I can't recall for certain what the first film I ever saw in a movie theater was. Being a child of the '80s, I'm hoping my parents had the foresight to take me to something epic like E.T. or Indiana Jones. My earliest cinematic memory is from 1986. My godmother took me to An American Tail at a movie theater in Hialeah that no longer exists. I remember loving the film, and I still can sing a few bars of one of its songs, even though I haven't seen the film since.
My godmother died several years ago, and my most vivid memory of her is still that outing to the movies to see Fivel on the big screen. This morning's tragic news out of suburban Denver brought that memory to the forefront as I read that one of the injured was a 6 year old -- the same age I was during that movie outing in the '80s.
As more details come out about the shooting in Aurora, Colorado, at last night's midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises, we're all making futile attempts to understand why this would occur -- why someone like a medical student, a person who should aspire to heal others, would do such a thing. Of course, there is no sense to be made in acts of madness. This is no time for a political debate, nor is this a time to blame films themselves. The decision to take these lives came from the twisted mind of the perpetrator, and no one else.
Moviegoing is magic, pure and simple. It allows you to escape the day-to-day of your life and get lost in the universe that comes alive on the screen. A great movie can take you out of your headspace and into a place that only exists in these moving images. When the illusion is well done, you care about nothing else in the world at that moment than what is happening to the characters you've quickly learned to love. Their victories are your victories, their defeats painfully personal.
Going to the cinema means communing with the creative spirits of all the talented people who created that film for your enjoyment. That experience can not be replicated at the same magnitude anywhere else than in a big, dark room full of friends and strangers, all of whom are taking this journey together -- each experiencing their own visceral reactions to the scenes unfurling before them. It is a voyage into make believe, an escape from the harsh realities of the 24 hour news cycle that surround us; a mute button to all the polarizing dialogue in our nation and a temporary blinder to the economic woes that seem to just get worse. It is no wonder that escaping at the movies is one of America's most popular pastimes. For me, it is why I write about, curate, show, and occasionally create films. This wonderful thing must be shared.
The people in that auditorium last night understood that. They were excited to be there. They wanted to be the first to see the new Batman film, even if it meant heading to the theater at midnight on a Thursday. They were fans who couldn't wait to get lost in Gotham City. The greatest tragedy of last night's shooting is of course the lives lost and the victims injured in Denver. But its repercussions will affect everyone who loves the movies. This gunman not only viciously ended the lives of a dozen people while injuring 50 more, but he likely ended the magic of the movies for so many. In a world that's already full of countless heartaches, stealing joy and pleasure is another crime for which there is no just punishment but many victims left in its wake.
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Millions of people will gather at the movies this weekend, and while we here in Miami complain about the sweltering heat outside as we fine into our air-conditioned movie theaters, I hope each of us can complain a little less, enjoy it a little more, and create new fond memories for ourselves in honor of those fellow film lovers whose life was tragically cut short as they tried to do something they loved.
Kareem Tabsch is the co-founder and co-director of O Cinema.