Running the risk of sounding dramatic, pardon me while I drop to my knees and shout, “Hallelujah!” at the news that the Galaxy Theater in Riverbank is reopening.
Let me stand up, dust off my knees, regain my composure, and explain.
COVID-19, that nasty, opportunistic virus, stole our family’s happy place.
Movies have always been special to my family. When I was a kid, we had an old television that got three channels (at best) so on the weekends my dad used to rent a Beta video player and we’d spend hours watching movie after movie until our eyeballs glazed over and our brains liquefied. He’d make homemade popcorn on an ancient, butter-crusted air popper (which, to this day, remains the best) and we’d lose ourselves in the glory of B-movies, cop dramas, fantasy, and whatever other theme he’d chosen for the weekend movie-fest.
Movies were the foundation beneath our castle and I used those same building blocks for my own family.
As naive, young parents without a babysitter, we were that annoying couple who brought their 6-month-old kid to a movie theater so we could watch “A Perfect World” with Kevin Costner (definitely not kid-friendly) armed with three prepared bottles and a prayer that it kept him quiet for the duration of the movie. In hindsight, this was poor decision-making but thankfully, our baby seemed to understand our need for movie-time and managed to sleep through most of the film without squalling as infants are prone to do.
We were dirt poor but we always managed to scrape up a few bucks to travel to Blackhawk so we could watch movies in a deluxe theater that had reclining seats and frozen yogurt for their pampered patrons.
Some people would save money to go to dinner; we saved money to see movies.
For us, movies were an experience, not just a fun treat.
John and I met in a college film production; he was the camera operator, I was the lead actress.
Our first date was “Wayne’s World” at the Festival Theater in Modesto where he worked and we were so broke that all we had to eat were the giant bags of popcorn the theater tossed out at the end of the night. To this day, I have a thing for stale popcorn that can only be described as the taste of nostalgia.
Early in our marriage, John used to volunteer as the projectionist at an arthouse film club that would show foreign films every week.
We’ve been taking our kids to movies since they were too young to appreciate them but they are well-acquainted with theater etiquette because we’ve been training them from the beginning.
Our middle son used to watch foreign films with his dad, which created an appreciation for different cultures that many his age couldn’t understand. Again, in hindsight, I’m not sure the French film, “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer,” was appropriate for an 11-year-old but it definitely left an impression.
When the Galaxy Theater became a luxury location with assigned seating, we were giddy because we’re particular about our seats. For us, it was completely normal to expect to arrive at the theater a full 45 minutes before the movie started, just to be sure we got the seats we wanted.
Yes, we’re those people.
My daughter warned that she wants to rent out the Galaxy for her 16th birthday party so I’d better start saving now to make that happen.
So, you can see we’re a little nutty about movies.
I can’t tell you how much we’ve missed settling into a comfy reclined position, armed with trash snacks, butter-drenched popcorn, and a soda for two-plus hours of pure entertainment. We can’t wait to dissect the movie plot, give it a grade, talk about highs and lows, and then complain about our upset stomachs from all the garbage we inhaled.
Finally, the end of this COVID-19 nightmare is nigh. Vaccines are flowing to the people. It seems as though hope is on the horizon for a return to normalcy.
And for us, normalcy includes movie time.
So, settle in, turn off your phone, and please, pass the popcorn.
Kim Van Meter is a former full-time reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Escalon Times and The Riverbank News; she continues to provide occasional columns.