One night I sat down to watch a movie on CBC television called Sea Of Love that was made in 1989 starring Al Pacino and John Goodman. I was excited to watch the film with a couple of friends. After all, this was a movie that was special to me as I explained to my friends that this was the first movie I saw inside a real theatre. My friends were shocked to learn that my first experience in a real movie cinema was in 1989. To them movie cinemas had always existed and been a part of towns and cities in the south. However, for people like myself from remote First Nation communities, cinemas were part of the culture to the south.
As a young boy growing up in my remote home community of Attawapiskat my friends and I watched old films that were rebroadcast and rerun time and time again over local television airwaves. Most of the time these were movies that were several years old. Even though we watched these older films we were still excited to be able to sit around the living room to view a movie we had not seen before. A lot of time these films were action-packed violent films with more effects and car chases than any real story. It was with some envy that we watched characters in movies sit inside theatres or cinemas, with popcorn and pop in hand as they reclined in movie chairs in the dark to catch the latest Hollywood release.
As a young 13-year-old I was very happy when I had my first opportunity to see a recently released movie inside a theatre. I was living with a family in Timmins, as well as my older brother Mario who had experienced life in the south for several years while going to secondary school. Mario knew much about the city and acted as my guide during the first few months as I discovered the city. One of the first experiences he provided me was to take in a movie downtown. I had just started grade nine and everything was new to me. I had walked by the movie theatre a few times and wished I could slip in to a catch a movie. Finally the day arrived and Mario and I visited the old Victory Theatre by the bus station in downtown Timmins. Two films were playing and we decided to buy tickets for Sea Of Love. I had heard Al Pacino was a great actor many times before and was excited to be able to watch a film with him in it as well as being able to see a film during the first month of its release. Hey I was getting to see a movie that I had not already had to sit through several times.
Inside we each ordered large popcorn with lots of butter and of course our two cokes. We were the first to arrive in the dimly lit theatre. As I walked through the doors and entered the lobby I was trembling with anticipation. Here I was in a real cinema. I happily munched on my popcorn, reclined in my seat and watched as other movie consumers wandered in. Simply having popcorn was a new experience. Popcorn was available up north but it was considered a strange snack item that was seldom purchased. As the lights dimmed down, the sound system blasted out the feature presentation and I happily watched the film just like the characters I had seen in movies up north. It was real. Here I was in the dark staring up at a screen with larger than life actors and scenes, the sound raced around us and I happily munched on my popcorn and gulped the coke.
The experience was kind of surrealistic and I was so overwhelmed by it all that I didn’t remember much about the characters or the story line. My whole experience seemed like a movie. The experience of watching a film on a large screen also seemed to take me to another world and I was mesmerized for the two hours inside the huge old cinema. When we left the theatre it was dark and it seemed strange to me that we had sort of disappeared from normal life for awhile, slipped out from the daylight into the luxurious and grand old theatre. As we walked out into the night, under the glow of the theatre sign I felt as though life
had somehow changed for me. Things would never be the same…..I
had been to the movies.
On my recent and second viewing of Sea Of Love in our living room that old feeling came back to me. A shiver went up my spine as the movie opened with a small record player playing that wonderful old tune Sea Of Love. The Victory Theatre is long gone but I will visit it forever in my mind when I hear that tune “come with me to the sea, the………sea of love…..”.