Happy birthday, Marty McFly.

Back to the Future turns thirty today. This is my story.

Great Scott!

I first saw it a week early via a “sneak preview” screening. This was back when you paid to see a film the weekend before it opened, the studio hoping to generate good word of mouth buzz. To sweeten the deal, you also got to watch a second film for free. (The bonus feature that night was The Goonies, a movie I was thrilled to see again. Hey, back off. I was eleven.)

I went with my older sister and her friends. The theater was sold out, and there weren’t enough seats together for us all. Being the fifth wheel, I volunteered to sit apart, which wound up being in the second row, all the way against the left wall.

If you’re from Cincinnati and remember the Eastgate Showcase – or if you’re from anywhere and remember just about any 80s-era multiplex – then you remember how the front row was at best eighteen inches away from the front wall. This wasn’t a gentle slope. You were looking straight up. (Suck it, stadium seating!)

I expected a sore neck. But then the movie started, and I forgot all about the cramped seats and the terrible angle. I was sucked in. Two hours of cinematic bliss.

I dug the experience so much, I made habit of sitting as close to the front as possible for the next decade or so, when being overwhelmed by the screen enhanced my viewing experience. I eventually gave that up (getting old has its drawbacks), but I still get lost in those other worlds poking through that giant rectangle.

I vaguely remember attempting to tell the movie’s story in scene-by-scene detail to a friend the next day, so excited was I by what I witnessed. I made a point to see it again when it began its official theatrical run. I collected magazine stories about it (most notably a Starlog feature hypothesizing a second Marty from an alternate universe). I ran the cassette soundtrack ragged, as I did the eventual VHS copy, dubbed from a cable broadcast. I studied that film like the Torah.

I’ll always regard it with a bit of reverence, a bubblegum masterpiece that helped shape my tastes, my style, my self. That first screening remains one of the best and most influential nights of my cinematic life.


copyright 2015 David Cornelius all rights reserved


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