Hordes of eager college students converge upon the small lobby of the Amherst Cinema, wide-eyed and chatting loudly as they quickly form into lines leading up to the ticket counter. Some are already singing the nostalgic tune and excitedly dancing in the packed lobby. It’s going to be a full house tonight for the premiere of “Space Jam”, a part of the new “Late Nites @ Amherst Cinema” cult classics series. At last week’s showing of “The Room” and at this week’s showing of R. Kelly’s “Trapped in the Closet” (Sing-A-Long!), similar-sized crowds were expected, and expectations were certainly met. The lines were out the door as people filed from ticket counter to the well-stocked concession stand and, at last, into the large screening room, ready to blast more than a decade into the past to revisit what some would argue is the most significant movie of their respective childhoods.
For those of you who haven’t seen “Space Jam,” it’s likely that you have at least heard of it. After all, there aren’t too many movies that boast an ensemble cast with a range wide enough to encompass all of the Looney Tunes and Michael Jordan. It’s a classic family movie, partially live-action and partially animated, about the teaming up of Michael Jordan and his cartoon friends in an epic game of basketball against a team of criminal aliens intent on capturing the Looney Tunes and enslaving them at their outer space amusement park. The rules are simple: if the Nerdlucks (the aliens) win, it’s goodbye to Tune Land for the Looney bunch. If the Tunes win, they get to stay, and the Nerdlucks are out of luck. Of course, the intense preparation that both teams engage in is fraught with difficulties, complications and plenty of cheating on the part of the aliens — but it wouldn’t be such a good story without any plot complexity, now would it?
Sam Feldman ’17, who was part of the large group I was with, trekked from campus to Amherst Cinema on Friday night to make the 10 o’clock showing. He, like many others who attended, “expected all the attendees to be big fans of the movie.” Considering its status as a cult classic, “Space Jam” is a movie most likely to be seen by those who can sing along and dance in the theater as soon as the familiar “Everybody get up, it’s time to slam now” blasts from the speakers. The pervasive, contagious energy and the inexplicable excitement for a movie about aliens and the NBA proved that the target audience had been reached; it’s safe to assume there weren’t too many first-time “Space Jam” viewers in the audience that night. Feldman enjoyed this new venture at Amherst Cinema, saying, “The experience overall was great. People cheered and had an awesome time.” I agree wholeheartedly. As with many cult classic films and movies that aren’t meant to be taken seriously, the best part is everything extraneous to the movie itself: the thunderous singing, the rabid dancing and the unnecessarily loud cheers for the moments of triumph make these sorts of films so fun to watch with a crowd.
“Space Jam” is second in an eight-film series entitled Cult Classics that is showing every Friday night at 10:00 p.m.. It’s an ongoing special event that Amherst Cinema is putting on as a part of their Late Nites program. Something that the theater is known for is their special themed film series or festivals, which occur year-round and are often showed concurrently with one another. While the Cult Classics program is being shown at 10:00 p.m. on Fridays, there is also a Kubrick Fall 2013 Festival that the cinema is currently running, dedicated to none other than Stanley Kubrick and a selection of his greatest works, such as “Dr. Strangelove” and “A Clockwork Orange”. These movies play on Sundays at 2:00 p.m., and then again on Tuesdays at 7:00 p.m.. A scheduled upcoming program is entitled the David Lynch Fall 2013 Festival, and Amherst Cinema will feature such films as “Wild At Heart”, “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me” and “Eraserhead” in the months of October and November.
Amherst Cinema is a wonderful establishment with a wide variety of movies, special events and workshops to please any taste. Upon an enthusiastic recommendation of the theatre, Sam characteristically said, “I’d love to return to Amherst Cinemas to see more movies, but I don’t know if I will, simply because I don’t have much money.” I was ecstatic to hear about “Space Jam” upcoming premiere, and quickly decided that it was crucial that I not miss the chance to relive the most epic game of basketball ever played. Clearly, I was not alone, judging by the turnout on that chilly Friday night. The various programs and series that Amherst Cinema has planned are absolutely worth checking out — you never know what they’ll dredge up from your past.