Tuesday, July 31, 2007

I Don't Feel Twenty


Headquarters 10 is 20 years old. I know what you're thinking: Isn't this blog only six months old? Yes, but Headquarters 10, the real place, opened 20 years ago today. It's a movie theater somewhere in New Jersey where I worked for, um, a very long time and a place that helped feed my movie addiction. That list of films represents the first 10 films (11, actually, as BENJI THE HUNTED played matinee shows) to open the HQ10. There were also a pair of sneak previews (for STAKEOUT and the underrated BACK TO THE BEACH) and the place was a madhouse. A new multiplex was a pretty big deal in the area, so a lot of people showed up, and as I recall there were not a heck of a lot of screw-ups that opening weekend, other than figuring out where all the crowds went. In fact, we never really got that part worked out properly, but whatcha gonna do?

The HQ10 was also a really nice movie theater, with solid projection, good sound and theaters that didn't all feel like cookie-cutter multiplex crap, even the tiny ones. And the seats were really nice, almost like airline seats (which many people complimented us on), and still among the best movie theater seats I've ever sat in. It was a really state of the art movie theater for 1987 and stayed a solid place to see a movie for many years. We even had a theater equipped for 70mm, though we only used it once, for DICK TRACY in 1990.

It would be next to impossible for me to articulate just what this place meant to me in my time there, but it truly was a home away from home and all of the good memories easily outweigh the bad (of which there were a few). The many nights we stayed in watching movies after closing (we watched ROADHOUSE twice the night before it opened - twice!), those times just hanging out, milking the clock, bullshitting and making fun of each other, many of them happy memories. A lot of the friends I made in my time there are people who, even though I haven't seen many of them in several years, are people I would still consider friends today. Like an army platoon, it was an experience we all went through together and there's this feeling that you're linked together for life because of it.

Probably the most important thing about this place was that it established not so much my love of movies (which was already well in place) but my love of movie theaters, that these places are as much a part of what makes a movie than anything else. I suppose it was spoiling in that this was a good place to see a movie and I certainly saw more than enough of them (no joke, I saw probably 75% of the films that played at this place over the space of many years). The whole experience made me appreciate the quality of the presentation and of the experience itself, of how the right audience can make a picture even more of a success. It was also a great place to study and memorize films that quickly would become favorites; I remember back when we would sync movies from one theater to another (that is, make one print play in more than one theater at a time), I would often walk from theater to theater to catch those memorable moments (like a big laugh or a great scare), just to get the reactions of the audience. I got to experience some of my all-time favorite movies there when they were brand new to the world and I could sample them many times over. We would hold on to certain film prints for a few weeks (sometimes months) longer just so we could stay and watch them again after closing. There were accidents (two words: Print Drop), projector meltdowns, practical jokes, fuck-ups (accidentially putting the incorrect title over the wrong theater was cause for dismissal), nice customers, rude customers, cool managers, angry managers, stupid managers (including the dumbest person I've ever met in my life), regular customers who we liked (among them, Jane Krakowski), regular customers we didn't (with nicknames like The Styngian Witches and The Last Boy Scout), crushes on co-workers and customers, and a lot of hours spent waiting in-between shows. What can I say, it was my youth. It's over now, but for the most part, I remember it fondly.

The HQ10 is still up and running, but another theater chain owns it now I haven't been there in years. I'm told that it's still decently run and ever since some bigger theaters have opened in the area it's pretty easy to get a ticket on a Saturday night. The mall that ran adjasect to it is now pretty much just offices and businesses and the place kinda looks out of place there. But for a long period of time it was ours, and it started 20 years ago today.

Happy anniversary, HQ10.

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