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Riske Business: The Mall Movie Time Machine

by Adam Riske

A new movie game that you can also play in the comments!

What it is: I’ve built a time machine that takes you back in time to mall movie theaters of the past. In this run, I’ve posted six ads for mall theaters and asked Patrick which movie he would see if he went back in time. Time travel shenanigans ensue. Read along for Patrick and my excellent adventure and let us know what you would choose to see!

First Trip

Adam: I'm sending you back to August 18, 1995. It's opening day of the Cavendish Mall Cinemas in Cote Saint Luc, Quebec, Canada.
What do you see?

Patrick: I'm not even sure I need a time machine for this one, because I would make the same decision in 2017 that I made in 1995: I would see Waterworld. Yes, part of me was curious about all the stories surrounding the film -- the troubled production, the fact that it was the most expensive movie ever made, the promise of seeing Kevin Costner drink his own pee -- but the truth is that I just genuinely wanted to see the movie. I like action movies, I like sci-fi movies and I like post-apocalyptic sci-fi action movies. Waterworld is all of those. Even knowing what I know now, I'm making the exact same choice because I like Waterworld better than any of the other movies playing that week. August '95 was a rough time!

How about you?

Adam: I'm going to say Mortal Kombat because it's opening day. That combined with a brand-new theater and at a mall -- it's like the perfect aphrodisiac. Waterworld would be my second choice but it's been playing for three weeks at that time and it's probably in one of the smaller theaters by now. My Costner love just can't stand up to the hottest new release with a crowd that is Kombat-ready.

Second Trip

Adam: Next one...July 24, 1987 at the Florida Mall Theater in Orlando. This one's not as easy because a) I know you're going to go The Living Daylights but that doesn't open until July 31st so you're going to have to stay by yourself in Orlando for seven days to make that happen (What will you do during that time? Where will you stay? In the Mitsubishi Precis? These need to be addressed if you pick Dalton) and b) if you say "Well, I'll just take the time machine forward for seven days," you can but it's only built for a round trip, i.e. two trips. If you take it up to July 31st, you can never return home.
What do you see?

Patrick: I'll be honest: part of me is willing to stay in 1987 forever. Look what's coming up at the end of July/early August: The Lost Boys, Masters of the Universe, The Monster Squad, BORN IN EAST L.A.!!

Adam: I know! It’s crazy.

Patrick: I'll just travel back to the 24th. And since most of the movies they're getting at the old FMT will have been out for a month or two (remember when movies could play for a really long time?), I have to be honest with myself and say that I'm probably seeing Superman IV opening night. At least it's a Cannon movie, right?

Side story: when I was a kid in the summer of 1987, all I wanted in life was to see Dragnet. Such was my love of Tom Hanks and the hip-hop stylings of "City of Crime." I had a little notebook I carried around with me at school where I would draw crazy new Dragnet villains. I was obsessed with Dragnet. It came to the $1 theater near my house and on the DAY I WAS GOING TO SEE IT WITH MY FRIEND my mom realized it was PG-13 and forbid me from going.

Silver lining (avert your boner): my mom felt so bad about it that she gave my brother some money for four tickets and a large popcorn and for what I think is the only time in my life, me and my siblings went to a movie together to see the PG-rated Superman IV. Even at that age, I knew the movie was shit but I didn't care. It was such a special Saturday afternoon. I'm actually glad I didn't get to see Dragnet. I wouldn't have this memory otherwise.

Adam: Superman IV is not what I would've predicted you'd go with but your logic is sound. Hey, it's time travel! Who am I to judge what's in your heart on these trips? Funnily enough, Superman IV was one of the first movies I remember seeing in the theater. I know it wasn't the first, but I do recall going with my dad and my neighbor Chris from across the street (he would later betray me and he was no longer allowed at my house to shoot hoops).

My choice would be a toss-up between the Snow White re-release (because I miss the days where classic Disney animated films played in theaters) and Roxanne because I've never seen it and time travel might be the excuse I finally need to take the dive. I just saw Predator and I've seen The Untouchables at the Music Box so that fix is no longer there. I'm really letting down Costner on these time travel jaunts.

Patrick: I can't fault your logic behind seeing Roxanne, though it's not really a movie that cries out for the big screen treatment. Despite my love for Steve Martin, I rarely revisit Roxanne. Like, never. Maybe I just can't handle seeing him with a grotesque facial deformity. Maybe I have a Rick Rossovich allergy.

