It seems as if people don’t make going to a movie in a theater as much of an event as it used to be. People have big screen TVs and streaming services to recreate the visuals of a theater in their own home. And why go to the movies when people are just going to talk and be rude on their phones the whole time, am I right? Well, this is the story of a time when a movie-going experience far outweighed the movie and became my favorite movie memory.
It was 2006 and the best movie theater in my college town, San Luis Obispo, CA, was The Fremont, an old theater with only one screen and 500 seats. A group of about 10 of us were pumped for the movie and only got more excited once we realized how energized the rest of the audience was. The theater was only about half full but you would have thought it was a full house from the sound. The moment I knew this would be an experience unlike any other? The moment someone threw a fake snake into our row. That’s right, the movie I’m talking about is SNAKES ON A MOTHERF***ING PLANE!
Everyone knows by now that Snakes on a Plane was basically one long joke, with Samuel L. Jackson’s famous line being the highlight of the film. I’m sure if I’d watched it at home I would have thought, “This is so bad but kind of funny in a hokey sense.” But I didn’t have time to think about that in the theater because everyone somehow agreed that this film deserved some call and response, some rubber snakes passed around, and lots of yelling at the screen. When Samuel L. Jackson says his line for the first time the crowd went wild. By the second and third variations we are all chanting it in unison right along with him.
I’ve seen The Matrix sequels and Harry Potter films during opening night with everyone in costume and that excitement still can’t compare to that night. When else do you make friends with complete strangers and high-five people for great comments during a movie? Now, I’m not saying all film audiences should be like this but if you’re going to see a B rate movie that’s just an extended SNL skit that takes itself too seriously, you might as well have some fun. We walked out of that theater and celebrated the achievement we’d just witnessed the only way that seemed appropriate, snake bite shots at the local bar.
What was so great about this experience? It was the feeling of community. The camaraderie and communal memory-making normally found more at a concert than a movie theater. I generally like the solitude of film-going but there is always an except to every rule and my exception is the one with motherf***ing snakes on a motherf***ing plane.