ten that she and her family went on a weekend trip to the local theater to see a Charlie Chaplin film. She said that there were a couple of small theaters nearby and that she, her mother and father and two sisters would often take trips on the weekends to see films. Because her parents always covered the cost of the film she does not recall the price when she initially began going to the Theater. When she hit her twenties, however, the place to go became the Senator Theater, which still stands to this day and was recently purchased as a historical building by the city of Baltimore. She said that, without a doubt, her favorite types of films were the ones that involved romance, and that growing up her favorite actress was, unquestionably, Bette Davis.


My grandparents were both born in 1929 in Hamilton, Ohio, and have very similar memories of their first theater experiences. Both recall the opulence of the theaters in Hamilton and Cincinnati--my grandmother commented that the elegant pillars and ornate trim inside theaters such as “The Egyptian” or “The Oriental” lent an air of excitement to the experience even before film clips were played. Both my grandmother and grandfather remember frequenting the theaters on Saturdays with other children to see the Flash Gordonand the “Tarzan of the Apes” series, or simply strolling into the middle of movies to see what was showing. My grandfather remembers that the only way to determine the line-up of shows was to watch coming attractions at a show; he cannot remember ever seeing newspaper advertisements or posters. One aspect of early theater he particularly recalls was the popularity of news features within a program, especially during and directly after WWII. Another feature that both my grandparents remember is the presence of “extra” entertainment such as organ shows, stage shows, and amateur acts--my grandmother recalls that the feature film on Wednesday night at the Paramount Theater in Hamilton included a live band and stage show act. The one movie both my grandparents say was a pivotal film experience wasGone with the Wind; both remember the movie as being described as “scandalous” because a character curses in it.

--posted by BA, 9/2/10


My grandmother was born in Harlem in 1930. She went to see her first film at a theater with a single screen with her father when she was eight or nine years old. Though she does not recall the exact film that was playing, she does remember feeling pure excitement when going to see the show. By that time, films were in color and before the main feature, serials played continuously. My grandmother remembers more clearly going to the theater every Saturday after her first viewing to watch The Green Hornet serials with her brother. Every week the serial would end in suspense, she said, so that the next Saturday she would wish to return to find out what happened next

--posted by CG, 9/2/10


In 1948, when my grandmother was eight years old, she went to see her first movie. Her mother took her and her older brother, to see Walt Disney's Bambi at the Arnold Theater in Southern New Jersey. She remembers that a ticket cost ten cents and a bag of buttered popcorn went for the same price. Though this seems incredibly cheap compared to today's prices, my grandmother says it was pretty expensive in those days. Before the movie started, the theater played The National Anthem, complete with a shot of the American Flag waving. Everyone stood up from their seats. After that, there was a newsreel of current events that was suitable for the entire family, followed by the film itself. She recalls crying when Bambi's mother was shot by the hunter, but she was happy for the rest of the movie and really enjoyed it. Bambi was her favorite character, of course, but she also loved Thumper the Rabbit and Flower the skunk. In fact, she liked them so much that her mother bought two 3D painted wooden wall hangings of Bambi with Thumper and Bambi with flower for my grandmother's bedroom wall. "Imagine what they would be worth today if I still had them!" she wonders. --posted by LF, 9/2/10


My grandmother was born on October 14, 1922. Although she didn't remember exactly what her first film was, she remembered that it was a silent film. She told me that many silent films at the time had a musical accompaniment, but in her small town of Salina, Kansas, there was only one woman who played the piano for the films. The woman didn't play for every showing so sometimes you watched the movie with music, others you watched it in complete silence. She remembered, however, that if you went to see a movie in Kansas City, there was an organ accompaniment to every film. Another memory my grandmother shared with me was her experience growing up with films. She explained that back when she was in grade school, movies were only a dime a showing, and about half an hour long. She remembers that her daily allowance was one dime, so everyday after school she used to stop at the movies for a show. My grandmother remembered many of the actors we have watched in class. She remembers Fatty Arbuckle, Buster Keaton and her favorite, Charlie Chaplin. Some of Charlie Chaplin's films that she saw were The Kid, Gold Rush, City Lights and Modern Times. She said she also enjoyed watching Rudolph Valentino, but his films usually had a more mature theme so she didn't see them very often.

-- posted by KF, 9 / 2 / 10


My grandmother was born in 1919 in Chicago, Illinois. She grew up in a large Irish family and loved any chance to go off by herself or with her friends. She attended her first movie in 1931 at the State Theatre on Madison Street in Chicago. She couldn't remember which movie she saw, but she believes it starred the silent movie actress Janet Gayner. Gaynor had four movies come out that year, but I think it's safe to assume she saw "Daddy Long Legs" in June because her most distinct memory of this experience came from the luxury of air-conditioning. She kept talking about how grateful she was to escape to a cooler area, and the happiness that brought stuck in her memory more than the plot of her first movie. Now don't judge her too harshly for letting atmosphere trump her viewing. She became a huge Clark Gable fan and constantly brags about his success as if she knew him. Her favorite fun fact is that "Gone With the Wind" is the highest grossing movie ever (if you consider inflation) and is proud to support Clark Gable as the incomporable and dreamy Rhett Bulter.

