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Super70s Movie Experiences

By Patrick Mondout

On January 29, 2004, we received the following email from one our of readers. We'd like your help in answering his questions because we think others will have the same questions in the future. We'll print the best response below. (Use our link below to respond.) Here's his email:

I am working on an article that deals with the difference in the movie going experience between the 1970's and today. Since I was born in the late 70's I don't have any personal recollections and those are the types of things I am looking for.

Can you give me an idea of what the experience was in a theater in the 70's? What was the theater like--the screen, the sound, concessions. Was it nicer, dirtier, do you miss those days? I am trying to get a clear picture of that time so I can draw a comparison and conclusions about whether it truly is better now in terms of value. What were the previews like? Were there commercials?

Feel free to ask this question to any one else associated with the website or anyone who frequents. I am trying to get as clear a picture as I can.

I thank you for your time and appreciate any help that you can give.


Share Your Memories!

Do you have anything interesting to add to this story? What do you remember about it? Share your stories (or your reviews) with the world! (We print the best stories right here!)

 Your Memories Shared!

"Movie going in the Super70s. . . Well if a movie house had more than one screen that was something. The chairs were the most uncomfortable things you ever want to sit in, didn't rock, made of metal with very little coushioning. I remember my mother lighting up a cigarette and the smell of the smoke in the air. The sound of the projector running in the back. Ok so that was the rough stuff, the good stuff. Always a cartoon before the show not the stupid comercials they show now. We had a theater right up the street and it was only 25cents for shows on a saturday afternoon. You could bring your own snacks. But if you didn't, you didn't have to morgage your house to buy a pop. Sure the seats may not have been the rocking reclining things they have today but heck now they are to comfortable my fiancee always falls asleep. No suround sound but some places had live sound effects which were cool. I guess no matter what era I love movies and will continue to see how the scene changes in the years to follow. Ejoy the show !"


"As a teenager growing up in New York, I fondly remember my movie going experiences. There was one screen and most theatres had very uncomfortable seats and bare floors and balconies. You were permitted to smoke in certain parts of the cinema, a large buttered popcorn probably cost about 75 cents and a ticket was about $2. 00 on a weekend night. I also remember standing in lines for hours waiting to see movies like Jaws, Star Wars, etc. You couldn't pre-book and few theatres would allow you to but tickets early. It was the best thing to do on a date and if the move was bad, you could always make-out in the last row! What wonderful memories. ."


"I was a kid in the Super70s, but of course I loved it; that was my geneation :-)

What I remember about going to the movies, is my father complaining because the tickets cost $3. 00 per person. And things were different, then; where I lived we had one theater, that showed one movie at a time. Now I live near a mall, and one theater can show 12 movies at the same time. I think the theaters were cleaner, then. People cared more about their surroundings. There were 2.8 billion people in the world in '77, so people didn't have that rage, from being so overcrouded, like we are today. And by the way; my favorite movie is Soylent Green. [Editor's note: Have we really gone from 2.8 billion to over 6 billion in just 25 or so years???!!!]"


"I remember seeing "2001 A Space Odyssey" in 1968, the third week of its release. The theatre had a screen that must have been 60 feet wide. Incredible!

Unfortunately, in the Super70s, the theatre owners began to realize that quantity was better than quality. The same theatre in which I saw 2001 was now 2 1/2 theatres.

But on the good side, the theatres were much more quiet. People had a lot more respect for the other theatre-goers. And thank heavens, there were no cell phones. I also never had to share a movie theatre with a crying baby.

If you politely asked someone to be quiet, they generally settled down. And the theatre manager was willing to ask someone to be quiet who was getting unruly.

One of the best parts of theatres in the Super70s? Seeing "Star Wars" before Lucas renamed it "Episode IV. ""


"Since I was born in 1962, the Super70s were my prime moviegoing years. First difference- there were a lot of theaters- mostly 2 or 4 screen theaters. Pretty much every town had one. The big screens around here (Western mass) were few and far between. Munchies were still expensive, but you weren't committing a criminal act by bringing in your own popcorn and candy. Many of the theaters actually had balconies that you could sit in- cool view, and a great place for a date. Find a balcony today! People (actually an old guy or a 17 yr old kid) ran the projector. The Jerry Lewis Theater in CT was locally famous and cool because it had some of the first "computerised" projection systems- no people. No ads before the movies- mostly just trailers for upcoming movies, and reminders about where the food was during intermission. Whoops- that was about Drive-ins. The greatest way to see a movie-now they are mostly gone.

