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Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Last Picture Show

Last Friday night, Dad and I went to the Regent. We had gone to the Regent together for 14 years, and this was the last time.

“It exists now only in my memory.”

1996

In 1996, I still listened to the radio at night. Specifically, I still listened to B105. I went from Martin/Molloy in the afternoons into the Hot 30 with Stuey and Zoe, with that transitional hour between 6-7 to allow people to call in and vote. I listened to Stuey and Zoe, I voted in the countdown, got the password, tried to win the prize of the night. I don’t want to take sole credit for the amount of airplay TLC’s Waterfalls and Coolio’s Gangstas Paradise got on Brisbane radio in the mid-90’s but *shrug* please, sit down.

One night they had some random call-in competition which I tried to get into with valiance. I used the phone in Mum and Dad’s room which had a redial button (THE FUTURE… although it did have a cord). Lo and behold, for once, I wasn’t met with an engaged tone and I got through to the studio! I gave my silly answer to whatever the silly question was. They laughed. They said I’d won a double pass to the PREMIERE of a new movie at the Regent called… HACKERS.

I remember being so overwhelmed by this prospect.
Me.
Going to a movie premiere.
Of Hackers!
AT THE REGENT!
Fancy shit!
Will I be in the paper?
What should I wear??

… the screening itself was not the fantasy affair of movie premieres that were in my mind. This was before the internet and before I could comprehend the possibility that a particular movie had premiered elsewhere before.

I remember elements of the Hackers screening… I remember being disappointed that it wasn’t a huge premiere. People were quite casually dressed. Like they were – you know – just going to the movies. This was when I learned the difference between a “preview” and a “premiere”. I remember it was in the really pretty theatre (the Showcase). I remember a trailer for a movie called Mallrats which starred Brenda from 90210 and a man sticking his hand up his butt then shaking another man’s hand. I remember the music at the start of the movie was also in Mortal Kombat, I remember the villain was in the Super Mario Bros. movie and I remember seeing my first breast on a movie screen – all things that were crucially important to a 13-year-old boy in 1996.

That screening of Hackers was the first in a semi-ritual pattern for me and Dad on a Monday or Wednesday night that would continue regularly throughout high school - the years in which I showed freakishly good luck at obtaining preview tickets to the Regent from competitions.
  • I would get home from school, quickly have a shower and change clothes.
  • Mum would drive me to the bus stop. When she got home, she would let Dad know at work which bus I was on.
  • He would intercept it at a stop close to his work.
  • We would travel in to the Regent together.
  • Before the movie, we would descend into the basement McDonald’s which would extend through to Elizabeth St. and get a six pack of nuggets or a Filet O’ Fish meal for dinner. We would look at the businessmen and women getting a quick post-work snack and try and guess whether anyone else was heading upstairs in the next fifteen minutes or so to see the same movie we were.
  • See the movie.
  • Go home.
1998

Dad and I saw Titanic on January 1st, 1998. I remember the date specifically because of a full page (broadsheet, remember those?) ad that stuck in my memory. It urged people to see it on New Year’s Day, and , if it was sold out at your local theatre, to consider seeing Alien: Resurrection instead. Alien: Resurrection was another Fox release but, as we all know, it did not do the business of Titanic.

It was, up until that point, the longest movie I had ever seen. As soon as the Celine Dion song started playing over the credits, Dad closed his eyes and took it in. He had a love of Celine Dion’s music that was matched only by gay men who listened to 4BH. I couldn’t take it. I had to leave. My 14 year-old-bladder was busting from the strain of a medium Coke which had filtered through my system while I watched 90 minutes of rushing water. Celine Dion’s voice and that song was the breaking point. Dad ribbed me on the way home about not staying till the end, about not appreciating the full movie. I needed to take in the whole movie experience. This is why I usually stay until the very end credits of most movies now.

Titanic ruled my life for a good few months after I saw it – I named my first email account after it, I memorized the CD which I bought from Big W at Stafford, and as if I wasn’t satisfied with the heavily synthesized score as it was, I scoured the internet for MIDI files on a flimsy dialup internet connection.

“Are you ready to go back to Titanic?”

