Is it worth revisiting 80s films on the big screen?

By Shawn Robare

It may sound weird, but I find myself asking this question a lot.  Over the past decade I’ve noticed that a lot of the films I grew up loving have started seeing revival screenings in movie theaters.  It actually probably started in the late 90s with the 20th anniversary of Star Wars and the special editions that were re-released on the big screen.  Not long after there was a 20-year anniversary screening of Ridley Scott’s Director’s Cut of Alien, and eventually there was the 2002 special edition of E.T.  At the time I was in college and hitting the theater multiple times a week as it seemed like I had tons of free time and extra money for catching movies.  These days both time and money seem to be vanishing into a black hole and I barely make the room in my budget or schedule for new movies, let alone flicks I’ve seen dozens, sometimes (gulp – I’ll admit) hundreds, of times.  I tend to throw on 80s flicks while I’m farting around home, doing chores, cooking, or just for background noise while I’m working on the site.  So I feel like I’ve seen so many of these movies to death, and when the opportunity comes for catching one of them on the big screen I always find myself wondering if it’s really worth it.  I found myself skipping out on a lot of opportunities to catch these flicks in the theater until this past fall when I snagged some unbeatable deals.

There’s a small theater chain in my area called Studio Movie Grill that’s been hosting a series of semi-monthly $2 screenings featuring one-night-only engagements of some pretty cool 80s flicks like Ghostbusters and E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial.  At two bucks I couldn’t pass up on the chance to see both of these on the big screen again (both of which I saw back in the early 80s, E.T. during both it’s initial run and when it was brought back into theaters in 1985.)  I had a lot of fun reliving the theater experience with these, both of which were filled with families that were exposing their kids to them for the first time (as I gleaned from overhearing parents explaining the various plot points during the movie), but would I still go in the future if I wasn’t getting such an awesome deal on admission?

Short answer?  Yes.  Emphatic yes.  If you would have asked me before I went into both of these screenings if I thought I’d learn or experience anything new about these movies that I’ve seen so many times I stopped counting, I would have chuckled and said no.  I mean between the ability to practically get the theatrical experience at home on a 60-inch screen with surround sound, or slim likely hood that I’d notice anything that hasn’t already been documented a million times on the internet, what new could I really get from seeing these in the theater?  Well, I would have been wrong for dismissing the experience because for the first time in a very long time I saw these movies with totally fresh eyes.  I’m sure part of this is the communal theater-going vibe, but I noticed so many little details that I never noticed before.

For instance, in Ghostbusters I never noticed how many times the Stay Puft brand is peppered throughout the film before we get to see the form of the Destroyer that so innocently just pops into Ray Stanz’s mind.  When Dana comes home from shopping she unpacks a bag of Stay Puft marshmallows for one, but there are also mural advertisements on the sides of buildings in some shots!  Also, did you know that none other than Ron “The Hedghog” Jeremy has a cameo appearance in the crowd scene right after Walter Peck has the containment unit shutdown?  Yup, he’s there in the crowd.  I also never noticed the Chinese hat Ray is wearing as a thank you gift in the montage sequence when the Ghostbusters’ business is taking the city by storm (when they apparently helped a restaurant rid themselves of a spook.)

As for E.T., I took extra special care to keep an eye out for details in Elliot’s room since I’d been having so much fun analyzing the bedrooms in 80s kid’s flicks recently.  I already did an examination of his room a while back, but damn if I didn’t find more stuff!  First of all, when I originally dissected the room there was a weird dart board cabinet that I couldn’t identify (number 15 in the below picture…

ET 4

Well, it was as plain as day on the big screen.  #15 is in fact an Artful Dodger dart board cabinet from Oliver Twist!

artful dodger

Now that I’ve identified that it doesn’t do much to explain why the Artful Dodger is on a dart board cabinet, but still, mystery solved.  In addition to this I also noticed some more toys in Elliot’s room, as well as in their living room!

ET 1

1). Chutes and Ladders boardgame

2). Magic 8 Ball


3). Lego Universal Building Set

4). Empire Strikes Back Twin-Pod Cloud Car

cloud car

5). Super Simon Electronic Game

super simon

Though the Super Simon box is in the screen shot above (in Elliot’s room), the game itself is actually on a shelf in the living room…

ET 2

But for the first time I noticed that there are also some other fun things in the living room like…

6). An Atari 2600

7). Big Trak from Milton Bradley

big trax

There were also a bunch of other small, fun things I noticed throughout the film.  Little details, like how John Williams drops into Yoda’s Theme for a could of beats during the Halloween scene when E.T. sees a kid dressed up in a Don Post Yoda mask…

ET 3

…or the fact that Dee Wallace is wearing a really weird handgun pin on her vest in one sequence…

ET 4

Sure, these things haven’t radically changed my outlook on the film, but any time I have the opportunity to learn something new about a film I thought I knew everything about, well that’s worth a full-priced movie ticket if you ask me.

