Honolulu Lite

by Charles Memminger

Monday, May 24, 1999

First day
movie mania is silly

IF I met someone who said they had seen "Gone With the Wind" the day it was released in theaters, the first thing I'd say is "man, are you old." The second thing I'd say is "so what?"

What is the big deal about seeing a movie the first day it's released? I don't get it.

The carefully orchestrated frenzy surrounding the opening of the latest "Star Wars" flick is scary. The endless hype resulted in people waiting all night in line in order to get tickets to see the movie on the first day, as if it would later be put back into the can and never be available for public viewing again.

The best way to see a movie is in a half-empty theater where you can have three seats to yourself. How can you enjoy a movie in a packed theater, fighting for the armrests with some guy with hair-covered ham hocks?

But let's get back to that guy who saw "Gone With the Wind" the first day. Since then, everyone has seen the blasted movie. Several times. The movie hasn't changed. The ending is exactly the same today as it was when it was first released. I don't think Rhett Butler said, "Frankly my dear, I think you're a whiny little skank," on the first day and, "I don't give a damn," for everyone else who saw the movie later.

You see a movie the first day it comes out -- so what? Are you going to go around saying, "Man, I saw the movie before everyone else saw it. It was so much better. You'll never know. Because, those of us who waited in line for 27 hours and squeezed into the theater for the first showing had to sign confidentiality contracts barring us from disclosing all the secret stuff that was in the first showing of the movie that nobody else got to see. But trust me, what we saw was better."

Why were the makers of "Star Wars" hellbent on creating the insanity surrounding the movie's release? Money. That's the only reason. They needed as many people as possible to see the movie on the first day so that movie critics would be rendered irrelevant. By the time Roger Egbert gives his thumbs up or down to "Star Wars," the money is in the bank.

THERE'S going to be a backlash to this foolishness eventually. There already was a mini-backlash to the "Star Wars" media saturation. A lot of people told me they were sick of the movie a week before it was released. The inevitable barrages of "Star Wars" toys, the sneak peeks at selected scenes on television shows, the incessant flogging and flacking of every aspect of the production just wore many people out.

They showed us the characters. They showed us how the special effects were made (which you NEVER should know until after you've seen the movie). They discussed the plot practically page by page. See the movie? I felt like I had been the key grip boy during the shooting of the damn thing.

Not only did I not want to see the movie on the first day it was released, I began to wonder whether I would ever want to see this thing.

One of my best film experiences was to go into a theater to see a movie called "The Great Santini." There had been absolutely no advance publicity or reviews. My wife and I didn't even know who the stars were. The theater was comfortably empty. The story unfolded before us the way a movie should. Robert Duvall's performance was one of his best.

I won't tell you the plot because I don't want to ruin it for you. But rent the video. See a movie the way it should be seen: on television with a bowl of microwave popcorn in your lap.

Charles Memminger, winner of
National Society of Newspaper Columnists
awards in 1994 and 1992, writes "Honolulu Lite"
Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Write to him at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin,
P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, 96802

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