The Day the Movies Came to Me

My Real Memoir

I was born loving movies–it’s in my DNA (Mom loved all kinds of movies, along with books about movies, Dad loved action flicks, especially sci-fi). I was even named after a movie character, “Mitch” in the long-forgotten City Across the River, featuring a then-unknown actor Tony Curtis in his film debut (“He was really cute!” ~Mom). My parents saw it just before I (Mitch 2.0) made my debut.

I first “went to the movies” at the Meralta Theater in Downey, and it was there my addiction began. I saw Gone With the Wind there. And The Wizard of Oz (“Why is it in black-and-white, Mom?” “Shhhh, you’ll see, honey”). And Tammy and the Bachelor. And Old Yeller. It was a humble neighborhood bijou, but it introduced me to that magical device, the movie projector, as well as my first musical hero Sam Cooke. When we wanted to see a big “road show” movie, we’d go to The Paramount, LA’s golden movie palace. I saw Spartacus and The Ten Commandments there.

I honestly can’t remember a time I didn’t “go to the movies.” But now let me tell you about the day the movies came to me!

When I was seven, we moved to the sqeaky new suburb of La Mirada, a cinema-deprived island. So we drove through scary Dairy Valley to the Lakewood Theatre. Or to the spectacular three-projector Cinerama Theatre in Hollywood (eat your heart out IMAX!). Or to Grauman’s Chinese, where I dreamed of someday imprinting my feet. Or to the Fox Fullerton where Mary Poppins almost convinced me I could stay a child forever.

But on December 21, 1962 — just in time for Christmas, as if by divine fiat from Charlton Heston himself — “the movies” came to me! Right there in dinky little La Mirada, in midst of that vacuum tube-obsessed era (television), the La Mirada Theatre became the first new movie house to break ground in the U.S. in a decade!

Opening with the world premiere of the biblical epic Barabbas (its titular star Anthony Quinn arrived in a rocket-finned limo), our new theater was a glitter-stucco gift from heaven! From then on, I saw nearly every movie they screened: from Lawrence of Arabia to Beach Party to A Hard Day’s Night. Every 50¢ Saturday matinee featuring Godzilla or some Godzilla wannabe and every Three Stooges pratfall ever captured on film—two of the Stooges even made a live appearance one Saturday afternoon!

I still remember leaving the La Mirada Theatre after seeing Hitchcock’s nerve-pecking classic The Birds. Just as the jittery, tightly-packed crowd pushed out through the glass lobby doors, a popcorn-seeking seagull dove down under the overhang — and 500 people ran screaming back into the theater!

I still “go to the movies” at my local cineplex. What it lacks in nostalgia (or glittered stucco), it makes up in recliney seats and booming surround sound. And my heart still speeds up a bit when the theater lights dim, just like it did…

The day the movies came to me!

My Real Memoir is a series. To read the next one, click here.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in Humor, Memoir, Movies, Popular Culture & Entertainment and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

61 Responses to The Day the Movies Came to Me

  1. Anonymous says:

    I love Mary Poppins the first time I saw it

    Liked by 2 people

  2. marthadilo3 says:

    A seagull after the birds would make me run too!! I still enjoy movies and recently took my grandson to the minions. I agree about the recliners 😄 !

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I’m a lover of movies as well! I still collect DVDs and all! I love every genre. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I loved the first Star Wars movies to see them several times (with 8-year-old Dan) and buy all the albums, even the Star Wars Christmas album. So, I was a late bloomer?

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Great story, Mitch! I (Kellye) went to the movies a lot as a kid too. The first one remember was “The Music Man” and I still have the movie soundtrack album. Your post brought back some good memories.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. gwengrant says:


    Liked by 1 person

  7. I remember feeling stressed for weeks after “The Birds,” whenever I saw large flocks of birds circling overhead.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I had to snort-laugh at the “popcorn seeking seagull” movie theater situation. I’d have been among the 500. Seriously, I still think of that movie whenever I’m at a gas pump.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I still find Hitchcock’s classic The Birds unsettling. But I had fun introducing the film to my boys after a flock of migrating blackbirds filled three massive trees in our yard when they were tweens. Every time we stepped outside the house it sounded just like we were in the film. Our yard became an annual stop in the migration pattern for as long as we lived in the house. The eerie sound of all those birds still sends shivers down my spine.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. C.A. Post says:

    Funny, you mentioned Barrabas.
    Anita had never seen this, so last week we borrowed it from our library and screened it for our Friday-Night-At-The-Movies-At-Home.
    Due to the volume at the cineplex, I think I’ll just watch movies at home from now till the day I die. Stop the motion for snacks and bathroom breaks, control of the volume so it doesn’t shake my sofa, no competition from the explosive action next door, no sticky popcorn or sodas on the chairs, no barfing kids behind me, AND it starts on my schedule. 😉
    Hate to be one of the dinosaur-killers, but our cineplexes may be getting their meteor soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I saw “The Birds” for the first time when I was in high school. It terrified me.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Nancy Ruegg says:

    “The Birds” on television was bad enough; can’t imagine the horror on a big screen! My favorite movies of the mid-60s: My Fair Lady and Sound of Music. At least I could sleep when I got home!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. You got to see so many great movies on the big screen. I had to watch Old Yeller, The 10 Commandments, Wizard of Oz, etc., on a television screen.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Ana Daksina says:

