My mom looked forward to the Wizard of Oz coming on TV once a year, never knowing that the land of Oz changed to color, because they only rented a color TV once a year for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. I came along well after VHS defeated Betamax. She would tape Sesame Street to play on Saturdays, because I didn’t understand weekend TV schedules. It was no use arguing with me.
I also watched The Land Before Time every night for probably a year. I shudder to think how stuck in my head it would get if I re-watched it now. It was a golden age of home VHS, purchased in thick, cushy, seemingly airtight white plastic cases, or rented in clear, harder, sharper clicking boxes. To think, studio executives panicked about the VCR, saying they wouldn’t know how many people were watching, or be able to charge them. 
The VCR was probably the first machine I learned to operate. Not as baffling as the cassette player in the car, with its ambiguous Side A and Side B. Not that I had any concept of how either worked, but I knew which buttons to use, and the cycle of noises that each made. I was deadly serious about making sure each step was complete before I requested the next, and I never had it eat a tape on me.
I’ve fallen off the movie scene for the past couple years, as far as new releases or searching for hidden gems on DVD. I do keep an eye out for old movies playing on the big screen at several different cinemas.
There are three Movie Taverns in Atlanta. Dinner-and-a-movie places. I’m a semi-regular. Between the two right off my commute, I’ve seen The Princess Bride, Casablanca, Ghostbusters, Jaws, The Goonies, Back To The Future, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, A Christmas Story, and missed Jurassic Park.
Last Tuesday, after work, I went to see Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid. It’s one of my all-time favorites, and I’d missed it a few different times in its circulation. As I settled into my seat, the manager came out and said they were having trouble ingesting the movie. I was imagining film into a projector. She said they were very sorry, we would have our tickets refunded , they couldn’t even find a DVD.
I cancelled my order and walked out to my car. Then I realized I had my movie collection on a portable hard drive, recently re-ripped at full DVD quality. Butch Cassidy was on there. I grabbed it and walked back inside, found her, said this is going to sound crazy…
We went into the projection room. It was nothing more than a walk-in closet filled with server racks. Instead of servers, they were filled with amplifiers; it was an entirely digital theater. She showed me a big mysterious box that corporate sends with all of the movies, and how the master control was stuck trying to load the file.
I did not want to touch anything aside from plugging in the drive to make sure the file was there. We were locked out from even doing that. Five minutes later, the projectionist returned from his fruitless search for a disc. Ironically, I’d seen one in Target on the other side of town. He asked me if it could be played on a DVD player. I was confused, because the file was on a hard drive. But then he pulled out a consumer grade blu-ray player, and I understood what he was asking. He HDMI’d it into the stack of amplifiers, plugged my drive into the USB port, and we walked out to the theater to navigate through the folders.
The rest of the crowd asked if we could watch last week’s Retro movie, Casablanca. The manager started to apologize again, but I had it on my drive, and the projectionist had a disc (again, consumer grade). It was also a good choice for the delayed schedule. (Casablanca is much shorter than Butch Cassidy.) He put it in the same blu-ray player, gave my back my drive, and hit play.
I wish I’d found out whether it was a DVD or blu-ray, because it looked spectacular on the screen. I built my DVD collection back before blu-ray, and intended to wait and see what comes next. If what I saw was blu-ray, it was good enough to convince me that’s all I’d ever need for a good projector.
Some say Butch and Sundance survived the shootout with Bolivian troops. This summer, the chase to see them on the big screen continues.
 Cannot for the life of me find a citation for this.
 I’ve at least won some recent battles against smartypants-tvs to disable their smartaleck smoothing,
 In the end, they gave me three raincheck tickets, a small pizza, and a glass of milk. I took care of the tip.
 This is apparently the standard setup for theater rentals.
Wizard Of Oz Lobby Card – Public Domain, via Wikimedia
VHS Diagram – Public Domain, via Wikimedia
Butch Cassidy Trailer – 20th Century Fox manages to spoil many of the great lines, via YouTube