-- posted by EM, 9/02/10


My grandma is a true movie enthusiast and was the perfect person to talk to about her trip through the movies. Born in 1920, my grandma grew up watching Tom Mix movies flickering up on the big screen, with no sound of course. Grandma explained that Tom Mix was an old-fashioned Roy Rogers-like entertainer. She was 7 years old when she saw her first "talkie," starring Al Jolson. She would go to these movies as a kid with her mom and grandma two times a week, all who were equally fascinated by the films. She recalls seeing movies that started off in black and white format, but then switched to color half way through the movie. She remembers distinctly a scene in black and white where a teenage girl was flipping bacon in a frying pan, when all of a sudden, the screen lit up with color. She said it was the best part of the movie. Grandma said her all-time favorite movie is "Gone With the Wind," which she has seen over ten times. She loves Clark Gable and her favorite actress was Ginette McDonald. She used to go to the Grove Theater, located on 76th and Cottage Grove street on the south side of Chicago. They had cartoons for kids in black and white and color, but the theater closed after silent movies became old-fashioned. Nowadays, my grandma loves the show "Madmen" and says it was an accurate portrayal of what things used to be like when my grandpa and her were both working in the early 1960's. She says women were treated poorly in the workforce, just like in the show, and women could never rise higher than the position of secretary. Like "Madmen," drama is my grandma's favorite genre. What else does she think of modern entertainment? Grandma says the new stuff that's on is full of "garbage" and says you just can't beat those old movies she loves.

--Posted by MF 9/3/10


My grandmother’s first movie experience was later in life, because she lived on an island in the Caribbean and the first theater was built after independence from Great Britain was granted in the 1950’s. The first movie theater built on the island was in the country’s capitol thirty minutes from her village by bus so she went with her husband and children (my mother wasn’t born yet) as a family outing in the city.

The first movie she remembers watching was a Godzilla movie. Since my mother has memories of watching multiple Godzilla movies (in Japanese) growing up I think it’s accurate. The majority of the movies the theater first acquired were foreign language films, which meant that anyone who went to the movies had to be literate with good eyesight. For those who just wanted to say they went to the theater, even though they couldn’t read, had people explain the movie. My grandmother, however, had each of her children recount specific scenes and lines after the movie to make sure they understood it for themselves. The movie quality was a bit fuzzy, but good enough for a new theater in a developing country with limited resources.

--Posted by EE 9/4/10


My mom was born in 1954. The first movie she remembers seeing was when she was eight or nine years old. It was Babes in Toyland, a Disney movie that was released in 1961 and won two Oscars. She thinks the showing was a special showing for employees of a department store around Christmas time, and she knows her cousin invited her to go along with her. The crowd was mostly children. She remembers toy soldiers and music, and feeling really special to be in a movie theater. She still remembers the theater she saw it in, the building is still downtown in our city, though it is no longer a movie theater. My mom thought the movie was really interesting, and her cousin pointed out that it wasn't a new movie. The next time she remembers being in a theater was when she was 16. Now she doesn't really go to the movies anymore, but when she was 20, she was a total Rocky Horror Picture Show freak, even seeing it at 20th Century Fox Studio. This one was a little disappointing as the usual RHPS antics did not occur. She says she saw it at least a dozen times in midnight showings."

-- Posted by BN 9/5/10


I interviewed my grandmother for this assignment particularly because I was interested on how her first memories of the movies transformed her into the avid movie-goer that she still is today. I thought it would be interesting to interview her due to her identity as a part of an immigrant Italian community in inner city Chicago, where she grew up. She was born in the late 1920s and spoke mostly Italian at home and in her community. When I inquired as to her first film memory she could not give me any titles or any specific time frames as to when she first began going to see the Nickelodeons. This was a slight disappointment to me, because she could not really tell me any details about the movies or stars until she was a late teenager. She would go to what she called "Dish Days" about once a month once she was older. After purchasing her ticket for a Nickle, my grandmother would also receive a ticket on these special days that could later be turned in with other tickets in exchange for kitchen dishes. This provided her with even more incentive to go to the theatre and sometimes an elder lady would even pay for her entrance so that my grandmother could collect tickets on her behalf. I attempted to jog my grandmother's memory as to specifics concerning her earlier film experiences, but she could not give any concerning the 1930s. She remembered quite a lot of stars from the Classical Hollywood period from Marlin Brando, to Elizabeth Taylor, all the way up to present time. She told me how horror films are some of favorite films and that she enjoys the cinema as a way to spend a nice and entertaining afternoon. Reflecting on our conversation, I realized that my grandmother exhibited the kind of consumerist behavior addressed in Shelly Stamp's article, "Shoes," where women in particular would become almost obsessed with making purchases. In my grandmother's instance, she desperately wanted to keep up with the popular culture through film. The fact that my grandmother would save up enough to go to the theatre to watch a movie speaks volumes about the importance that cinemas claimed in communities by the 1940s onward and the impact individual films have on viewers, especially when considering that my grandmother was not wealthy and that saving up for just a nickel took a few weeks time and work.