It was appropriate that Dad and I saw Titanic as our last movie at the Regent together. This was appropriate for several reasons. One, it was a big movie that we hadn’t seen since its theatrical release. Two, it was one of the movies we saw together – just him and me – during that era. Three, if we were going to see one last film at the Regent, it was sad and bittersweet that the last film we saw was about the untimely destruction of such a grand and beautiful design.

Video by Natalie Bochenski @ www.girlclumsy.com


Some of the other screenings from those years I remember – some with Dad, some with others…
  • Wild America (1997)Four teenage guys in a row, in a cinema full of screaming female JTT fans. Wild, indeed. What's a JTT, Beiberphiles? Think of a blonde JB with the same degree of popularity but without the singing and the undescended testicles.
  • A Simple Plan (1998)
    Dad and I still love this movie. He didn’t know who Sam Raimi was. I’d only just discovered the Evil Dead movies myself. But this was something else. We were both massive fans of Fargo which had only been released two years before (but Mum had only let me see a few months before) so we were right in the mood for this one.
  • The Thin Red Line (1998)
    We were often timing our exits from these screenings to match the last bus home. The Thin Red Line ran a LOT longer than we'd anticipated and it led to me being out in the city the latest I had been at that point in my life - particularly on a school night.
  • There’s Something About Mary (1998)
    I remember winning this ticket from NW – they’d been having a weekly competition where you ring up and enter and you’d earn points or something. Each week they gave away a ticket – I missed out on seeing Can’t Hardly Wait but still remember the 1900 number (1900 937 038) I memorized from the magazine rack in Bi-Lo so I wouldn’t have to buy it – and this week I won. I’d had no expectations about it. I’ve never seen Dad laugh so hard in my life as he did in the hair gel scene. That’s what I remember about There’s Something About Mary.
  • H20: Halloween (1998)
    Dad ribs me about this screening to this day. Part of the gimmick of this screening was that if you cut out a Michael Myers mask the Courier Mail had printed and wear it, you could win prizes. So I did. And it turns out, I won. I had to go up to the front of the cinema and collect my shiny new knives in a chopping block. He seemed nervous. I think it’s because we’d just seen Scream 2 which has that infamous opening with a cinema filled with masked people.
  • Man On The Moon (1999)
    Oh God. I'd forgotten about this.

    I loved the movie, but I remember the screening for a different reason. I had a huge crush on a girl at school that I was good friends with. It had been bugging me for months. I remember, with the outlandish hope that Catholic school tends to imbue within one, asking the forces that be – fine, God – to give me a reason or excuse to ask this girl out. I get home and discover I’ve won a pass to see Man On The Moon. Sweet. I asked her if she wanted to go with me and was politely turned down. I accepted it. I could have let the crush go on, but that was the moment of catharsis, the moment when I let go of it. I didn’t mean for it to. I just needed to hear the word ‘no’ from her, even if it was for something other than “I like you a lot, do you like me the same way?” We’re still friends today. I ended up going to see the movie with another friend who hated it and was begrudged for a long time that he was the “last resort”.
  • The Blair Witch Project (1999)
    The internet picked up momentum – in the conceptual popularity sense I mean, it was still slow as in ’99, the year we got dialup at our house. So I knew about Blair Witch well before and was VERY excited to see it. People at school knew I was going to see it before everyone else and I was actually popular for a whole hour. The final scene scarred me and I had difficulty turning corners for months - starting with turning into the men’s room after the movie finished.
  • Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (2000)
    Saw this movie twice at the Regent and loved it both times. This was used as part of a book of 10 comp tickets I’d scored and I had no hesitation of using two of them on the Tiger. I remember sharing a row with a fat dude who was one of those guys who had to have a verbal reaction to everything that happened on screen. WHOA. Hoho. Nice. I and two other people shot him looks. Mine he saw and promptly STFU.
  • The Dish (2000)
    Awesome screening. Jane Kennedy and Tom Long came to introduce the film and were a little late.
  • Almost Famous (2001)
    Was and is one of my favourite films. I was only one of four people in the cinema. I took my YouTube name after it.
  • Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)
    For complicated reasons and an inability to find someone who was able to come at short notice, I ended up seeing this one by myself. Yep. A lone male. At Bridget Jones’ Diary. They gave out free Hagen Daas. I sat in the back row.
  • Life As A House (2002)
    Daddy-son weepie. Underrated. Shut up.
  • Fat Pizza (2003)
    I remember the screening for two reasons. 1) I’ve never walked out of a movie but this was the closest I’ve ever come – it was just terrible. 2) As part of the ‘premiere’ festivities, the distributor had organized some “fully sik” break dancing at the top of the Regent. They did it on a tarp which never seemed to stay still on the carpet, and they had to keep interrupting the dance to move it back. They also incorporated a blow up sex doll into the dance which they threw at me, expecting me to do something with it. I dropped it and walked away.
  • The Wannabes (2003)
    See Fat Pizza above re walking out. This was a close second. Nick Giannopoulos was at the premiere of this one.
  • Acolytes (2008)
    This was the premiere at BIFF of a locally made thriller, which happened to be written by my screenwriting tutor from uni. It was exciting to see the script he’d been talking about in class all those years ago come to fruition on the screen in front of a full and receptive audience.
  • Kick-Ass (2010)
    If it had not been for Titanic, this would have been the last movie I’d have seen in the Regent and I’d be satisfied with that. It had been a long time since I’d applauded a movie. I stood up and cheered. I had so much fun. And it was a full on security heavy screening with phones being checked in and a full audience (yet I don’t recall anyone actually checking my ticket).
***