Third Trip
Adam: Ok, next trip. December 21, 1990 at the Midway Mall Theaters in Elyria, OH. What do you see? One wrinkle to keep in mind. I'm going to be staying until Christmas Day to see The Godfather Part III and look at the disappointed faces. I bet there's going to be some Phantom Menacing going on there where people are trying to convince themselves it was better than it really was. If you stay, there are three perks: 1) We can spend Christmas 1990 together hanging out in Elyria, OH; 2) We can go to the Cavs vs. Bullets game on December 22nd (Cleveland is a cab ride away) when Bernard King of the Bullets dropped 46 pts. I will pay for food, tickets and a foam finger for you; 3) We can go to a dive bar, each with a roll of quarters, and plays hits on the jukebox like "Hold On" by Wilson Phillips, "Pump Up the Jam" by Technotronic and "I Wanna Be Rich" by Calloway. I also need a wingman for this 1990 bar, where I can hold court with stories and meet a girl that is not from Match.com. My goal is to fall in love and get married in December 1990 -- you know, when things made sense. So, do you go with your friend on this adventure? OR do you see Almost An Angel with Paul Hogan?
Patrick: Underneath that giant oversized sweater lies a heart that beats just for you!

I'm all down for your plan to hang out in the OH for a week. I mean, the lifelong Schwarzenegger fan in me wouldn't mind seeing Kindergarten Cop in a theater the night it opened instead of having to wait a week or two and then seeing at the Stratford Square mall theater with my dad on one of our earliest post-divorce outings. That's a less happy memory than that Superman IV one. So I guess I'm sticking it out for G3: Godfather III with you. Am I allowed to at least tell the disappointed theatergoers that Michael Corleone's daughter will eventually become a celebrated director and Oscar-winning screenwriter? Can I show them the scene of Stephen Dorff driving in a circle at the beginning of Somewhere and say "Listen, here's what you're gaining when she gets gunned down on the opera steps!"

Adam: As an unabashed Sofia fan, I’m all for this plan.

Patrick: Maybe after the movie we can make it back to the hotel and watch the TGIF lineup in its prime. They were running TWO episodes of Perfect Strangers a night back then! That's how much faith ABC had in Bronson Pinchot's funny accent and the put-upon stylings of Mark Linn-Baker!

Adam: I'll tell you what...I'll go with you to Kindergarten Cop in addition to you waiting a few days for the opener of Godfather Part III. Boom! That's time travel logistics (throws glitter in the air). Plus, if you want to see emotional fireworks that will rival GP3, wait until you see me choose between going back to 2017 and staying in 1990 to ring in the New Year with Demi Roberts (that's sweater's real name).

Patrick: Of COURSE her name is Demi Roberts. That's such a Demi Roberts name for Demi Roberts to have.

Fourth Trip

Adam: Alright, that last one was a bit heavy so I'm going to cool things out for our next stop. You arrive at 12:50pm at the South Park Mall Cinemas in Shreveport, LA on September 3, 1993. What do you see? Per the ad, this theater has one of Shreveport's largest concession stands so keep that in mind. You might want to skip lunch. I wonder if the people will be sweating all the time like in A Time to Kill.
Patrick: This Shreveport sitch is the toughest one yet. Wall to wall screens? Cup holders? GLAMOROUS NEON-ENHANCED LOBBY?? Nothing in my life is glamorous. Or enhanced by neon. I definitely want to get there early to appreciate the glamour of neon and to enjoy that big-ass concession stand, but what do I see? Free Willy for the first time? The Thing Called Love, aka The Thing That Was a Staple of My Free Rentals in my BBV Employee Days? Another round of Sleepless?? Who am I kidding? There's no way I'm not seeing Hard Target, a movie about the Bayou while I'm IN LOUISIANA!! Chance Boudreaux has total hometown advantage. I might even get to see the snake he punches hanging around outside the theater hoping he gets recognized!

Adam: Your Hard Target selection in the Bayou really messed with my original vision (gotta see Free Willy on the big screen, love that movie), but I'm glad it does because it's fucking inspired. I can't believe I missed that. I'm going to get a Combo #1 at the concession stand - 1 large popcorn and 1 good whisky make jackrabbit slap de bear. Hard Target starts at 1:05, so with say the '90s standard of 10 min of previews we'd get out at around 2:52pm, which means we can catch the very end of Free Willy. You need to see the end of that movie. Glen (Michael Madsen) sacrifices his truck because he loves Jesse so much (Jason James Richter), Willy jumps to freedom (#YEAH!) and the "Will You Be There" Michael Jackson closing credits. It really builds.

