Movies, it should come as no surprise to learn, were an absolutely critical part of my formative experience. It wasn’t merely that my first exposure to them was during the wondrous Lucas/Spielberg heyday of the early eighties; no, we didn’t have a VCR in the household till the very end of that decade (like color TV, they were deemed by my parents to be “just a fad”), so seeing a movie meant going to the movies. To this day, the very whiff of butter-steeped popcorn time-shifts me back to those magical days, like one that occurred precisely twenty-five years ago, when a little Christmas-themed film with absolutely no brand awareness or marquee stars whatsoever created an unforeseen sensation—it was the must-see movie of the season, and I was eager to oblige.
The perfect occasion to do so arose on one of those barren Saturday afternoons in New York—too cold to be outside for any length of time, too hard to hear yourself think over the hiss of the monolithic prewar radiator. Well, it would’ve been perfect, anyway, if not for one small hiccup: Nobody was around to join me. I called everyone in the Rolodex (and that isn’t just an archaic figure of speech—these were the days of actual Rolodexes), but came up empty. Where the hell was everybody?
There was no real precedent for this scenario. There’d always been someone around to meet on short notice—that was the benefit of living in a building full of young families, after all. Hell, my best friend, Chip, lived one flight below us, and was always available to team up to save the world with me by way of a spirited (read: profane), two-player game of Contra. But, not that afternoon.
My problems, it seemed, were rapidly compounding: What was I going to do for the rest of the day? Go to the movies by myself? It was really only through pure desperation, having exhausted every other avenue, that I finally asked, “Why not?”