We go to the movies for myriad reasons. We go to the movies for fun, for thrills, for the sake of our children, or for our (potential?) loved ones. We go to the movies for action, comedy, horror, romance, or some combination of all the above and countless other genres. We go to the movies because sometimes they let us escape the confines of our own minds for a few hours, and because sometimes they tell us more about ourselves than we could have ever guessed on our own.
Film is a unique medium. As far as I can tell, there is no other spectrum of media offerings where the best and the worst are as lauded. We celebrate the greatest films of all times for decades after their creation – think Casablanca, The Wizard of Oz, The Silence of the Lambs, The Godfather or The Return of the King. But so, too, do we seem to celebrate some of the worst movies we’ve seen. The phrase “so bad it’s good” tends to be tossed around film conversations way more often than at your local book club. Movies like The Room, Troll 2, Plan 9 From Outer Space and The Wicker Man (the 2006 Nicolas Cage remake, not the ’73 folk-horror classic) might not be as recognizable as the names of previously mentioned “greats,” but I promise you that each one of those movies offers as much entertainment, oftentimes more, with a group of friends than almost any “Best Picture” winner from the past twenty years. As long as you can get into the “so bad it’s good” mindset, that is.
I love the movies. I always have. My parents tell me stories of watching Disney’s Peter Pan over and over as a child, and our family had a well-loved collection of VHS, then DVD, then Blu-Ray movies for as long as I can remember. I grew up on tapes of Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Hook and The Muppet Christmas Carol, and as I got older I revelled in the new allowances of being “old enough” to start watching movies beyond the G or PG rating. That so many of these experiences, from the time I watched Independence Day from between fingers as I covered my eyes, or took in the breathtaking opening song and sequence of Frozen with my family, took place at Cine5 is a testament to just how big a part the movies, and especially that theatre, have played in my life.
It also makes the news of its closure that much more difficult to accept. Over the weekend, owner Mason Hanover posted that he would be closing the doors this past Tuesday due to problems with a broken water line and what he says were difficulties in dealing with the city. This is a blow not only to International Falls and the rest of Koochiching County, but to those of us on the Canadian side of the border as well. For me, Cine5 wasn’t just the closest theatre, it was my theatre. It was where I went as a child with my free ticket from the local library, and then sometimes on a near-weekly basis as a teenager, to watch the latest movie on my list. Most often I went with friends, sometimes I went alone, but no matter the company, I was there for the experience of film. From the smell of the popcorn, to the lights dimming and previews rolling, to the ups and downs and final conclusion of whatever the movie of the evening was, I was entranced, held captive and made more than I had been the hours before.
Roger Ebert once said, “if a movie is really working, you forget for two hours your social security number and where your car is parked. You are having a vicarious experience. You are identifying, in one way or another, with the people on the screen. Since we’re all locked inside ourselves, and since we’re given the hand we were dealt when we were born, it’s a way to empathize: to try to understand what it would be like to live in a different time, to be a member of a different group, and that’s important. It makes us more broad-minded.”
Neither Ebert, nor I, are trying to argue every movie makes you a better, more well-rounded person. Going to see the latest Marvel or Transformers movie likely won’t do more for you than give you a good time, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But the best films, the great films, transport us to a place where we get that time to sit with ourselves and characters we like or identify with, and sometimes, just sometimes, we get to take something home with us when the credits have rolled. Sometimes we get an idea, or a belief, or an introspective moment, or even just a simple emotion, and that’s what the movies are all about. We bring ourselves to the movies, but sometimes they bring us to ourselves as well.
This is not necessarily the end of movies in International Falls and the Rainy River District. If we’re very lucky, someone will step up to continue to operate a theatre in the area. Canadians will continue to cross the border and sit with our American friends and family to take in the newest movie, nursing a tub of hot, buttery popcorn between us. Because there really isn’t anything to take its place. We have no real alternative short of travelling even further away to watch a new movie. Sure, this won’t affect everyone, there are plenty of people who will be more than happy to wait for a movie to come out on streaming or video. But we lose more than just seeing a new movie when we lose a theatre like this. We lose the entire movie-going experience, and that’s a hard thing to replace, and a hard sell for anyone looking to settle down in the region in the future.