10 Films I Didn’t See in A Theater (But Wish I Had) by Nate Blake

Those of you who’ve been following this blog for a while know that I love movies, but have a more complicated relationship with movie theaters. I won’t use this as another opportunity to air my complaints. I will say that I have experienced far more masterpieces via disc or streaming than I have through trips to the theater. Some of us weren’t lucky enough to be alive when The Birds or Network were in theaters. Yet, yesterday I was fortunate enough to be able to take in a 35MM screening of 2001: A Space Odyssey at DeKalb’s Egyptian Theater. I have seen that movie many times before on my constantly evolving home entertainment setup, and while I’m hesitant to say the theater experience was outright better, it was different, and I am thankful I was able to see the film that way.

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While walking home, I began thinking about various films that were initially released in my lifetime that, for whatever reasons, I did not see in theaters. I became immensely thankful for places like the Egyptian Theater that allow subsequent generations to see classic movies on gigantic screens. I’m also hopeful that maybe someday, somewhere, each title listed below will play in a large auditorium again and I’ll be able to have the experience I missed out on.

Groundhog Day

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 The first entry on this list also seems like the one that will be easiest for me to find on a big screen. I was only four when it was released. I didn’t even like it when I first watched my parents’ VHS copy when I was eleven. It took some time to grow on me, but now it’s one of my favorite comedies. Since I live less than an hour from Woodstock, IL, where most of Bill Murray’s best performance (I will fight anyone who wants to argue otherwise) was shot, I will have opportunities to catch this one anytime the film celebrates a major anniversary.

The Truman Show

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 I’ve already written about the impact this dramedy had on me when I saw it nearly five years after it hit theaters. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve re-watched it, and it’s one of only a handful of films I’ve owned on VHS, DVD and then Blu-ray. I suspect a digital copy will be added to my Vudu library soon, but I’d be willing to pay a fairly large ticket price to see this one in a dark auditorium.

Remember the Titans

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 I’m not much of a sports fan. I’ve yet to find a sport that holds my interest enough to watch or care about every game a given team plays. Alex is getting me there when it comes to the Green Bay Packers, but football is relatively low commitment compared to other sports. I can surrender three to four hours a week for a couple months. I don’t understand how people get into daily baseball games for more than half of every year though. Anyway, when I was eleven, I wasn’t interested in watching any film that was about sports. That was a mistake, because I would later realize that I do like some of the drama that arises from sports, and films offer a concentrated hit of that drama. Of course, they are often about so much more than sports, as I learned when someone finally made me watch Remember the Titans. The film was also my introduction to Denzel Washington. I would be delighted to watch this fall classic on a massive screen.

Catch Me If You Can

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 I was already a huge fan of Steven Spielberg by the time Catch Me If You Can and Minority Report hit theaters only a few months apart. I didn’t see either one until they were released on DVD. Some of this has to do with the town I grew up in. The closest theater was at least 30 minutes away, and my parents preferred not to spend money on gas and put that money towards buying DVDs. Consequently, I didn’t go to more than two or three movies a year, on average, until after I graduated from high school and had my own car.

Insomnia

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 The first Christopher Nolan film I saw in theaters was Batman Begins. The reason for this is simple. My parents were strict about film ratings, and were not about to take me to an R rated movie when I was twelve. They loosened their rules, or at least the enforcement of them, substantially once I was sixteen, but by that point copies of Insomnia were already populating the $9.99 and under rack at Best Buy. Memento is also solid early Nolan, but the Alaska setting in Insomnia makes it the better option of the two to see in a theater. I just might need a Xanax for that chase scene through the lumber mill.

Ratatouille

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 2007 was the second to last year of me going to less than five movies, and it’s a year full of regrets, starting with this Pixar masterpiece that I count as one of the company’s five best features. My family did make a failed attempt to see this one after it had been playing for a few weeks. It was a weekday morning on summer break and we drove up to Rockford. Unfortunately, we didn’t buy tickets ahead of time and when we arrived, an entire summer camp had booked the screening we wanted to catch. I don’t remember what we did the rest of that day or why we never tried to go again, but I know I didn’t see Ratatouille until it arrived on DVD that November.

Into the Wild

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 This one honestly flew entirely below my radar for nearly a decade. It was only in grad school that I finally checked it out on Netflix or something and it became one of my favorites. Of the three films from 2007 on this list, this is the one I’d most like to see in a theater.

There Will Be Blood

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 There isn’t much to say about this one except I didn’t see it in a theater and I wish everyone could. What an incredible epic it is.

Still Alice

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 Some films are worth seeing in a theater despite the lack of major visual effects or epic cinematography. Quite often a great performance and a simple story are all that’s needed. Still Alice is difficult to watch but constantly enthralling. The first time I saw it was when I popped a screener (not saying how I got it) into my HP notebook between graduate classes one afternoon. Even on a tiny screen, it had a huge impact.

Leave No Trace

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 Unlike the other survival film on this list, Leave No Trace was on my radar well before it hit theaters. Unfortunately, this was simply a case of a film being released at a bad time. In summer 2018, I was in the middle of moving and just didn’t find the time to drive an hour to see it. Bummer.

That’s my list. Of course, there are other movies I’d see on the big screen given the opportunity, but these are the ones that I think about frequently. What would your list look like? Share your picks below or in the comments on our Facebook page.

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