When I think of the Regent closing, it’s these moments which I mourn I won’t be able to have again. The Regent is the last of my “childhood” cinemas around town to go; the last of the old movie house cinemas from my past to properly cave to the megaplexes and googolplexes and $20 3-D tickets. When the Aspley Twin Drive-In closed back in 2001, I was very depressed – more so because the last double feature I saw there was Batman and Robin and Vegas Vacation. The same happened prior to that with the sudden closure of the Gaythorne and the Crystal at Windsor, where I can still recall seeing Ace Ventura, Mortal Kombat, Sense and Sensibility and both of the Beethoven cinema releases. I skipped a Law Revue rehearsal one night to ensure I said goodbye to the Dawn at Chermside – where I saw my first movie - with a good movie with my family (and I did – Batman Begins).

It was important to me that Dad and I saw a movie together at the Regent before it closed, and I’m grateful that we did. I’m grateful that the Regent stayed open as long as it did and I’m grateful we had one last chance to be inside.

And this time around, I stayed. No. We stayed.

We stayed to the end.
And loved it all the more.


***

And now, at the end, a hideous Titanic soundtrack MIDI for you to hold your bladder through.

4 comments:

Girl Clumsy said...

OMG.

You were 13 in 1996? Oh dear God, I'm old. So old...

It's good to see another Martin/Molloy enthusiast. Most of my life circa end-95 to end-98 was spent locked away listening to that show. Probably the most influential comedy of my formative years - Tony Martin is still possibly my most favourite person ever.

I saw movies at the Regent but wish I had your recall. I can barely remember. One of the last I saw there, earlier this year, was the one about the Anvils, the heavy metal band. It was great fun.

I'm sorry I didn't have time to go visit and see a final film there. Maybe apathy and laziness such as mine is to blame for its closure... just sad.

Enjoyed your post, well done.

James said...

Martin/Molloy for evs, Nat. :)

"One in four Australians would be willing to elect a bag of sawdust at the next federal election." That stat holds true today.

Dan Beeston said...

The first film I really remember going to see was E.T. at the regent. I still recall being so confused walking out afterwards into Queen st (not the Queen St. mall mind) to see that it was still day time. Turns out it was actually just the city lights illuminating everything.

Perhaps I would have seen more films at the Regent if the ticket prices hadn't been twice that of it's competition. Instead, I saw a lot of films at the suburban cinemas.

The problem that all these people seem to have though, is the history of the cinema being torn down. Everything that's being torn down is the stuff that was built in the 80s. The original Regent's demise? That was a battle that was lost 25 years ago.

Anonymous said...

That was really sweet and your excitement about your first "premiere" was very funny!

Ben.