Eric’s Top Five Theatrical Experiences

For the last two weeks, my favorite local movie theater, the Music Box, has provided Chicago with what they have dubbed the 70mm Film Festival. As the last remaining theater in town that can play movies at 70mm (compared to the usual 35mm or digital), they brought in a wide variety of films to screen in this gorgeous format. One of these films was the biggest item on my so-called “movie bucket list” — 2001: A Space Odyssey. I was there for its very first screening (which was absolutely incredible), and it gave me the idea to compose this list of my top five theatrical experiences.

Now, one thing you will notice right away is that most of these have taken place in just the last few years. That’s because I never really went to the theater much when I was younger — it wasn’t until I moved to Chicago in 2008 that I truly fell in love with film. With so many theaters in town, all of which are easily accessible, I found myself going more and more. The fact that these are all recent does not make them any less memorable for me.


First, a few honorable mentions:
Antichrist [November 2009]
My first visit to the Music Box. I instantly fell in love with this theater. My girlfriend and I had no idea what we were getting ourselves into with Antichrist — let’s just say it was an experience I will never forget, for multiple reasons.

RoboCop [July 2012]
This was noteworthy for two reasons. 1) I met up with several movie bloggers for drinks and a movie, all of whom were good people. 2) It was freakin’ RoboCop on the big screen!

Miami Connection [October 2012]
The hype machine surrounding this revived 80s action flick was out of control, so I had to see it for myself. It turns out that the movie was an absolute riot, and I can’t wait to see it again. What made the screening even better was that I got to share it with my niece and her husband — we still reference the brilliance that is Dragon Sound to this day.

And now, the top five:

Drive [2011]
5) Drive [September 2011]
There was a lot of buzz surrounding Drive, and I couldn’t wait to see it. My girlfriend and I rode our bikes to a theater in Lincoln Park on a gorgeous summer night. I had a feeling I was going to like the film, but I was surprised at how much it blew me away. I ended up ranking it as my favorite film of 2011. I left the theater feeling like a total badass — how could you not? — and the first thing I told my girlfriend was that I needed a pair of biking gloves. I felt invincible on that bike ride home.

Beasts of the Southern Wild [2011]
4) Beasts of the Southern Wild [June 2012]advanced screening with a Q&A with Benh Zeitlin, Dwight Henry and Quvenzhané Wallis afterward
I had to wait an hour in line before this screening, and to make matters worse, a huge chunk of the theater was blocked off for contest winners. The only available seating was in the first few rows, and I was tempted to just say “fuck it” and walk out before the show. But I stuck with it, and I’m so glad I did. I got sucked into the world of the Bathtub, and I quickly forgot about how close I was sitting. I loved the film, and the Q&A with the cast and director afterward made me appreciate it even more. I was especially impressed with Dwight Henry, who came across as such a genuinely humble man.

3) The Room [2010-present]multiple screenings, some with Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero in attendance
I can thank my good friends Steve and Ali for turning me onto the madness that is The Room, and now I frequently return the favor to anyone who comes to visit. There’s nothing like showing someone The Room for the first time, especially in a jam-packed theater. I have been to two different screenings in which director/writer/”star” Tommy Wiseau and co-star Greg Sestero did a Q&A — once even getting dragged on stage to shake their hands — and they are endlessly entertaining. If you haven’t experienced The Room yet, you don’t know what you’re missing. Words cannot do it justice. Just make sure to bring a bunch of plastic spoons.

2001: A Space Odyssey [1968]
2) 2001: A Space Odyssey [February 2013]part of the 70mm Film Festival
This was the absolute #1 choice on my “movie bucket list”, and I am eternally grateful that I was able to experience 2001 the way it was meant to be seen (in 70mm, no less!). As much as I loved the film on DVD, seeing it on the big screen just blows it away. I got goosebumps as soon as the first notes to “Also sprach Zarathustra” began playing, and I remained glued to the screen from that point on. I get asked a lot what my favorite film is, and well, it could very well be 2001: A Space Odyssey. A flawless film.

The Master [2012]
1) The Master [August 2012]advanced surprise 70mm screening with Paul Thomas Anderson and nearly every major Chicago film critic in attendance
I stumbled upon this screening by pure chance — I just happened to sign onto Facebook at just the right time. Tickets sold out in a matter of minutes, but not before I was able to snag one. The Master had only been screened twice before this showing — both in Los Angeles — so this was a pretty big deal. I arrived later than anticipated only to find a line of people wrapped all the way down the street and around a corner. Somehow I was lucky enough to still get a good seat, but I was worried for a while.

The film was fantastic, my favorite of 2012, but the experience of being one of the first few hundred people in the entire world to see it made it feel unreal. There was so much excitement and nervousness in the room, and none of us could have predicted what was in store for us. And, to top it all off, Paul Thomas Anderson hung out in the lobby afterward to converse with anyone who wanted to talk. Events like this remind me just how much I love Chicago.

So there you have it — my top five theatrical experiences! What are your favorite theatrical experiences? Got a good story to tell?