--Posted by NM, 9/5/10


I spoke with a family friend regarding his first movie experience. He was born in the early 1920's; consequently, he has difficulty recalling the details of his initial contact with the cinema. Nevertheless, he remembers viewing a Western for the first time when he was around seven years old. Although he could not recall the film's title, he suggested the lead actor might have been the renowned Western actor Tom Mix. The movie theater was an affordable form of entertainment for his family. He recalls frequenting a local theater often with his siblings. At just ten cents per show, his family followed dramatic serials roughly once per week. While the plots were engaging each week, they were rather repetitive. At the end of each episode, the protagonist was in grave danger, only to avoid it in the opening scene the next week. I found it interesting that his interests today closely resemble his first contact with the cinema. My friend frequently watches rugged Westerns on television, and for the most part he essentially avoids all modern dramas. He noted that the plots of his favorite Westerns tend to be both repetitive and predictable; regardless, similar to his experience with serials, he continues to watch.

--posted by EH, 9/5/2010


My grandfather's first movie experiences were at pre-WWII Saturday afternoon shows. These were anchored by a double feature--usually one cowboy adventure featuring someone like Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, or Hopalong Cassidy, and one "scary" movie with "a lot of dead guys saying 'yes, master.'" Between the two features there would be a serial, often another cowboy story, which made the audience wonder how the hero would survive the cliffhanger. It encouraged them to return the following weekend to find out. In addition to the double feature and the serial was something called a short subject: usually the Three Stooges or Our Gang. My grandfather pointed out that Our Gang included characters that were a girl, a black kid, a fat kid--something to help every minority feel included. When he was older, about fifteen, my grandfather worked at the same theater where he used to see movies. As an usher, he had to wear a fancy work uniform, and he was only paid 25 cents an hour, which even then was "junky." But he got to see all the films for free, which was a nice bonus. These days my grandfather rarely goes to the theater, but he does like to watch films on television, especially historical documentaries. He also enjoys pointing out and sharing films with the younger generation. He often asks me to put a certain movie on my Netflix queue so that we can watch it together. This summer we watched Schindler's List, which was a fantastic film.

--Posted by ZS, 9/5/10


Growing up in the poor Irish neighborhood of Harlem, New York in the 1940's afforded my grandfather few chances to attend movies. The choice of either paying for a movie or a carton of milk made it difficult for him to take part in the world of cinema. However, the first film he remembers was a music comedy entitled The Daughter of Rosie O'Grady (1950), which he went to with his mother. The reason for the choice of the film was that it was, as the title suggests, an Irish film. Therefore, my grandfather took his mother, who was an Irish immigrant. As he stated, it was imperative for himself and his mother to see the film as all of the other Irish immigrant in the neighborhood would have seen it too.

One scene in paticular that struck my grandfather was when a cop was faced up against a thug. In the scene, in order to outwit the thug, the cop ripped out a runner (a long, thin hallway rug) from under the thug. After the film, my grandfather told me that he and his mother were in disagreement over whether the scene could have taken place in reality. My grandfather told me that his mother had a hard time believing scenes of films because she had little imagination left from the years of hardship she had endured, but that since he was younger it was easier for him to accept the film as real. In order to conclude this disagreement, when my grandfather got home he tried to renact the scene on his mother by pulling trying to pull out a carpet from under her feet. However, luckily he was unsuccessful, although he did shake her up quite a bit! Today my grandfather says that he rarely will go to films. One or two a year is all he will see for he has never really taken an interest in the medium. --Posted by BF, 9/5/10


My grandma was born in 1933 in the Jefferson Park neighborhood of Chicago. While she is sure that she saw Shirley Temple "flicks" earlier in life, the first film that she remembers seeing is Gone With The Wind, in 1939. She was extremely impressed with the color and length of the film. As she remembers, 1939 was a very good year for films, but Gone With the Wind was by far the best. She remembers being very excited when it won a lot of Oscars. Even today she thinks it is one of the best movies ever made, and will watch it occasionally. The theater that my grandma went to was called the Gateway Theater, which was a neighborhood theater in Jefferson Park. This theater is actually still standing today. She and her parents would go to the movies every Friday, when the movies would change. As she remembers, they would get to the theater around 7:45, buy tickets, and then wait in line until the earlier showing got out at around 8:00. Each movie had both a monochromatic newsreel and short cartoon before the actual film. She also remembers occasionally going to see cartoon serials, which would show each Saturday morning. These would consist of about an hour of an ongoing cartoon played each Saturday in segments. For my grandma, the most important part of the film experience was that it allowed her to be completely entertained. The only other form of entertainment at the time was radio, and while listening to the radio she would be knitting, cleaning, or doing some sort of work. While at the movies, she was able to fully enter a different world. She commented that the movie viewing experience is not as special for us today because we are constantly surrounded by many forms of entertainment. Now, my grandma has a Netflix account; her recent favorite is The Blind Side. --Posted by KG, 9/5/10


