Bill Murray (left) and company stole Indiana Jones' thunder.
Nostalgia can seem self-indulgent to those witnessing it rather than experiencing it. But age does things to our relationship with memory. As Ghostbusters rolls into theaters for a one-week-only 30th anniversary re-release, I can't help but wax rhapsodic about the summer of 1984. It's the reason I'm writing about movies today.
In 1984 I got my first real job, at a six-screen multiplex in Bakersfield, Calif., just before the end of my junior year of high school. I didn't choose the job because I was intensely into movies; it was just one of those jobs a 17-year-old who needed to work around a school schedule could get, and it was better than a gig at McDonald's.
I knew when I was hired that I could see movies for free at the theater where I'd be working; I did not know about a reciprocal agreement with two other first-run theaters in town. That meant I could see every movie that opened nationally between April 1984 and June 1985 without spending a cent. So I did. Obsessive as I was, I logged notes about each film and eventually wrote reviews for my high school newspaper.
Not only did I see virtually every movie that opened in that time span, but I almost always saw these films on opening weekend, generally with a group of my co-workers. When we slipped into a matinee of Ghostbusters on Sunday, June 10, we watched something spectacular unfold.
It's hard to convey to those growing up now what it was like to watch a blockbuster appear out of nowhere. There wasn't a barrage of pre-release movie coverage, and you couldn't watch trailers online. Ghostbusters featured special effects, and Bill Murray was already a well-known comedic actor after Caddyshack and Stripes, but the movie wasn't expected to be a big hit. The summer of 1984 was supposed to be about Indiana Jones and Star Trek sequels. But lo and behold, the gravity of a comedy star pulled audiences to the box office.
It's hard to resist seeing Ghostbusters in a theater during its limited run in 2014, because I'm certain it will take me back to 1984. That was when I discovered not just a love of movies, but a love of going to the movies -- sharing in that uniquely communal experience of laughter, fear, anticipation, surprise and awe. I think I'm most nostalgic about a different way of watching movies, undistracted by phones and unswayed by a year or more of rumors, casting news and trailers.
Of course, that's the "things were better when I was a kid" trap that nostalgia lures us into. And despite my complaints about the state of movie-going in 2014, this weekend I'll revel in memories of when Ghostbusters felt new.