1.21 ‘JigaWatts’!!! A Film Trip Back In Time.

When it comes to movie theaters, I would say I’m something of an old soul. When most are clamoring to catch a glimpse of the latest 3D technology, digital projection or plush, reclining chairs that can hold a tub of Cherry Coke, I would leave that all behind for a one-hundred seat, single-screen cinema with sticky floors and a bit of character.

On a recent trip to Rochester, New York, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit the Dryden Theatre at the George Eastman House. Built in 1951, the theatre is used by the museum for a plethora of events, showing everything from contemporary movies to foreign to classics and hosting a film festival every spring. George Eastman was the founder of Kodak and today, the museum holds one of the world’s largest collections of photography and film.

The experience at the Dryden was a memorable one. Outside, you’re greeted by a stately-looking structure that reminded me of the building at the center of that night’s movie; the clock tower from “Back to the Future.”

Yep, we were about to go back in time. And, upon entering the theatre it actually felt like we had gone in reverse a few decades. The walls were adorned with a variety of movie posters, showcasing films they had previously shown and some that were coming soon. You could smell the popcorn bursting forth from the vintage popper and excitement in the air. “Back to the Future” came out 25 years ago, but to these moviegoers it was like a brand new film. The line, featuring more than one person sporting a Delorean shirt, was literally out the door and my father had to ask a worker if seats were still available. Thankfully, they were.

The inside of theatre was more than I expected. It wasn’t overly ornate, but it had maybe fifty to sixty seats on the first tier in front of the screen. Most viewers, like myself and my Marty McFly-loving crew, were sitting in the balcony area. The seats themselves were old school. The upholstery was blue and comfortable, although the backs were a bit stiff; not anything that bugged me certainly. As the anticipation for the time-traveling adventure built, I took in the scenery. There was plenty of people watching with eclectic film buffs everywhere and I even took this snapshot of the curtain covering the screen. As the movie started it was raised into the rafters. A nice little topping on this “throwback sundae.”

But before Doc Brown got shot for stealing plutonium from Libyan terrorists, there was a special treat for fans of the film. A speaker dressed as Marty McFly, complete with his reddish orange “life vest” and jean shirt, gave a brief history of the production.

Many of the details, I already knew, but they are still noteworthy. Mainly, that writer Bob Gale came up with the idea after looking at his father’s High School yearbook and wondering what it would have been like to be friends with his dad as a young man. The other: the studio initially wanted Michael J. Fox for the part, but his scheduling conflicts with “Family Ties” prevented him from taking it. So, they cast Eric Stoltz instead. However, director Robert Zemeckis did not think Stoltz provided enough humor in the role. He was dropped after six weeks of filming and Zemeckis was able to convince Fox to work a grueling day-night schedule between the movie and his TV sitcom. I thought this history lesson presentation was a nice touch by the Dryden theatre. It serves as both educational and entertaining and gives moviegoers something more than they would find at an overpriced multiplex.

And then it was “Back to the Future.” Except for me, it was back to the past. The film was not just some dvd that was threw in and projected at 35mm. This was the real film celluloid, complete with “cigarette burns” or cue marks at the top right hand corner. The audience was ready for a great movie and they got it. They laughed at parts that were funny (Doc Brown screaming in horror at the thought of producing 1.21 “Jigawatts” of energy) and cheered when George slugged Biff to win Lorraine at the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance.

It was a great night, for the movie-going experience and the great company who saw it with me. It was a trip back in time, one that I wish I could take more often.

posted by Seth Szilagyi in 80's Fun and have No Comments