My mother was born in Taiwan in 1951. Sadly, as both sets of grandparents have passed away, she is one of the oldest people I know. At the age of 10 or 11, my mother attended her first movie at a theater near her home. Although she cannot remember the movie's title, she recalls that it was a Chinese kung-fu action film. This type of film was extremely popular at the time, and most of the following films my mother attended were of this genre. The cost was about 10 NT, or the equivalent of an American quarter. The theater was small, and the audience consisted of mostly children escorted by their parents. The theater sold typical cinema snacks, such as popcorn and candy. Beverage options were minimal-- a choice of Coca-Cola, root beer, or 7-up. When my mom moved to the United States at the age of 16, she attended various movies and particularly enjoyed Westerns. Her favorite was The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. She and my dad share a love of Western films, although that love did not translate to myself and my siblings. After her first child was born, my mom bypassed the cinema for the more convenient, televised versions of Western films. She continues to watch Westerns today. --Posted by NT, 9/6/2010


My grandmother was born in 1934 in the small suburban neighborhood of Rutherford, New Jersey. At the time there were several small movie houses in the town that she would often frequent with her parents and older sister. Among the first movies she remembers seeing are The Purple Heart and Great Expectations . She recalls being extremely frightened during both movies as one depicted acts of torture and the other Miss Havisham's mangled face. However, she stated that the overall experience was good and that she misses things like uniformed ushers and fresh popcorn in the movie theaters of today. Her fondest memory of cinema, however, was when she was 7 years old. Her father took both her and her sister to Radio City Music Hall in New York City to see the Christmas show. Nowadays, the 'Christmas Spectacular' consists only of a musical type stage play, but back in the day it was accompanied by a Christmas Carol-esque movie. She could not remember many details about it, but she did recall the feeling of pure elation she felt when viewing such a spectacle at such a young age. Today my Grandmother does not go to the movies as often, as she feels they are a bit excessive in their visual effects. The one exception being The Blind Side, a movie she saw recently and fell in love with. Til this day Cornell Wilde and Gene Tierney remain her favorite actor and actress respectively, as she longs for the day where simple black and white cinema makes a comeback. --Post by MU, 9/6/10


My Grandmother's first movie experience was either Gone With the Wind (1939) or Pinocchio (1940).
Gone With the Wind, she described, was the first big all-color epic. And she developed a crush on Clark Gable; but hey, who could resist that mustache? But as a little girl, citing fire and the amputees, she found the images of the film and the portrayal of the war pretty frightening, Pinocchio on the other hand she said was great. It appealed to her more because it was animated and geared more towards children. And after hearing this, I realized how Disney was a part of her first movie experiences as well as mine. Disney has seemingly been able to monopolize childhood movie going experiences for most of the century. As for the experience of going to the movies she described it as "MARVELOUS!" She and her parents and siblings would get dressed up, go downtown, and have a fancy steak dinner at Charlie's Steakhouse; movie nights were a "real treat, a big big thing." My Grandmother still frequents the movie theaters but it's less of a production. There's no getting dressed up or fancy dinners, it's just another thing to do. Also, she loves popcorn. - Posted by KT 09/06/10


My grandmother was born in 1920 and is currently 89 years old. She grew up mostly in Texas and California and recalls some of her first true movie experiences happening when she was in high school around 1936 in California. She does not recall what the first film she saw was or how old she was when she saw it but she remembers that she preferred films about dancing or musicals especially those starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. That being said some of her first films might very well have been 1936's Swing Time and Follow the Fleet both of which starred Astaire and Rogers.
My grandmother said that back in her day a color film was always a real treat and what she loved most about the musicals was that the bands who played in the films typically performed at dances she would go to in Fort Worth, Texas as a young girl.Today my grandmother sees movies at the cinema as being less of a weekend event (treat) than it was in her day and that she actually sees more films from her day via TCM and other networks than she ever did when they were playing in theaters back in the 30s and 40s.-Posted by FO 09/06/10


My grandmother was born on May 2, 1930 and raised in Castlebar, County Clare. She grew up in rural Ireland, which made going to the movies quite a treat. Church attire was worn and families and friends gathered at the Castlebar Cinema to enjoy the Sunday screenings of Westerns and/or musicals. My grandma remembers that her first cinematic experience was a "four cent matinee" screening of Mokey and Little Nellie Kelly. She said that the combination of films was unusual because, as mentioned, Westerns and musicals were normally shown on Sundays. But, she remembers thoroughly enjoying the experience.
When my grandmother was 18, she decided to move to America. Instead of attending Galway University, which was her mother's wish, she wanted to start a new life--in Rochester, New York, her birthplace and "home". In 1949, at only 19 years of age, she moved to the States. I asked her if she noticed any considerable difference between the Irish and American Cinema. She responded with an enthusiastic "Yes!", explaining that there were significantly more theaters and screenings in America. After finishing her short explanation, she mentioned that her favorite Hollywood star was Judy Garland and loved attending "The Monroe" (the local movie theater) to watch Garland's films.
--posted by BH, 09/06/10


In 1939 my father viewed, in his opinion, one of the best movies ever made- Wizard of Oz. He grew up in a poor town in Philadelphia and every weekend all the kids would go to the movies. Back then, movies were only 5 cents and it was ritual that kids went during the weekends. Wizard of Oz was one of the first movies my dad saw in theatre. He was only 7 years old. He remembers the exact moment the black and white screen turned into beautiful colors. He also remembers the audience's "wow" reaction at that exact moment when Dorothy walked out of the house onto Munchkin Land. It was a magical time in movie history. To this day he will claim that Wizard of Oz is the greatest movie of all time. I wonder if it his favorite movie because he has fond memories of seeing it in theaters.
-Posted by CH, 9/6/10 74.


