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Five Movie Theater Memories Summer of 2003

One thing that always makes me think of summer?  Going to a movie theater to see new movies! 

I love the entire experience.  The smells, sounds, excitement, and anticipation... even the funky black and neon carpet.

Growing up, we had a small 2 screen theater, but when I was in high school, they built what was at the time the second-largest mall on the East Coast only 15 minutes from my house.  On the 4th floor, there was a giant 25 or 30 screen Loews Cinema (at the time) but it is now an AMC.  It really was the first of its kind in our area with reclining seats, stadium seating, and a snack bar that was more than just popcorn and soda.  There was nothing available like the gourmet meals some places serve today, but a step up from just stale popcorn and flat soda at the other places.

In 2003, I was 19 and home from college for the summer.  Pretty much since completing 9th grade, I always had a summer job.  I've wracked my brain, combed through old photos, and even asked my parents, and I think I didn't really have a job in 2003.  I'd occasionally referee a youth hockey game for pocket change, but I can't believe my Dad let me get away with not working for the summer.  I will say that I did drive from my parents' house down to Long Island to finish up my pilot Instrument Rating so that I wouldn't fall behind course-wise in the Fall.  It was about a 2-hour ride each direction that I did 3 days a week from when classes let out in late May until about the end of July.  In August, my family went on our annual 2-week vacation to Maine, and I was back in the dorms at school by Labor Day weekend.  

I still can't believe my Dad let me go the whole summer without a real job, but my flight training and passing my next certification were my jobs.  I also can't believe I can't remember what I did that summer. It was only 18 years ago.  I also can't believe that 2003 was 18 years ago!  I can't be the only one who feels like 2003 was like 5 years ago, right?  

My best friend from high school had an internship that summer that didn't take much of his time.  We were pretty similar:  homebodies who preferred to be alone watching TV or playing video games while chatting on AIM (AOL Instant Messenger, for you young folks).  

Occasionally, we'd get together to knock a tennis ball around the high school racketball courts, play roller hockey, or video games. Even still, we reserved one night a week for the movie theater.  

We saw quite a few movies during the summer of 2003 but nowhere near as many as in 2004, which is a story coming your way soon.  Some were good, some were bad, but there are some experiences at the movie theater from the Summer of 2003 that certainly stick out to me.  

So, without further ado, here are five of my memorable movie-going experiences in the summer of 2003, in no particular order.

Hulk - June 20, 2003

Somewhere around 2003, Super Hero and Comic Book movies were becoming a "thing" again after the Batman films of the late '90s ruined it for all of us.  The Marvel Universe was just starting to take shape, and my friend and I had gone to see the original X-Men film and loved it.  We were both eagerly awaiting "Hulk" (the Eric Bana/Ang Lee version, not the later Mark Ruffalo/Disney ones) and made plans to be there on opening night.  When we showed up over an hour early there was already a long line to get in.  It was the first (and only) time that I can remember waiting in line to get into a movie theater.  He had purchased our tickets online weeks before, which was pretty darn cool for 2003.  Nowadays, it's old hat, but for 2003 it was pretty high-tech.  I never carried cash, and I still usually don't, but back then, it was likely because I just didn't have any rather than now when I prefer the convenience of a card.  I remember the awkwardness of not having the money to pay him for my ticket and having to borrow money from my parents to buy his ticket when we went back to the theater the following week. 

Either way, we waited in a long line to see this movie and didn't get my preferred seating of the last row in the middle and were forced to sit on the side down in front.  

This movie sucked.  A lot.  

Halfway through the movie, he elbowed me and said, "This is awful."  My language was probably more colorful, and I remember the deflated feeling we both had walking out to his car.  We would alternate driving each week, but I remember that this particular week he drove.  Normally pretty quiet, he would always become quite animated on the ride home as he relived and discussed the movie we just saw.  

This time he was silent.  

Very disappointing, and no wonder it has a 29% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.  If you haven't seen it, don't.  It's so bad they canceled production on the sequel.  

Wrong Turn - May 30, 2003

I'm not sure what I was thinking ever agreeing to see this movie.  I don't like to be scared or even startled, so why I agreed with him to go see this slasher film, I'll never know.  I grew up in a sheltered, religious home that didn't allow television and movies that were "offensive" or "scary."  I mean, until I was 12 or 13, I wasn't even allowed to watch "The Simpsons."  It didn't help that I was a fraidy cat of a kid, either.  I was always terrified I would be left somewhere or forgotten or never see home again.  I guess the 3 or 4 times my parents lost me at the mall or wherever may have caused that.  Or the time our car broke down in the middle of the night on the side of the New York State Thruway, and I was so worried I threw up.  

