Sunday, February 14, 2010

Why We Got Up Early to Go to the Movies

The alarm went off at 7:30am.  Pretty early for our household.  Showers, clothes, hair brushes, rubber bands (the hair kind), cereal, milk, shoes, socks, house keys, car keys, hats, gloves, bag-o-baby-stuff for Lily, stroller, coats, movie tickets. 

Photo by Corbis
Movie tickets?  Yes.  Movie tickets.  Today our family was waking up early to go to the movies.  Specifically, an opening day screening of Percy Jackson and the Olympians - The Lightening Thief.  This was serious business.  We were not messing around. 

Earlier in the year we were downtown and saw a billboard for said movie.  The kids went bonkers.  We stopped right there and then, took photos with the billboard in the background.  The countdown was on!  “When is President’s Day Weekend?” they asked.  “Sometime in February,” we responded.  We’d tuck that away for later.  For now it was hot, we were hungry and it was time to get back to our air conditioned car and drive home.

Well, summer turned into fall, fall turned into winter, and winter turned into President’s Day weekend.  By this time our children had finished reading the whole Percy Jackson series.  (I’d heard the first 100 pages or so read aloud on a car trip.) They’d seen all the movie trailers.  They knew all the stars.  Our two oldest had started a pod cast comparing the trailer to book.  The only question that remained was, “When can we see it?”  I was ambivalent.

To be honest, I’m not much of an actually-see-the-movie-in-a-movie-theatre kind of guy.  I should be.  I love stories, and I love movies.  But I’m also a cheapskate.  $12 per ticket Manhattan prices x 1 wife and 5 kids starts to add up.  As a one income family, I can’t help but prefer Netflix.  But this was different.  Despite all the things that get labeled “events” for the sake or marketing and media hype--in the Orton home--this was an event.  We planned in advance.  The kids were tasked with the research: which theatres? what time? what was the cheapest price?  (I delegate, but with conditions attached.)  We picked Friday, 10:20am, the AMC at 84th & Broadway.  Everything was set.  I was even going to pay a visit to the new Apple store across the street right after the movie.  Everyone was going to win. 

The night before, Emily went online to buy the tickets in advance.  10:20am.  Error.  Try again.  Error.  Again.  Error.  Argh!  She arranged to have a friend who was nearby go in person and buy advance tickets.  We were not going to miss this.  He went by.  Sold out.  I guess “Error” is Fandangoese for “Sold Out”.  But my wife was quick on her feet.  The 1:15pm showing on Broadway or the 10:15am screening in Harlem?  She made an executive decision:  the earlier show.  Fandango came through this time and we were the proud owners of six tickets to the opening day of The Lightening Thief.  (Two year old Lily was just going to have to wait this one out.  Off to the babysitter with her!)

So the morning came.  We woke up early, readied ourselves, jumped in the car, dropped Lily at our friends, drove to Harlem, got a nice parking spot in the sun (which mattered because mounds of snow from the recent blizzard were still piled about the street curbs.)  We walked, like a parade of penguins down 125th and down to the Magic Johnson AMC.  We got there just in time.  The school groups were starting to arrive.  Of course!  The last Friday before a holiday weekend and the who-knows-why-it-exists-but-it-does mid-February break for the NYC public school.  The groups kept coming.  Kids by the hundreds.  (I should probably explain at this point that we home school, so our kids were not excited about being out of school.  They wanted to see this movie!)  So we were there.  After pausing briefly to try and get a photo with the Lightening Thief lobby display, we decided we’d better move it if we wanted to get good seats.  After all, the movie started in only one hour!

Up the escalators we went.  We were going to be first!  What?  No scanner?  But we have a printed Fandango receipt.  Oh my Olympus!  Special treatment off to the side.  Finally we had our tickets.  Twenty some kids had already gone in and the lobby was continuing to fill up.   “Excuse me.  We now have our tickets.”  I kind of cut in line ahead of the next group, but we were there.  I was starting to get in the spirit of this whole thing.  We walked briskly down the corridor, into the theatre, and there it was.  We’d arrived.  We quickly picked our prime seats, hummed and hawed, thought about moving back a row, but then settled in.  We had arrived.

As the theater filled up and the pre-feature reel ran, our four year old son responded to every trailer with either “That’s so cool!” or “That’s so funny!”  He was smitten.  A look at my daughters--the ones who already knew there would be discrepancies and disappointments over the adaptation to film, but were still into it--and I knew I was witnessing something special.  My wife and I just looked at each other and smiled.  They were on the edge of their seats.  They were excited.  They were enthusiastic. 

So it wasn’t the most amazing movie ever.  But it was adventurous and fun and I’m glad we went.  That’s good in my book.  But what I learned was that it’s important to get excited.  My kids looked forward to this for over half a year.  That’s a long time for a bunch of kids.  What do I look forward to that much?  What do I plan for and learn about and talk about and read about?  What makes my eyes light up and make me so excited I want to explode.  That’s for me to know and you to find out, but here’s what I know:  if I won’t let myself get excited, I’m the one who’s missing out.  Thanks, kids.

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