I asked my mom about her first movie experience, when she was 12. She grew up in Lahore, Pakistan, in a family that never really had enough finances to go to the movies often. Plus, she grew up in a very strict household, where movies were often seen as once a year experiences, and nothing more. Nevertheless, in 1972, when she was 12 years old, she first went to her local cinema taken there by her beloved Aunt. She went with her Aunt, her Mom, and little sister. She went to see an Urdu film, called Gharana. It was a drama musical, as most Hindi films are, about an extended family trying to co-exist together under one household. Problems arise with the youngest daughter being deceitful with her sister in law, which is the main cause of tension within the film, almost leading to her brother leaving his wife over false claims of infidelity. It ends up as a happy film however as the truth comes out, and the family reunites itself. The theater itself was a very run down and old place, as many places in old Pakistan were. It was a very old fashioned theater as well. However, my mom distinctly remembers it as being an incredible time, being surrounded by masses of people all around them. At that time, cinema was the only main entertainment for the poor masses in the area, so everyone went to see films. She remembers it being very loud and fun, especially since it was such a new experience for her.She does not remember entirely, but she said she might've eaten some vegetable samosas or kulfi (pistachio flavored pakistani icecream) at the theaters because they did not serve the traditional popcorn found in American theaters. It was a very popular film, but according to my mom, Pakistani cinema popularity quickly waned afterwards. Soon, Bollywood took over the entire film industry in the Sub-Continent, and Urdu domestic films were mostly replaced due to their constant struggling in the advancing film industry. My mom rarely went to movie theaters later as well, especially with the advent of vcr's. When she arrived in America, she mostly relied on Video tapes to watch her Bollywood films, because there were no theaters in her area that would play Bollywood films. And since she never took an interest in American films, she still rarely went to American theaters, that is until her children were born. --Posted by YM, 9/6/10 ----


My grandpa was born in St. Louis, MO in 1930, and continues to live there to this day. A typical sports fanatic, he remembers that the only real things he cared about as far as media and entertainment was sports. On the radio, he just wanted to listen to sports. After I asked him about his first movie experience, he even decided to disregard the question and talk for half an hour about his first baseball game. After the reminiscing, he managed to reveal what he remembered about the movies as a child. He said that his first movie experience was definitely outdoors and with his whole family. He remembers that when he went to his first indoors movie how odd it felt compared to outdoors. The experience, he says, was wonderful. They went to the Maplewood Theater and only had to pay a nickel or dime to see the movie. They were "a lot cheaper than today's ten dollar shoot 'em ups.” He could not remember what the first film he had seen was, but it could have been a double feature. He remembers that there was a serial with a cliffhanger ending. He was disappointed because he never did find out what happened after the “to be continued…” He knew that an Andy Hardy movie, perhaps the 1938 movie Love Finds Andy Hardy. As a child, Mickey Rooney was his favorite actor, and he was also a great fan of Judy Garland, who is also in Love Finds Andy Hardy. While movies were never my grandpa’s favorite event, at least they had one thing in common with sports. “They both have great popcorn!” -Posted by CE, 9/6/10


My grandfather grew up in Chicago in the '20s and '30s when going to the local theater, which cost a mere 10 cents per movie, was a special treat and an event - a way to spend the day. Walking to one of the three local movie theaters, all of which had one screen each, my grandfather and his friends spent a day out on the town seeing the latest films, their main source of entertainment. My grandpa unfortunately doesn't remember his first movie, but has very vivid memories of seeing both Andy Hardy and Lauren and Hardy films. The Andy Hardy series featured Mickey Rooney as Andy Hardy in 16 different films, often about love and growing up. The first of these movies, A Family Affair, was made in 1937, and so was likely not one of my grandfather's first films. He remembers seeing his first movie around 1932, which is when Laurel and Hardy feature films were beginning to get made (there had been both silent and talking shorts since 1921's The Lucky Dog), starting with Pardon Us in 1931. Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy made several dozen different comedic films together between 1921 and 1951 and would have been popular film attractions when my grandfather was growing up. He always remembers standing in lines to get movie tickets with his friends. He rarely went with his family because he thinks his parents appreciated the time when the kids were out of the house. He usually spent most of his 25 cents/month allowance on going to the movies, sometimes even seeing double features that incorporated different types of live acts and musicians within the show, much like the old vaudeville-style shows of early cinema. He rarely gets to the movies now, seeing only about two a year, but has very fond memories of his boyhood Saturdays spent at the movie theater. -- Posted by MG, 9/6/10