34 thoughts on “Eric’s Top Five Theatrical Experiences

  1. Fogs' Movie Reviews says:

    Sweet! You’re a fan of “The Room”? I literally almost consider that a “Movie That Everyone Should See” 😀 You think? I’d love to go to one of those screenings one of these days, those sound like a riot!

  2. ckckred says:

    I would love to see 2001 on the big screen (Stanley Kubrick’s my favorite director, and 2001’s my second favorite film). The Master was a great movie I’m glad I saw in theaters, and it’s really cool PTA was there. During the screening of Amour that I went to, I got to meet Michael Haneke.

  3. ruth says:

    Very cool Eric! What a great read. I’d like to do a similar post but the thing is I don’t have very good memory, ahah. The only one I could think of was when I saw a New Year’s Eve double feature with my mom and brother, watching Tango & Cash and Showdown in Little Tokyo back to back 😀

  4. The Blog of Big Ideas says:

    I actually live not far from The Music Box Theater but I totally missed their 70mm festival so Im pretty jealous!
    2001 is definitely up there as one of my favorite films ever and I would very much like to watch in the theater as it was intended to be seen.
    I actually have not gotten around to watching The Room, but your post definitely makes me believe I should.
    Was the screening of The Master also in the Music Box? I just saw the film for the first time yesterday. A full review coming soon!
    Maybe I’ll do a post like yours in the near future, it sounds like fun

    • Eric @ The Warning Sign says:

      Ahh, too bad you missed out on 2001, Niels! It really was something else to see it on the big screen, especially at a theater so beautiful as the Music Box.

      The Room is a blast, and the great thing is that it plays every month or so. I think Tommy and Greg are coming back soon, too. Make sure you have a couple of drinks beforehand and you’ll REALLY enjoy the show. 😀

      Yeah, the secret screening of The Master was at the Music Box. Couldn’t have asked for a better place for it either.

      Hope you do a similar list! It was a lot of fun to put together — lots of great memories.

  5. jackdeth72 says:

    Hi, Eric and company:

    Great collection and dissertation!

    I’ve had some great cinematic experiences at superbly plush theaters.

    3/: ‘Das Boot’. In German. With Subtitles. At the Odeon Theater below DuPont Circle in Washington, DC. A weekend matinee with a predominantly older, Jewish or German audience in a deep welled, very old school theater.

    2/: ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’. At the Langley Theater outside Adelphi, MD. Extremely 1950s, glitz and glamor venue and surroundings. Watched from the left balcony above a slew of older college kids obviously tripping on acid and expressed major disappointment when coming down well before the Worm Hole light show towards the film’s end.

    1/: ‘Apocalypse Now’. At the Uptown Theater on Wisconsin Avenue above Georgetown. Opening night gala surrounded by old family, monied and glamorous DC liberals couldn’t detract from this classic!

    • Eric @ The Warning Sign says:

      Hi Jack! Really happy that you chimed in with a list as well. 😀

      Three epic choices you named — especially great that we both were able to share 2001 as a choice. There really is nothing like seeing it on the big screen. I was speculating myself how many people were stoned/tripping at this screening, but I think the overall crowd was a bit reserved on that. No matter, it left everyone speechless during the intermission.

      I hope I can see Das Boot and Apocalypse Now in the theater one day. Great stuff, Jack!

  6. Will says:

    I also got to see 2001 in 70mm and it was nuts. It was like seeing it for the first time. It was so great in the theater, like leagues beyond what it had been at home, that I felt that in that moment I truly knew what a great movie was, and that a lot of the modern things being called great just have no clue. Anyway, it was superb! I saw it at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood.

    Also at the Egyptian, I saw Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West, which was a very similar experience. Truly magnificent and transcendent.

    That musta been awesome to see The Master under such circumstances, too!

    • Eric @ The Warning Sign says:

      That’s so cool that you have also experienced 2001 in 70mm! Completely agree with you that it felt like seeing it for the first time. Words cannot express how amazing it was.

      I would love to see Once Upon a Time in the West on the big screen as well. It looks stunning on DVD.. can only imagine how great it is in a theater.

  7. Chris says:

    I really ought to give The Room a try, since I keep hearing that it’s so bad it’s good 🙂

    Titanic in front row was unique, I felt I was on board the ship 🙂 Jurassic Park was amazing, as special effects were so new in 1993.
    Avatar, which granted wasn’t great on TV for rewatch, but it was my first 3D film, and visuals blew me away.
    That would be a dream come true seeing 2001: A Space Odyssey on the big screen, jealous!

    • Eric @ The Warning Sign says:

      Haha, The Room is indeed worth a watch, especially if you can find a theatrical screening!

      I missed out on Jurassic Park and Titanic in theaters, but they definitely seem to be the type that would benefit from that setting. I had a similar reaction to Avatar — I enjoyed it in the theater but I can’t imagine it would have the same impact on DVD.

  8. Alex Withrow says:

    Great work here, Eric. I LOVE posts like these. You saw 2001… in 70MM…? That is truly amazing.

    I remember how your review for The Master was the first one I saw… made me even more excited to see the film itself.

    Great list!

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