I’m actually pretty excited as the Studio Movie Grill has announced their 2014 schedule of $2 revival screenings and there are a bunch of flicks I can’t wait to see in the theater (and for some it will be the first time I’ve seen them on the big screen.  There are two categories of events, the Brews & Views and the Family Rewind.  The former features some more recent fare mixed in, but there are a few flicks I’m looking forward to catching…

Bews and Views

Totally looking forward to catching Alien, Temple of Doom, and Jaws.  As for the Family Rewind, there’s way more on that list that I’m going to try and catch…


I mean, holy crap, I never got a chance to see The Neverending Story, Labyrinth, Goonies, Annie, The Princess Bride, and Gremlins in the big screen as a kid, and I can’t wait to see Back to the Future and Big on the silver screen again.  All in all this looks like it’s going to be a fun year at the movies catching up on all my favorites from the 80s!  So seriously, if you get a chance to catch a revival screening, or you have a Studio Movie Grill near you, it’s totally worth seeing these flicks in the theater again.  You won’t regret it!

  • Lamar the Revenger

    A couple years ago, the newer theatre in the area showed Star Trek 2: The Wrath Of Khan. It was an old print & there was a moment where the film slipped and was split mid screen. But it was worth every stinkin penny. They still show different old films from time to time. I gotta check what’s coming up.

    • That would be a good one on the big screen. The whole sea battle aspect would be so much more grand in that scope!

  • WishItWas1984

    I’ve been doing this for some years now. In NYC there’s a couple of places. Sunshine Cinema is the best. A different old movie every weekend at midnight. As well as Alamo Drafthouse, but those are unfortunately mainly 7pm on a weeknight. I’ve seen Ghostbusters a few times, Goonies, Back to the Future, ST2:Khan, Raiders, Clue, Close Encounters…which was the first time I’ve seen it!….and most recently Poltergeist.

    I’m all for amazing home theater setups but no matter how big your TV or how nice your surround sound, it won’t be as big or awesome as a real theater. On top of which the nostalgia of the memories that are brought back from when you saw it the first time….and the bonus of a crowd of like-minded fans. You can’t beat it.

    Now if the theaters near me would finally get Flash Gordon in!!! ARGH I’m dying to see that again. Oh and Monster Squad….and…..

    • I wish I was close to an Alamo Drafthouse, I’d love access to the posters as well as the flicks for sure. I need to see more 80s horror on the big screen. I’d love to catch Poltergeist. Looking forward to Gremlins in October. And I count myself lucky that I got to see Monster Squad in the theaters as a kid…

  • The Sewer Den

    I love screenings focusing on old flicks. Before it was back in the mainstream, I caught the original TMNT movie a few times at different events. The energy in the audience was incredible. Everyone was laughing and cheering at similar moments that you’ve appreciated for years. It was an eye-opening experience because, at the time, I didn’t know anyone else still cared about TMNT.

    I say, keep the screenings coming!

    • Man, I’d love to see TMNT in the theater again! Maybe next year for the 25th anniversary…

  • I would pay a normal ticket price to see The Last Starfighter, Goonies, or The Dark Crystal on the big screen. Especially The Dark Crystal.

    • Yeah, I was kind of bummed that the Dark Crystal wasn’t on the SMG list of flicks coming up. Last Star Fighter would be rad, as would The Lost Boys and Robocop…

      • The Lost Boys – that’s a good one. Midnight showing.

        • I’d love a double feature of that and Goonies. Start it at 10:00pm, and start Lost Boys after midnight!

  • Hell yes! Revisiting old favorites on a big screen is a great experience. I would love to se E.T. again. There’s a Criterion theater here in New Haven that dusts off some classics for midnight showings. I got to see Jaws there a few years back, then at the Drive-in last year. A great experience.

    • Cool! I’m really looking forward to Jaws on the big screen in September…

  • Retromash

    Totally agree Shawn. I think a part of it is the ‘event’ experience or the zeitgeist, in the same way that I will always watch one of those classic movies when they are on TV even though it’s been sitting on my DVD shelf untouched for months! Not only is the cinema more of a visceral experience but it’s also even more of an event. You look forward to the date, you get ready to go out, you’re invested in the experience. A bit like how when loading an old 8-bit video game on cassette you enjoyed it more because you were made to wait, compared with now if you try to play it on emulator and just keep skipping through games with too much choice. And in the cinema I think you’re more focussed and as you mentioned you can notice more things in the movie.

    Sadly I don’t have a theatre near me that plays old films but top of my list would probably be Ghostbusters, BTTF, WarGames, Alien, Jaws and Raiders of the Lost Ark!

    • Well said. And that’s a great point on NES game cartridges versus emulators. I do that same thing flipping through emulators on my girlfriend’s Ouya, never landing on anything for more than a few minutes. But when I saddle up to a Galaga cabinet or put a physical game in a console, I’m way more focused and “into” the game.

      • Retromash

        Yeh definitely. Even more so when, like me in the UK, I had to wait around 10 minutes for each game to load from cassette tape! That meant you really had to play the game to death to justify the time invested in loading it! Oh happy days ;-)

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