Anyway - that's it for now.

Oh- prices- depending- usually 2. 50-3. 00, with an abundance of small (but usually very nicely decorated) dollar movie houses.



"When You went to see a Movie in the Super70s. You went to see a ,ovie! You went to a Theatre, not a mall with 24 screens. The Auditorium was BIG, the screen was BIG. Yes you could smoke in the Theatre. People were not concerned with second hand smoke back in the day. [Editor's note: Not everyone was unaware of how deadly it was, but I take your point.] Pregnant Women actually smoked and no one thought anything of it. [Editor's note: Perhaps their asthmatic kids think about it now. As an asthmatic child of a pair of smokers, I know of what I speak.] (But that's a whole other subject).

In my area there were four theatres, so, at any given time you had four choices and if a movie was popular it was "held over". American Grafitti played for 3 MONTHS at one theatre. Films used to open in big cities (N. Y. , L. A. ) then opened in wider release weeks later. So, you would read reviews and see movie reviews on TV, see ads on TV and in newspapers and the film wouldn't open in your area for weeks! Blockbuster films (The Godfather, Jaws, Close Encounters, The Exorcist) would sell out and if you wanted to see it that night you had to wait on line for a couple of hours to see the next show because it was ONLY playing in one theatre, not on 3 of the 12 screens at 3 different locations. I remember many times going to see one movie, have it sold out and going to a different theatre to see something else.

I don't recall sneaking candy into the theatre because the prices were the same that you'd buy them elsewhere. (I loved Good & Fruity and Jr. Mints !!) The theatres were cleaner then too. The experience of going to the movies was different. It's hard to put a finger on but I'd have to go back to my earlier observation, You planned & set out to go to a Movie it was like an event.

Drive-Ins were different too. Sometimes there would be movies shown from dusk till dawn. Sometimes, especially during the summer, Theatres would have a different Disney double feature each week , for like, 4 to 6 weeks. Midnight shows on Fri. or Sat. nights were different too.

It wasn't the film that was playing at the theatre it was a special Film. Either a cult type film (like Fritz The Cat and remember Rocky Horror?!?!) or a concert film (Led Zep's The Song Remains The Same, Concert For Bangladesh, Alice Cooper's Welcome To My Nightmare). And of course times have changed. You & friends could be dropped off and not think twice about it. And. . one last observation. . Double features: Other than drive-ins they seem a thing of the past. I remember going to James Bond (You Only Live Twice & Diamonds Are Forevere) double bills as well as seeing one great Sat. afternoon, Dirty Harry AND Magnum Force. [Editor's note: My innocent mother and aunt made the mistake of taking us kids to a drive-in double-bill featuring - I am quite serious - Deliverance and A Clockwork Orange! She would never in a million years have gone to see either movie herself - let alone allow us to see them - had she known what went on in either. We were too young to comprehend the nastiness of Deliverance, but it was only a couple of minutes of Clockwork before she was reaching for her keys. My sister and I never miss a chance to remind her of that day.]"

--Michael C.

"I lived in a medium sized city with three cinemas, all located downtown within a five minute walk of one another. Each theatre had only one screen, but the theatres themselves were massive compared to the ones today. At least one of the theatres had a balcony at the back, so you could sit on high to watch the film while looking down at the rest of the audience. A bad place to sit would be directly underneath the balcony during weekend matinees, since kids had a habit of intentionally dropping bits of popcorn (or worse) for fun. All movie screens were covered by curtains that rose just before the film. There were no commercials whatsoever, just a few trailers and perhaps a cartoon or a three-stooges short before a matinee. If you missed the beginning of the movie, you could stay in your seat for the next showing, or stay all day for that matter."




5: The Exorcist (1973)

4: Grease (1978)

3: The Godfather (1972)

2: Jaws (1975)

1: Star Wars (1977)

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