So, yeah, I'm a little weak.  Looking back now, 18 years older, I'd probably laugh at how lame some of this movie was.  At the time, though, I was terrified.  I can remember laughing at some parts of the movie that probably weren't meant to be laughed at, but we drove home in silence that night.  After dropping him off at his house, I remember pulling up to a stop sign in a dark part of town just after midnight and turning on the dome light to make sure nobody was hiding in the backseat.  That night, I was so disturbed by the movie that I didn't fall asleep until probably close to 5 in the morning from pure exhaustion.  I left my bedside light on and didn't roll over for fear that someone from the movie would be looking right back at me if I turned toward the window.  

The next day, the youth hockey program we grew up playing with hosted a fundraiser that featured some New York Rangers.  I was so tired from not sleeping that I showed up really late and missed the actual Rangers who showed up to take photos and sign autographs.  I remember my parents being mad at me when I rolled in just as the "video game truck" was starting to pack up.  While going through my 2003 photos, trying to jog my memory, I found the above photo of my friend and I watching the kids play video games.  I'm in the red jacket.

Dickie Roberts:  Former Child Star, September 5, 2003

This movie was more my speed compared to some of the horror flicks he liked.  I've always liked David Spade in his television work and, of course, "Black Sheep" and "Tommy Boy."  

I remember he didn't want to see this one, but I talked him into it.  I don't remember much about this movie, but I remember we were only 2 of maybe 10 people in the entire theater.  I guess no one else wanted to see it, either.  The movie was pretty boring, and the two of us started to move our seats every few minutes to see if the other people in the theater noticed.  The two of us were so amused by this that we started cracking up laughing like two idiots, and it began annoying the other people there.  Which, of course, made us laugh even louder.  

One older couple got up and left. I'm not sure if it was because of us or the movie, but I'll take credit for it.  We were normally the good, well-behaved, cause-no-trouble kind of kids.  While this was good-natured fun, it certainly annoyed the others around us, and I think that's why we had so much fun with it.  

Freddy vs. Jason, August 15, 2003

We used to do this thing where we'd buy a ticket to a movie but go early and wander the hallways and duck into another theater and watch some of whatever was playing.  I saw about 30 minutes of Russel Crowe's awful "Master and Commander" that way, and that was more than enough.  I'm sure many people did this sort of thing, too; we couldn't be the only ones who finished a movie and walked into the theater next door to watch one (or three) for free.  

As I said about Wrong Turn, I hate horror movies, and I'm such a giant scaredy-cat I kept refusing to see this with him.  One day we were going to see a movie, and we got there early.  What was playing on the screen next to ours, of course?  Freddy vs. Jason.  

He was a giant Freddy Kreuger fan, or so he said.  I'd never heard him talk about it before this movie was about to come out, but it was part of the internet fanboy cool crowd (which he definitely was a part of) to be fans of Freddy.... so who knows.  Either way, what little I did know about Freddy Krueger made me not want to go near that theater, and he had to actually physically drag me in.  

I still remember staring at the wall or checking my watch so that I didn't have to look at the screen.  I even went to the "what's that itch on my leg" move a few times so that I could avoid eye contact with the screen as if Freddy could reach out and touch me.  Finally, about 40 minutes in, with enough nightmare fuel to last a few lifetimes, the movie we had gone to see had begun, and I got up and left.  I don't even remember what it was.  Likely "Anger Management" with Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson.  

Either way, I saw most of it alone until Freddy vs. Jason had ended.  

The Girl Next Door

This movie was released in the spring of 2004, but somehow, we stumbled into a Critic's Press Preview during the late half of summer 2003.   

In the spring of 2004, my college dorm friends and I got a hold of the DVD copy of this movie and the name didn't ring a bell, but after a few minutes, I was having Deja Vu.  

I'd seen this already!  It took another few moments, but then I impressed my friends with my ability to accurately describe the upcoming scenes.  For a minute, they thought I was psychic or something until I filled them in.

When we practically fell into the Press Screening, we had gone to the theater without an intended movie.  We walked up to the marquee that showed all of the movies and times and went down the list one by one.  

Me:  "Nah, seen it, maybe, Nah, seen it... What's 'Girl Next Door'?"  

Him:  "I dunno, never heard of it.  Let's try it."  

Back then, you couldn't reach into your pocket and Google something, so we took a chance.  We got our tickets and popcorn and headed to the back row, as usual, and we noticed there was a handful of older men scattered around the theater.  Several of them had big legal notepads in their lap.  I couldn't imagine what they were up to, but the one closest to us was frequently writing on it as that film went on.  

Eventually, we put two-and-two together that this must be a critic's screening or something and we thought it was strange that they were willing to sell us tickets to see it.  I remember enjoying the movie, more so with my college buddies almost a year later, but he was enamored with it from the get-go.  

In two short hours, he had fallen in love with Elisha Cuthbert.  A few months later, he would eventually start dating a "dancer."  From what he told me, it sounded like she was using him, and I warned him not to give her too much of his money, but he kept telling me, "No, she's a good girl like Elisha in Girl Next Door." 

From what I remember, his fantasy relationship ended only a few weeks later, after the first time he said "no" to loaning her money.