    I don’t know how she reacted after The Birds, but I do know that while the original War of the Worlds was broadcasting my then-child father’s aunt actually did drag him down the street to a church to fall on her knees in prayer…

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Mitch, been going to the cinema since I was a little guy, and continue to try to see as many movies in the theatre as I possibly can. It’s an amazing experience following those images as they scroll across the screen, especially with the current advances in technology. I remember back when 70 mm film was the big deal. Now, making a movie to exhibit in film is but an alternate option, and the IMAX theatres create as much sound and fury as one can handle. Here’s hoping the movie theatre experience lives forever.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Tim Harlow says:

    Fun memories for sure. I can remember being a little kid watching Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Then in high school I saw Jaws with my buddy. Scared the heck out of me. And my freshman year of college came Star Wars. Saw it 7 times that summer in the theater. Wow!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. 00individual says:

    Same vibe west of you near LAX – the Loyola and the Paradise theaters – saw everything back then. Best of times.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Loved this post! Not sure if you’ve ever seen Cinema Paradiso (from your image of the little boy in the theatre, above)? It remains my all-time favourite movie: captures everything about why some of us love the movies with every fibre of our being 🙏💕 Our little local movie theatre was always my safe place… Thanks for reminding me 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Pam Webb says:

    What’s great about growing up with the movies is experiencing the progression of cinematic creativity. From toy Godzillas rampaging San Francisco to CGI dinosaurs terrorizing the world, the movies have been amazing—but give me a BW classic to watch any day.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. AJ Hauser says:

    Ah, I love the seagull story. I remember when my wife was in the hospital (labor) with our first child, we spent the night watching movies from my youth. I explained to her that “see, the Predator is a HUNTER, from SPACE, and he’s collecting these dudes as trophies, it’s so awesome!”

    These tidbits were shared with her between intense contractions.

    … if looks could kill…

    However, during that evening I realized how much more intensely movies that relied on special effects – actual physical costumes or miniatures instead of CGI – really impacted me on a deeper level. Movies like Indiana Jones, Aliens, even Star Wars… there was a level of semi-realism that CGI has completely removed, I believe to the detriment of the movies themselves. It does more to pull me out of the story, then bring me further in.

    Or maybe I’m just sentimental. Hard to say.

    Liked by 4 people

  21. pkadams says:

    I loved movies too until they went woke. I have not seen a movie in a theatre since they shut down for Covid. There has not been one I wanted to see. 😦 So now I watch older movies on Netflix. Can you recommend anything new that isn’t a blatant attempt to brainwash the audience into woke theology?

    Liked by 1 person

    • AJ Hauser says:

      It’s a hard thing to find – I would start with the few movies that The Daily Wire has put out. They attempt to be politically neutral – and they are working on kids shows as well – worth a shot!

      Liked by 2 people

  22. usfman says:

    Your movie memories capture my desire to continue going to a theater rather than stream a movie on Netflix…Probably that’s a generational preference that seems obsolete in the ADHD world today.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. This is great!! I love movies!! Our sons love movies and my siblings love movie! I’m very drawn to the story telling of movies, I notice some aspects of cinematography quite a lot, and have daydreamed about making movies with my family! We often joke about filming a ‘C’ Grade Sci Fi!! Lol! This is so relatable!

    Liked by 2 people

  24. Pingback: My Brief but Glorious Career as a Monster | Mitch Teemley

  25. BBYCGN says:

    Barabbas was EXCELLENT!

    Liked by 1 person

  26. One of my simple pleasures while living in NYC was going to the movies. As I sat alone in the darkened theater I could escape the sometimes frenetic world just outside its doors. It was also always an experience like no other locale and vividly recall when a man lit up a cigarette (well after smoking was banned) to the outraged shouts of the furious New Yorkers. Shrugging he distinguished the butt with little fanfare and the show went on. Nothing quite like a New York audience. There was also a small cinema in the East Village, which only played classic revivals. Rather than popcorn they offered chocolates, eclairs and a mug of hot cocoa at the concession stand. I will never forget the double feature of Roman Holiday and Breakfast at Tiffany’s featuring the beautiful Audrey Hepburn I enjoyed with my out of town mother-in -law who was visiting us. A perfect day.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. totallytina says:

    I’m glad the theaters still gets your adrenaline going-sometimes we just need a good movie in our lives to get through life’s challenges.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. rwfrohlich says:

    My hometown theater was the College Point Theater. a short bus trip would take me to RKO Keiths in Flushing. But the big thrill was to see the show at the Radio City Music Hall. The prelude consisted to the Rockets, precision dancing on stage. The huge pipe organ keyboard would rise from below and fill the theater with sound. Then came the movie on a screen so big you could hardly take it all in. The last movie I remember seeing there was “South Pacific”.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. charlesdavis says:

    I love this blog, Mitch. It beautifully evokes an era when going to the movies was an event. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  30. therealtalkfromaj says:

    Movies must be in your blood. I personally like horror films but it just happened to grow on me in my late 20’s. The movies is a great experience for anyone trying to have a fun time to escape from all of the nonsense going on in the world. Great post!


  31. Pingback: The Day the Magic Died | Mitch Teemley

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