My Grandmother was born in 1927 and grew up in Clear Lake, Iowa. Her first movie experience took place when she was five years old and she and her siblings went to visit their grandmother who lived about 30 minutes away in Rockford. She is not sure exactly what the title of the film was but she does remember that it was a silent black and white cartoon feature (possibly with Felix the Cat). Because there was no sound, a piano player provided musical accompaniment to the images on the screen. My Grandmother remembers that her first movie experience was very exciting. She and her siblings were fascinated with the novelty of moving pictures. They had never experienced anything quite like it. My Grandmother continued to go to the movies often while growing up - usually once a week on Saturdays. The local theater featured serial films. Each week, an "episode" of the series would be shown, ending with a dramatic cliffhanger. My grandma says that this effectively encouraged audiences to return to theaters the following week to find out what happened next in the series. These serials were often westerns. Much of my Grandmother's childhood coincided with the Great Depression in the 1930s and many of the movies she saw growing up were feelgood films with happy endings. She especially enjoyed musicals and admired actresses such as Shirley Temple Irene DunneBarbara Stanwyck Ann Miller and Olympic figure skater turned actress Sonja Henie. "All of us wanted to be Shirley Temple," she says of her and her friends. My Grandma continues to watch movies today. Her favorite film of all time is To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) starring Gregory Peck. She believes the movies have changed a great deal since her childhood. The tragic and ambiguous endings in more recent films are especially different than the feelgood movies of the Depression Era. She still continues to enjoy musicals and dislikes action films with over the top special effects -Posted by MG, 9/6/10


My step-grandmother was born in 1924. She grew up in a town called Roseland, which is just outside of Chicago. The first movie going experience she remembers occurred when she was ten years old. She remembers going to the State Theater in Roseland with her neighborhood friends after going to mass that morning. She recalls paying ten cents at a ticket booth that was separate from the theater. After that, she entered the theater and gave her ticket to the ticket taker. She remembers then buying popcorn for five cents. After buying the popcorn, she entered the theater where an usher, usually a high school kid, asked her where she wanted to sit. She does not remember much about the theater itself after that. The first movie she saw was a Western, though she cannot remember the name of it. She remembers, however, that it was in black and white, was over two hours long, and had sound. Despite having sound, the theater also had an organist to accompany the film whenever there was not dialogue on screen. She recalls hearing the sound of the horses galloping while watching the film. She also remembers that the film involved cowboys fighting Indians, with the cowboys always wearing white hats and the "bad guys" or Indians always wearing black hats. She said that although the good guys always won, no one ever was hurt and the films were never gory. Either the Indians fell off the horse or the horse fell over. Either way, the film ended with the cowboys victorious. My step-grandmother still enjoys movies today, her favorite genre being musicals; however, she has not been to a movie theater in over three years. --Posted by BR, 9/6/10


My Grandmother was born in 1930 and grew up in Hong Kong. Unfortunately her family was very poor and no one in her neighborhood really goes to the movies unless it was a very special occasion. But she said she always wanted to go and just take a look of what's inside. She said it was until she was 11 years old that she saw her first movie. It was on her 11th birthday that her parents brought the whole family to watch Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). She clearly remembered on the day of January 20th, 1941 (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs came out in Hong Kong on January 16th, 1941), thinking that her parents were bringing the family out for dinner to celebrate her birthday but soon found out that her parents brought them to the movie theater instead. She was extremely happy and excited but as she walked in to the theater, she found out that it wasn't as grand or pretty as she thought it would be. Some chairs were broken, it was very hot and very dirty, it wasn't the best place to be. But as soon as the movies came on she completely forgot about it. She said the most memorable thing is the colour of the movie, her eyes were stunned by all the different colours that was projected. Even though the movie was in English and was subtitled with chinese, because she doesn't know any english at all but she said she wasn't used to reading the subtitle and watching the movie at the same time, so she just mainly concentrated on the colourful animation and the beautiful music that played. It was her best birthday and one of her most memorable life experience as well. -- Posted by AC, 9/6/10


My grandmother was a woman before her time. She was born in El Reno, Oklahoma and continued to live there for much of her young adulthood. She always lived life like an adventure. One of her loves was to fly. She took her Piper Cub plane over Texas to the Gulf of Mexico back to Oklahoma. She also got a job with Shell Oil Company as a model and geologist, which brought her to San Francisco. She left Oklahoma in the 1930s with her college degree and headed for San Francisco. She was a young girl, only in her twenties, no friends or family, living in San Francisco. My grandmother may of been adventurous but nothing would compare to one of her first "San Franciscan" movie theater experiences. Before going to the movies, she had just bought new shoes. At the time this was a big deal due to the financial crisis of the late 1930s. Shoes were not cheap. She decided to see Gone with the Wind at Fox Theater on Market Street. The architecture of the Fox Theater was reminiscent of a great opera house. During the movie viewing she decided to take her new shoes off and enjoy the experience. Then a massive earthquake shook the theater. She was frightened and hastily left the theater. A few moments after the quake she realized she had left her shoes. When she went back, they were not there. She never got her shoes back but it would be a movie experience to remember for the ages. --Posted by JM, 9/6/10


