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The Summer Blockbusters of Yesteryear

By Bert Ehrmann

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Fort Wayne Reader


The summer movie season as hordes of teens descend on a theater near you to stuff studio coffers with their parent’s hard earned cash. Whereas kids today flock to Star Wars: Episode III - The Revenge of the Sith or Batman Begins (and know practically every line before it even opens), kids of yesteryear flocked to their own movie megaplexes to see their own blockbusters. Other than the beast that is the Star Wars movie franchise, what are the top grossing summer movies of the last twenty-five years?

#5 – Men in Black (1997): I have to admit that I didn’t actually see Men in Black in a theater, but only later saw it on network television. In an odd twist of fate, the movie was “inspired” by the comic book series of the same name. And after the movie was such a success another comic book series was released focusing on the events from the movie, which had nothing to do with the first comic book series. I did see the sequel to Men in Black in a movie theater. Whatever magic the first movie did contain was lost on the sequel.

#4 – Batman (1989): Batman is one of my favorite movie going memories. I was at the mall with my friend Jon one Saturday afternoon when his dad said that he had tickets to the Batman movie, which opened that weekend, but that we had to leave right that minute. When we got to Holiday Theaters the movie was already playing (the opening bit with the credits over the Batman logo) and there was no place to sit. The ushers had to split us up, placing us wherever seats were available. For the first fifteen minutes of the movie, Jon and I sat in the back of the theater in a glass-encased room that smelled of bourbon until an usher came along and moved us into the general audience. (Back in “the day”, the old Holiday Two were the best place to see movies in town.)

When Batman came out on VHS later that year, I got a copy for Christmas and must have watched that tape three times Christmas day. Later in the school year, my friend (and now local disk-jockey) Travis would make me play out scenes from the movie after lunch. I got to play Batman so I was cool with that.

#3 – Forrest Gump (1994) – Looking back, I can’t quite imagine how Forrest Gump blew-up so big. This movie made millions upon millions of dollars, and yet my guess is that if you say, “I’m Forrest, Forrest Gump” to anyone under the age of 15, they’ll look at you and wonder what sort of 1970s fad you’re talking about. I didn’t see Forrest Gump in theaters but only much later on VHS after hearing time and time again how good it was.

#2 – Jurassic Park (1993): Around the time of the release of Jurassic Park, I was just starting to become a movie fanatic. I remember first hearing about the movie (pre-Internet) on television where Steven Spielberg was posed next to a dinosaur model for a book of photographs about America. However, in the photo the dinosaur was blacked out with a note from Spielberg stating that the movie this dinosaur was in, Jurassic Park, would feature the most amazing dinosaur “actors” to ever grace the screen. He was right.

Before the movie was released I went into “Jurassic Park madness.” I bought dinosaur toys, worked on dinosaur drawings and dinosaur themed projects at school. Jurassic Park is the ultimate movie for someone who wanted to grow up being a paleontologist.

#1 – Battlefield Earth (2000): Okay, I lied. Battlefield Earth was one of the worst movies of all-time. There’s no way the movie could have cracked the top thousand summer movies, let alone the top five.

#1 – E.T. The Extraterrestrial (1982): (Or, the movie every kid who grew up in the 1980s has seen dozens of times.) The “E.T. Phenomena” hit America like a coldly calculated marketing machine. There were E.T. plush dolls, lunch boxes, figures, Christmas ornaments, talking cookie jars… I can only imagine how much more director Steven Spielberg made off of the merchandise for the film. Reportedly E.T. 2 was in the works featuring, or all things, an “evil” race of E.T. This idea (thankfully) was shelved, and other than the worst Atari video game ever, the world has not (yet?) seen a sequel to this hit movie.

I seem to remember that the VHS for this movie took years and years to come out, so that the only place to really see this movie was in theaters, as I don’t ever remember E.T. The Extraterrestrial ever being shown on television before 1990. (People used to say that I looked like the actor who played Elliot in the movie, they were wrong. I looked much cuter.)

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