I read an article on the Los Angeles Times website on Tuesday that gave my movie-loving heart a shot of reality, courtesy of good ol' Father Time.
June 12, 2011, marks the 30th anniversary of the release of "Raiders of the Lost Ark." I can almost hear a bunch of you shaking your heads in disbelief, so do what I did: lean back in the seat you're in (as far as you can without hurting yourself and/or others, anyway) and let that fact settle.
Those of you young'uns who have only a passing knowledge of the movie -- maybe you've seen it on TV, maybe you haven't -- can certainly appreciate the sheer entertainment value of this adventure film, but to those people within my generation and some older still, it was one of the Big Movies, from a time when the summer wasn't yet cranking out two or three blockbuster effects-driven Hollywood thrill machines every week from mid-April to early August.
But beyond the fact that I fondly think of "Raiders" to this day as a near-flawessly made piece of pure American popcorn cinema, it also holds a special place in my heart because I first saw it at the Bison Drive-In Theater here in McCook. My parents took the oldest of us Blomstedt kids to quite a few movies at the long-gone North Highway 83 landmark, although, to be honest, I don't remember most of them. I do, however, still carry within me the deep sense of exhilaration that would roll through me when I would look out from the back of our family's Plymouth Volare station wagon and realize that Dad was edging us up the north-bound curve at the Y intersection on the west edge of the city instead of staying on the highway that would take us home to Palisade after a long day of keeping Grandma and Grandpa on their toes.
I don't recall how much it cost to get in, I don't remember whether or not we had drinks or popcorn from the concession stand, and I definitely have no idea what the second movie on the double bill was or even if we stayed for it (or if there even was another movie that night, though I don't doubt there was). I do remember having a wonderful time, though, even at the end of the movie when I was watching through the slits of my five-year-old fingers as the villains received their gruesome - but also justly deserved - comeuppance.
With the development and spread of any number and type of video techonology, it's easier than ever to see most anything you want to see at home on your own TV. The comfort of your own living room means you can pop your own popcorn, grab a couple of cold drinks from the fridge and relax in front of a screen that you control. I'm certainly not one of those people who harrumphs about how far technology has come when talking about the home-based movie-watching experience; as most of you can probably tell by now, if you took away my television, I'd be a far less happy fellow. And it goes without saying that not every movie that played at the Bison was "Raiders of the Lost Ark," not by a long-shot.
But I do recall that thrill of going to a movie under the stars in the summertime -- and that it was, indeed, the very definition of a thrill to me. I freely admit that I loved it when my parents would take us kids out to a movie when I was little, but going to the Bison was something different, like it was an extra-special reward from my folks. I don't think there's an experience that quite compares to it, honestly. So, if I ever get the chance, when in future summer travels with wife and kids in tow, and we just happen to be near a real, working drive-in theater just around showtime, I think I'll decide to ease the car off the main road and catch a double feature. And while the movies are playing, I'll take a long look around the car, at the faces behind and next to me, and hopefully I'll see the expressions I must have shown to my parents on those nights when they'd take me to the Bison.