My Grandmother's best friend was born in Buffalo, New York, in 1930. Although she doesn't remember her very first trip to the movies, she remembered that movies like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and other Disney animated features. Another popular feature of her childhood were westerns and noted that many of the movies she remembers were not nearly as violent as today's films, she said they were more corny and always had happy endings. She mentioned that many of these were cliffhangers and part of a series that would draw viewers back the following week to see the next part. She also recalled that some theaters would try to attract customers by giving complementary dishes out after a film and eventually customers could collect the whole set. As a child, she would ride bikes with her friends to the neighborhood theater which was about a fifteen minute ride. This theater often did a double feature so it was a nice way to spend a whole afternoon. Sometimes when she was still young she and her family and a few friends would go to the drive in theater. Unlike today's theaters which broadcast the film's audio to your car radio, this drive in had very large speakers near the screen that all the cars would listen to. As a teenager, she would go to the larger more elegant theater downtown. She remembers weekends at this theater would be very crowded and sometimes for popular films people would stand for the whole showing, a practice clearly not continued today. Her favorite movie is The Sound of Music and she still occasionally goes to the theater today. -- Posted by WI, 9/6/10


Because the oldest people I know, my grandparents, couldn't recall their earliest film experiences, I turned to the man who took me to my first movie as a child, my father. He was born and raised in Northern New Jersey, the youngest son of a school teacher and an insurance agent. He lived an idyllic life with both of his parents around for every baseball game, test preparation, and sibling fight. When asked about his first movie experience, he cited two drastically different examples. First he talked about The Sand Pebbles (Robert Wise, 1966). He vividly remembered a day on which his parents "dragged" him and his siblings into New York City for a day of sight seeing. After hitting all the major tourist attractions possible, the day ended at Radio City Music Hall where they saw the film. All he could tell me about the film was that it was a war movie that he saw because his fathered loved films about war. Beyond that, all he remembered was that he fell asleep! Must not have been too entertaining for a ten year old! The he continued to mine his memory and he brought up The Nutty Professor (Jerry Lewis, 1963). He said that his parents too him without his siblings along with his favorite aunt and uncle to see this comedy written and directed by and even starring Jerry Lewis. He "had a ball" at the theater and remembered everything. He recalled the details of the day from the popcorn that he almost spilled from laughing too hard to the decor of the theater in Ridgewood, New Jersey that we went to see Toy Story 3 at the beginning of the summer! --posted by JR 9/6/10


My mother grew up in Allen Park, Michigan, in the early 1950s. Though she cannot recall what age she was when she saw her first film--she guesses she was about 7 or 8 years old at the time--she vividly remembers the experience. As a child, getting on a bus to go to downtown Detroit was a very special experience for her and her family, as they only did so twice per year: once for Christmas shopping, and once in August to get new school clothes. The first time they broke this tradition was to see a presentation of "The Ten Commandments." She was excited to get all dressed up to go to the Fox Theater, which, then, was a cinematic venue and not a concert hall, though it was still as elaborately decorated as it remains today (despite relatively recent renovations). She especially remembers being impressed by the "gold" gargoyles, velvet chairs and curtains with trim, and the size of the theater: Besides the main viewing area, there was also a mezzanine and two balconies. Even more impressive than the atmosphere was the viewing experience itself. Because of its length, the film had a ten minute intermission, during which my mother remembers everyone getting up to stretch and buy something from the concession stand. She never saw the length as a bad thing, however; having already known the story of Moses, she describes seeing it in its entirety on the big screen as like "real life," an impression that was enhanced by the fact that the film was in color, whereas the family television was black and white. The special effects were also state-of-the-art at the time, though today she enjoys laughing at the strange-looking parting of the Red Sea. The film also influenced her childhood belief that Moses looked exactly like Charlton Heston, and that God has a deep voice. Today, my mother enjoys watching films of nearly all genres, though only rarely in theaters. Despite her amazement with what new technology has brought to modern cinema, her favorite film is "A Christmas Story," followed closely by "The Ten Commandments," and it has become tradition to view each of these films at Christmas and Easter, respectively. --posted by DA, 9/6/10


My grandmother was born in 1930 and spent most of her childhood in Lincoln, Nebraska. She fondly recalled her first movie experiences as one of the favorite ways that she and her father spent time together. For nine cents each, she and her dad would go to one of the three movie theaters in their town - the Lincoln Theater, the Stuart Theater or the Liberty Theater. She saw her first movie in 1935 and spoke about enjoying films that featured Laurel and Hardy, Shirley Temple, W.C. Fields and Will Rogers. She and her father especially liked horror films. She can vividly remember how much she enjoyed Bella Lugosi as Frankenstein. She recounted how every film was preceded by a Pathé newsreel and a cartoon, but confessed that anxiety for the feature film had her less interested in these components. My grandmother then discussed how different the theaters from her first movie experiences are from those today. She said the screens were much smaller and there weren't as many seats. She talked about how the sound came from the front of the screen and how that created a very different, less involved, effect on the audience than the surround sound that we know at present. She admitted that she doesn't go to movie theaters as much anymore and greatly appreciates the luxury of renting movies that she can enjoy in her own home. That said, however, she concluded that the theater-going experience of today is far more lavish than it was when she first went. She recently visited a dine-in-theater where she saw Avatar in 3D and expressed that she cannot believe how far watching films has come. -- Posted by SS, 9/6/10


