A REFLECTION FROM INDEPENDENT THEATER OWNER JIM DEE
I’m not quite sure when my interest in film began, but I was lucky enough to have parents who owned a simple 8mm camera, taking home movies since I was around three years old. One pivotal moment, although it may not seem like it, was my father taking me to see The Horror of Dracula — the 1958 Hammer film — when I was 7 years old. While all my father said afterwards — “it wasn’t as good as the book” — one of his favorites — I left the theatre most likely white as a sheet, terrified from Christopher Lee’s portrayal of the most famous vampire.
Other early moments of interest were seeing 2001: A Space Odyssey when I was 16, actually thinking I was going to see a documentary on NASA, or seeing Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow Up and thinking, afterwards, “what did I just see?” and knowing I had to see those films again and again, which I did.
In my high school days, I was able to not only purchase another 8mm camera, but was able to buy rolls of 8mm film at the cost of $1.50, which included processing, and I’d shoot 3 minutes of film of whatever I wanted, usually trying special effects like stop motion animation, or running the film through the camera multiple times with double and triple exposures.
Now as an independent movie theatre owner/manager/programmer since 1979 in San Luis Obispo, CA, it has been easy to see how movie theatre attendance, access to films, the subject matter of popular films and the economics of filmmaking have gone through numerous, radical changes during my 41-year career. Even before I started, the ongoing changes from the era of silent movies to sound, to the movie palaces of the 1940’s giving way to television in the late 40’s, to the multiplexes of the 1970’s, have been profound and dramatic.
Despite the many changes of the arguably most popular art form, combining photography, writing and music to tell a story, there is one constant: the best way to enjoy films is to see them on a big screen with an audience. Enjoying this powerful medium in a communal setting provides not only entertainment, but challenges viewers to explore new feelings and emotions…to perhaps discuss and reflect on stories that impact movie goers in a new way. And one of the most powerful results of viewing a great film is the individual and personal mirroring of seeing oneself on the big screen in an entirely unique way.
I strongly believe there will always be a future for film as there will always be compelling and important stories to tell. I have attended the Toronto Film Festival for 22 consecutive years starting in 1997 — unfortunately missing it in 2020 due to the Covid-19 Pandemic — as the best resource for upcoming movies not only for my business, but for my own personal gratification.