At the first of two 20th anniversary screenings of Dirty Dancing, a sold-out crowd overwhelmingly comprised of women buzzed excitedly. "I can't find my ticket," said a woman who needed to pee. "So what?" said one of her two companions. "Oh, they're being really strict," said the other. "They won't let anyone in or out without a ticket."
The lights went down. A Sanyo DVD logo came up and an annoyed hiss drifted across the audience. Ten bucks to watch a DVD? But not quite. It was a featurette, from the new cash-grab anniversary disc. It featured none of the film's stars and was mostly about the new stage show, which opens in Toronto this fall, and it was boring, as most featurettes are. The screening ratio was wrong so everybody was both big and squished. People chatted. One woman shushed, a staccato rhythm, SHH-SHH-SHHHSHHH.
She only did it once. She never had a chance.
The projectionist switched over to film and the room got quiet. The first three beats of "Be My Baby" dropped, a girl yelled "Woo!" and the crowd erupted into applause. It applauded again when Johnny Castle first appeared, wearing sunglasses inside, at night, messing with the Ivy League waiters. And it applauded, with take-that-Daddy force, when Swayze dropped the most famous line, "Nobody puts Baby in a corner," grabbed Grey and headed to the stage for the thrilling dance climax.
With the unprecedented popularity of DVD and make-your-own-TV schedules, people are forgetting how to have a great time at the movies. Studios are freaking, crapping out half a dozen new films a week, with only a handful proving to have any staying power. But Dirty Dancing demonstrated that people are willing to shell out to sit in nostalgia for a couple hours. There are a handful of other movies hitting anniversaries that distributors and theatres should consider giving the Dirty Dancing treatment to. (We should note that ET, in 2002, and The Nightmare Before Christmas, in 2006, both hit theatres again, though not in Halifax.)
Nineteen eighty-seven, the same year Dirty Dancing's bad writing and awesome choreography became a pheneomenon, boasts a number of winners worth watching on the big screen. For the Holly Hunter fans you've got the staggering one-two punch of Broadcast News—still one of the best romantic comedies disguised as a journalism movie ever—and the Coens' insane Raising Arizona. For comedy fans, you could see the seminal Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Spaceballs or Evil Dead II. The Princess Bride, featuring the best work William Goldman, Rob Reiner and Andre the Giant ever did, would be a huge hit. You could scare North American men all over again with Fatal Attraction. John Hughes fans could reminisce during the underrated
Moving ahead to our 15th anniversary year, 1992, you'd find a pretty decent selection of new moneymaking opportunities there too. It was the year of Reservoir Dogs—maybe another way to recoup Grindhouse's losses? Cult hits Army of Darkness and The Cutting Edge dropped in '92. And it was a terrific year for benchmark work from acclaimed directors—Spike Lee had Malcolm X, Clint Eastwood made Unforgiven, Penelope Spheeris had a successful SNL movie adaptation with Wayne's World, Penny Marshall uncorked a forgotten time in A League of Their Own, Cameron Crowe put a generation on film in Singles and Louis Malle gave us Damage. It was a great year for batshit crazy bitches—see Basic Instinct, Single White Female and The Hand That Rocks the Cradle. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
We re-buy music when formats change. We purchase television seasons on DVD, even when reruns are still airing. We snap up bullshit anniversary editions of movies. We're happier spending time and money on what we already know than finding new things. So hey, film industry, you might as well pander to us on all levels, and start cleaning up old prints, because if you screen it, we will have the time of our lives all over again.