My earliest memory of a movie theater is something that I’m not entirely sure if it’s real or not, set in a place that hasn’t existed in something close to four decades, and seems just a little too on the nose for comfort. And yet, it’s something that, to this day, feels fresh and clear in a way that many other memories from childhood never could — which, let’s face it, might be another sign that it’s not entirely true and never was.
I was, by some simple math, three years old or so. Maybe four? I think I was in the theater for The Cat From Outer Space, which is what I remember so clearly: the poster for the movie, which featured this orange cat and a flying saucer shooting a beam down towards the ground. I remember the smell of popcorn, too, even though I’m pretty sure that it would be at least a decade or so before I even tried popcorn for the first time.
(The smell of popcorn has always meant the movies to me, and it’s something that’s almost entirely disconnected from the idea of popcorn as something that you’d eat — or, for that matter, popcorn as anything other than that movie theater smell.)
What’s so weird about the whole memory is, even as I’m utterly convinced that it’s all about The Cat From Outer Space, there’s a lingering suspicion that, somehow, Star Wars is involved. The timing would work out; we’d be talking somewhere in the region of 1978, so Star Wars might have been on re-release, or maybe just sticking around a long time from its original release, but still — was I actually there to see Star Wars and I just remember a poster for The Cat From Outer Space? Were my parents the kinds of people who’d take me to Star Wars when I was four?
(My dad was, at least.)
I’m not entirely sure what my first movie was, but there’s something about it being sci-fi no matter what that feels oddly fitting, if somewhat cliched. I was always going to be myself, I think.