5 Things I Miss About Movie Theaters in the 90s

In many ways the movie-going experience is much cooler than it was back in the 90s. With the proliferation of the cineplexes, most audiences are now treated to giant screens, stadium seating and state of the art video and sound systems. For the most part I still love going to the movies, but there are some things I miss about going to movies when I was a kid in the 90s. To that end I have decided to list five things I absolutely miss about going to the movies as a kid.

5. The snack boxes.

These still exist of course, but as an adult I no longer spring for them since I would rather stuff my face with a large, extra buttery popcorn with reckless abandon for anything remotely resembling dignity. That doesn't mean I don't miss the days of getting a small cardboard box filled with maybe three or four handfuls of popcorn, a small plastic cup of rootbeer and a box of Nestle Buncha Crunch. 

4. First come, first serve seating.

This is going to sound kind of weird I know. Like almost everybody else I love the fact that most theaters now have reserved seating. It's nice to be able to show up ten minutes before a hotly-anticiped movie on opening day and still be guaranteed a decent seat, but by moving toward reserved seating we have lost something special: the feeling of accomplishment.

See, back in the 1990s and early 2000s when big movies came out you simply had to come to the theater a few hours early and wait in a line outside to be seated. The earlier you came, the better your seats would be. So when a big movie like Star Wars: The Phantom Menace premiered you had to arrive a few hours early to ensure you got decent seat.

Source: Flashbak.com

Source: Flashbak.com

This was also before most theaters sold tickets online so, in addition to having to wait in line on opening day, you also had to wait in line (sometimes for days) just to get a ticket for opening day!

I can still remember waiting for hours before Phantom Menace premiered with my friends. We  passed the time by playing games, having deep philosophical discussions on the meaning of life and where Pokémon fit into it all, and hyping each other up for the actual film. All of this served to makes us even more excited for the movie.

Waiting in line was part of the experience, and while I am glad we have reserved seating, there is still a part of me that misses a time when you had to work (by sitting on your butt in line) for your seat at the movies.

3. Phone-Free Theaters

I have to be very selective about the movies I  see owing to the fact that I have more pressing things which demand my money like food, shelter and some Ponzi Scheme called "insurance." When my wife and I finally do get to the movies, we would love to enjoy them without being distracted by the jackass sitting two rows in front of us looking at his or her bright phone screen  because he or she can't go two measly hours without checking their stupid Facebook and Twitter feeds.

Phone checking during a movie is not a victimless crime, I promise you. You may think I'm an uptight jerk-wad but just remember that I spent $20 for the tickets alone, not mention the $!5 I spent on popcorn and candy and I would like to get my full money's worth. Which means I want to watch a movie free of distractions.

Of course back in the 90s we never had this problem because nobody in my neck of the woods had cell phones. It was such a glorious time, and sometimes I truly do wish we still lived in an age when we weren't constantly connected. Then I remember how much I enjoy reading Cracked articles on my phone while on the toilet and suddenly I'm grateful for be constantly connected again.

Just think about the Dark Ages when you had to read a magazine or a book while doing your business makes me shudder...

2. Picture With Character

Movie theaters today are exclusively showing films using digital projectors. With the digital format, picture quality never becomes degraded, there is no need to change any reels and the quality overall is vastly superior to what old-school film projectors have to offer. Sure, there are still some theaters who possess 35 mm film projectors, but these are only used almost exclusively for special events.

Seeing a movie on film projectors was always a somewhat unique experience because after each showing the film got smudges, dirt and dust on it which showed up on the picture, which meant no two screenings looked exactly the same.

 They also had those dots that would pop up periodically which, thanks to the Narrator and Tyler Durden from Fight Club, I now know signaled the projectionist to change reels. 

20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

Now I'm wondering if some sketchy projectionist slipped a frame from a porno into that screening of A Goofy Movie I saw...

The picture quality was nowhere near as good as it is today, and I would never suggest we go back to film, but I nevertheless miss watching a movie whose picture quality had a character all its own.

1. A World Without the World Wide Web

There was a time when trailers were the first introduction a person had to an upcoming movie. Plots were rarely leaked and inside information about which movies in production was tightly controlled by studio execs, who were able to choose which periodicals they would divulge information to.

So it was that for many 90s kids the following trailer was their first look at Jurassic Park before it was released in 1993. 

This wasn't the first trailer for Jurassic Park but it was the most memorable one. What is so great about the trailer is that it doesn't give away much of the plot, nor does it show the money shots. There was no steady flow of screenshots and trailers on the internet, no viral marketing campaign. All there was was this trailer and other promotional material which only featured the iconic T-Rex skeleton profile.

This shroud of mystery gave the scene below the power to steal the breath of almost every audience member who saw it for the first time in the theater:

The cat was left in the bag for most major blockbusters in the 90s. There were still plenty of surprises left to be experienced in the theater. That's not to say there are not still movies today which do that, but they are getting rarer. Now blockbusters have three or four trailers, ready to be watched, paused, and scrutinized over and over again via the internet.

For the weaker-willed of us it is impossible to resist not learning everything about the likes of The Avengers: Age of Ultron months in advance of their opening. I wish the temptation to spoil the surprise didn't exist. I recommend to all movie-goers that they watch as few trailers as possible, avoid reading "leaked details," and steer clear of aggregators like Rotten Tomatoes when it comes to big-budget films you long to see. I promise the struggle is worth it. Your enjoyment of the film will be so much more if you can keep yourself in the dark!

There you have it. The five things I miss most about the movie-going experience in the 90s. What do you miss the most? Be sure to leave a comment in the section below, and thanks for reading!

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