I hope you'll humor me on something though following the above plan. We need to sneak an acoustic guitar into the auditorium playing The Thing Called Love and then when that song comes on (in the movie) we storm the stage and shadowcast "So blame it on your lying, cheating, cold deadbeating, two-timing, double dealing, mean mistreating loving heart."

Patrick: That makes me think maybe God's a woman too.

Fifth Trip

Adam: Next trip; I can't wait to see what you do with this one. Bangor Mall, August 9, 1985.
Patrick: Tough one. Pee-Wee on opening day? Fright Night? I think the only one I wouldn't bother seeing is European Vacation. I don't even love Weird Science, but it might be fun to see it when it was first out. I know my answer is totally predictable, but I have to go BttF. I've seen it on the big screen a bunch of times -- in fact, of all the movies playing, it's only that and E.T. that I saw during its original run -- but the idea of going back and seeing it with an audience experiencing it for the first time instead of filtered through 30 years of nostalgia is too good to pass up. I would be like Marty in that scene where they're watching The Honeymooners at the table! "I've seen this one! It's a classic!"

Adam: I think I would be too intimidated by all of these classics to be honest and would end up choosing something a little outside the box. I'd probably go with Follow That Bird because I remember that being one of my very first movie theater experiences and that it traumatized me. It's like The Passion of Big Bird. I need to face my pain again in order to get past it. Or maybe Summer Rental because I miss John Candy. I also like the scene where they're at the movie theater (seeing Footloose if I remember correctly) because I get a cinebone when movie characters are seeing movies in movie theaters.

Sixth Trip

Adam: Last one! Opening weekend, Randhurst 16 in November 1996. What do you see?
Patrick: This one is tough because I remember going to see most of these around the same few weeks in '96, though it was at the Marcus Addison and not at Randhurst. That was the first theater I knew of that had stadium seating and had just opened in late '96, so I was going to see Space Jam just to experience sitting a little higher up than the row in front of me. I think I was alone in the theater. Same goes for Jingle All the Way, but I legitimately wanted to see that one because of how much I love Arnold Sinbad. I saw First Contact with my then-girlfriend on opening night even though neither of us was watching TNG. Of the movies that are playing, I have to go First Contact again. English Patient is a chore and Sleepers isn't really an "audience" picture.

I'll admit that part of me wants to stick around in 1996 because of the movie year '97 would end up being. I could see Trial and Error on the big screen...AGAIN!

Adam: 1997 at the movies ruled! I totally understand.

So I selected the opening Randhurst 16 in November 1996 for a very specific reason. I remember that I went to the 1:50pm show of Jingle All The Way the Saturday of that weekend and that it was my first experience with stadium seating. So my plan is to show up and buy two tickets to Sleepers (2pm show) and a coupon book of 10 pre-paid General Cinema tickets and then intercept my 14-year old self and tell him that I (my 34-year old self) will be my 1996 self's own parental guardian for R-rated movies until that's no longer required. Never will there be a time again where I won't be able to get into Metro or Double Team or Starship Troopers because I don't have an adult guardian present. As an added bonus, if teenager me shows up 30 minutes early to any of these movies then 34-year old me will give younger me priceless advice on future pitfalls and successes (e.g. get in between your friends Katherine and Joe's relationship senior year because Katherine likes you and Joe and you won't talk again after high school, so who cares). Whenever teenage me needs older me, he just has to wag the ticket book and say "I need you Parental Guardian" and old me will show up. When the ticket book is gone, all that I ask is that younger me buy another one to keep this shit going. I want to see how I'd fare in the parallel universe if I had all the answers. When I reach my 17th birthday and younger me no longer needs older me, all I ask in return is that younger me drives older me to my childhood home and when I ring the bell I'll say to my dad "It's future me. Wanna have a catch?" and I'll hand him a future mitt and a future baseball.

Sleepers is also the most appropriate movie I can think of for this situation because it shows the younger and older versions of the film's characters so this will help younger me get on board with this "real-life" conceit. It's a very solid plan imho.

Patrick: That's a really ambitious and well thought-out plan. I'm probably still seeing Star Trek and growing up to be a completely disappointing adult.

Adam: I'll meet you at the Randhurst mall food court afterwards for Chicken Teriyaki. It was really solid at the ‘Hurst.

Now it’s your turn F-Heads! What would you see on these six trips? Would you game the system and change your future by changing your past?

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