The movies can be magical for little ones
“Let’s go to the movies,” sings Grace Farrell, Oliver Warbucks’s right-hand woman, to the little orphan Annie in the 1982 movie musical. “Let’s go see the stars.”
cops and robbers,
glamour and strife,
bigger than life!
Sitting in the darkness,
what a world to see!
Indeed, the movies are magic. It was the 1890s when “moving pictures” came into being. Since that first black and white flicker across the screen, movies have told the stories that have captured our imaginations. Set our hearts aflutter and made our pulses race. Sent us into longing and fear and hope.
Movies entertain us so entirely, and yet so briefly: if they are good, they pack a head-rattling one-two punch that leaves us off-balance for days.
I’ve always loved the movies. For a time I thought I’d act for a living, and that maybe movies would be a path I’d pursue. After years of children’s, youth, and high school theatre — thanks for the memories, Greenville Little Theatre, the South Carolina Children’s Theatre, and the Wade Hampton High School theatre department — I veered from that path and headfirst into the written word. I may not have been made for the movies, but they were more than made for me. The movies have never lost their enchantment.
The very first movie I saw was “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.” It was the summer of 1982, and my dad took me. I was in preschool, and the family story goes that he caught a bit of flack from one of my aunts for taking me so young. To her credit, I remember being scared of the scientists in the giant spacesuits, who come to take E.T. away from Elliot, the little boy who hides him after his spaceship accidentally leaves him on Earth. But to my dad’s credit, I remember more the utter transcendence: that feeling of entering a dark theatre, the screen lighting up, and the sudden and thrilling catapult into a whole new world.
My daughters, ages 7 and 3, are equally entranced by the big screen. Just this past summer, my 3-year-old saw her first movie. She spent the almost two hours trading laps: first onto my lap, then my husband’s. Her eyes stayed as big as saucers. It’s been nine months, yet she still mentions the popcorn, and the film itself, at least once a week.
I am no film snob. I love a great, big, epic sort of film: one that does everything a movie should. I love a movie that envelops me in an extraordinary world: one that surrounds me with incredible people. I want to care what happens to them. I like to run the gamut of emotions in one sitting. If a movie makes me laugh, cry, gasp, and sing out loud, it’s a winner in my book.
Just last week I took my 7-year-old to see the remake of “Beauty and the Beast.” We headed to our local, single-auditorium theatre, which was built prior to 1940. The place is a gem, with Art Deco details and an intimate space that makes you feel as if you’re taking a trip into the past, despite the fact that it shows first-fun movies. Before having kids — and therefore spending all our “fun” money on them — my husband’s and my favorite thing to do was to walk from our house downtown to catch an afternoon show.
I had pretty high expectations of this version of “Beauty and the Beast,” considering it’s populated by acclaimed Broadway stars. It is, after all, “a tale as old as time,” about a brave, strong-hearted young woman who loves books, and who risks everything to save her father’s life.
In the dark theatre, I couldn’t help but watch my daughter’s face. She’s a talker, like I am, and can’t keep herself from exclaiming on the costumes, the music, the drama as it unfolds before her. She experiences movies just like her mama, which is to say that her experience is physical: she covers her face, squeals aloud, grips the elbow rests and pulls her knees into her chest. She just can’t help herself. I, for one, know the feeling.
Every person deserves a night at the movies. If nothing else, the movies promise us an escape from the worlds we know and a front row seat to grand adventure. But don’t just take it from me. The theatre ushers in “Annie” sing it best:
Welcome to the movies!
Welcome to the stars!
Welcome to this
All of it’s yours
right through these doors!
Every plot’s a dilly,
this we guarantee!
Welcome to the movies
wait and see.
Talk to Katherine: Katherine Scott Crawford is a novelist, adjunct college professor, hiker and mom.
Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.