My friend’s grandmother was born in a small town in rural northern Minnesota in 1927. She actually remembers her first film experience quite vividly because it was quite an excursion to get there. Her town was so small that they did not have a theater but in fact had to travel to a neighboring to attend a show. She was only three at the time but to this day remembers the film because of its startling effect on her. The film was called Amos ‘n’ Andy film called Check and Double Check. She remembers Amos ‘n’ Andy was originally a popular comedy radio program that starred two African American characters in the 1920’s. In fact the radio show was so popular that RKO decided to make a feature film in 1930, it was such a success in fact that it was one of RKO’s biggest box office hits. The reason that this film was so shocking to this young girl in 1930, was that she had never yet seen or been in contact with an African American person before. So when Amos n Andy came on the screen it was her introduction to an entirely new race of people. But, what made this film experience extraordinarily affecting is that in Check and Double Check, Amos ‘n’ Andy are played by Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll, two Caucasian men performing in black-face. She remembers sitting on her father’s lap in the crowded theater, witnessing this strange cinematic portrayal of African Americans. The film was a comedy but it still frightened her as she recalled how strange and uncomfortable the situation was. Today she completely forgets the plot of the film or any scene in particular, however she will always remember the image of Gosden and Correll with their faces completely painted black. It was an odd way to become acquainted with the African American culture especially with the most transforming and turbulent years of race relations in America to come. She is still greatly connected to film however, now living in L.A with a son working as a director of photography in the movie business she attends screenings with regularity and excitement. --Posted by NM, 9/06/10


My Grandmother was born in 1930 in Posen, IL. She was the eleventh child in a family of thirteen children. She grew up in the height of the Great Depression, and needless to say, luxuries such as a trip to "the show", as she called it, were not easy to come by. She went on to explain that her and her sisters used to help with laundry and cleaning work for neighbors, in order to scrounge up some spending money. She said that a movie ticket costed roughly twenty-five cents. She went on to explain that the twenty-five cents that she paid was worth it, it wasn't to see the "trash" movies that were made today. Being a film major, I was completely taken aback, but she stood by her original statement, saying that movies used to be "a beautiful, moving experiences, as opposed to the cheap thrills and dirty humor that is shown now". She also went on to say that if she sees one more "bare rump" on a screen, she will stop watching movies altogether. Now, I know that wasn't true, but I was interested in finding out what movies she was speaking of. She relayed that, in all honesty, she did not remember exactly what her first film was, but she vividly remembers seeing //Casablanca//
Casablanca was an incredible romantic film, that had a profound effect on her, she wanted to find a man just like Humphrey Bogart, which she claims that she did, with my grandfather. She said that when she went to go see that movie, she went with her three older sisters, who she greatly looked up to. All of them were wearing beautiful dresses and they had helped her do her make up for one of the first times. Later, she watched as her older sisters met and socialized with boys and after seeing the movie, she realized that she had fallen in love with love. To this day, her favorite movies are romantic ones, and she will sit and hold strong to what she believes were the "golden age" of movies in her time.
--Posted by KK, 9/06/10


Ok, I had called and got great (elaborate) stories from my grandma about growing up in Boston during the depression and walking to the theater with her brothers and sister watching great films and newsreels...however upon looking up some dates of film titles (which did not match up) and then calling to check with my Mom last night, I realized that my grandmother did not even grow up in Boston, she grew up in Providence, RI. So in lue of Dementia induced delusion, and slight panic on my part at 10:30p.m. last night, I resorted to asking my mother about her, less ancient, yet still intriguing first movie experiences. My Mom's first movie memory involves no recollection of the specific movie itself except that it was a musical, and she was fascinated with it. What she does remember more vividly, though, was the theater itself. It was an old-style theater she said in downtown Lansing. She remembers all the wood work in the theater as well as feeling like it was a "big deal." She went with her friend and her friends mom. She remembers it being a treat and a lot of excitement surrounded the event. Overall, she noted just feeling really taken back by the look and feel of that old-style theater. The first actual movie she could recall was Planet of the Apes. She said she was about 10 and it was the first time she was allowed to see a movie without adults. Even though her Mom told her not to go, she went anyway with the neighbors and she said she felt so cool being allowed to go with all the "big kids." However, it scared the living crap out of her and she had dreams that she was going to get a lobotomy like Charlton Heston. Overall, I think its interesting that like many other's first movie memories; the one she could recall best was the most traumatic one at an early age. --Posted by MS, 9/07/10