11 reasons going to the movies was a lot different back in the day
Back when going to the movies didn't cost an arm and a leg.
Do you remember the first movie you saw in theaters? For over a century, going to the movies has remained one of America's favorite pastimes despite an experience that's constantly changing. The ornate theaters of the 1930s gave way to the drive-ins of the 1950s. After that, multiplexes sprung up in shopping centers, leading to the large megaplexes that are popular now.
Today, most movie theaters have a certain caliber of luxury that was totally nonexistent back in the day. Small seats, sticky shoes and stale popcorn were all part of the moviegoing experience. Here are 11 things that have changed about movie theaters since we were kids, for better or for worse.
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No stadium seating
Before stadium seating became common in movie theaters, you didn't have to climb three flights of stairs just to get a good seat. Come to think of it, there really wasn't a good place to sit. You just had to pray a tall person didn't sit in front of you and obstruct your view of the screen.
No home video
Before DVDs, On-Demand, Netflix, Redbox and even Blockbuster came into existence, going to the movies was your one and only chance to see a movie. There was a slight chance an edited version would play on TV, but the only real way to see a film was to see it in theaters.
Megaplexes didn't exist
Some movie theaters today are the size of small towns, with over 30 screens, multiple concessions counters, and maybe even a restaurant or two. Before the megaplex, there was the multiplex. Rarely did a theater have over four screens, which meant you didn't have to walk a mile from the ticket booth to your seat.
Low, low prices
It costs an arm and a leg to go to the movies today. We're talking over $10 for a ticket, plus concessions if you're feeling rich. Not to mention a surcharge if you're seeing a 3D film.
Taking your family to see a movie today could cost well over $60. But back in the day, going to the movies was one of the cheapest activities you could do with your family, and that included the popcorn and soda. The average ticket price in 1965 was about a buck — $7.50 in today's cash. Two decades earlier, a quarter and a dime would get you in.
Because we pay a small fortune to see movies today, the experience better be absolutely perfect. But when we paid chump change to see a movie, it was okay if the projectionist screwed up or some teenagers carried on a conversation in the background.
If your local theater was fancy enough, sometimes they would have ushers to guide people to their seats and keep patrons in line. They might have worn the red uniform that has become synonymous for movie theater employees as well.
Remember when drive-in theaters were an option? If it was a crisp summer night and the right movie was playing, a drive-in was the only reasonable way to see a movie. At one point in the 1960s, there were about 4,000 drive-ins across the country.
Image: Associated Press
Calling for movie times
When was the last time you picked up the phone to call the theater? Before you could easily look up movie times online, this was one of the only ways to find out the times your film was being shown.
Another way to find movie times was in your local paper. Showings for every theater in the area were printed. So if a movie you wanted to see wasn't at your local theater, you might have to make the trek over to the next town to see it.
Image: Held Over
Limited concession choices
You can find almost anything at the concession counter today, including cheese-drenched nachos, ice cream, beef jerky and frozen drinks. But at one point in time, snack options were limited to popcorn, soda and boxed candy.
No national theater chains
Chances are the local theater was family owned and operated. National chains like AMC, Regal and Cinemark weren't around, meaning each theater had its own atmosphere and quirks.