I mean, and this probably won't compute with the youngsters out there, but I'm guessing that for at least the first half-century of my movie-going career, which began when my mother made the perhaps ill-advised decision to take me to see my first movie when I was two years old - it was a 1952 Danny Kaye musical called "Hans Christian Anderson" which, I gather from my mother's account of my behavior during the presentation, I did not appreciate at the time; but having seen "Hans Christian Anderson" several times since that first inauspicious viewing back in 1953, now I do appreciate it. In fact, I love it.
Anyway, what I was starting to say before getting side-lined by my fondness of "Hans Christian Anderson", is that back during the era of that movie when the lights came up on the theater screen one saw first the trailers for future movies then the feature presentation, likely followed by second movie, effecting a now-obsolete event known as a double feature. (Wow, how much leisure time did people have back then?)
But there were no product, TV show, video game or recruiting ads or commercials prefacing the preview trailers and so it would continue for several decades - four? five? Anybody know? - before some Madison Avenue marketing whiz must have bolted up in the middle of the night, smacked his head and cried out, "Holy smokes! Why the @#$$$$$$! aren't we sticking TV commercials in the movies?"
But you know, many times as I've gone to the movies over the years, I can't remember a moment of sitting in a theater and saying, "What's this? somethng new? A TV commercial? In the movies? "
But wait...what I actually mean to say is that I can't remember such a moment in a movie theater in this country.
I do in fact remember seeing a commercial on a movie screen for the first time about 45 years ago in a theater in Paris back during my student days there.
It was my first time in a French movie theater, not counting the little foreign film house (where I went to see an American film, High Noon*) down the block from La Maison Jeanne d'Arc, the women's hostel where I was living at the time.
But my first time in a French movie theater I did a double-take when the show started off with what appeared to be a TV commercial.
"You have commercials in the movies?" I whispered to my friend Marie-Paule, with whom I was sitting.
"Beh, oui," ("Wull, yeah,") she replied, "don't you?"
But if the concept of a movie commercial struck me as, well, foreign, the content of this movie commercial struck me as really foreign. Specifically, really French.
Now, you have to remember that this was back in early 1972, before sex in American TV and cinema had become mainstream, though, of course, we were right on the cusp.
But the French had beaten us to it. At least, I can vouch, in their advertising.
Anyway, this, my first commercial in a movie theater, was an ad for a brand of ice cream bar.
To the background of soft, sensuous music, a white model with pink hair, eye shadow, blush, lips, and nails, shown only from her bare shoulders up, lasciviously licked a pink ice cream bar then took a bite, revealing vanilla ice cream beneath, which appeared to send her into ecstasy.
Then the scene cut to a black model, likewise naked from the shoulders up, with mint-green hair, make-up and nails, who did the same and responded likewise to a chocolate-coated bar with mint-green ice cream. There was a third model, but I forget which flavor she and her ice cream bar were.
"Isn't that racist?" My friend whispered to me. Actually she was laughing. I was laughing, too, from surprise mostly, though, for all its suggestive naughtiness, it was a funny commercial. And one that would in no way, I knew, be shown back in the States.
At least not back then. Probably not even today.
But, though I agreed with my friend that there was something socially unacceptable about the commercial - at least from my American point of view - I wasn't sure it was specifically racist. At that time the word sexist was not yet in the lexicon, but if it had been, I think that would have been the correct word.
Which didn't keep it from being a funny and for me, memorable, commercial.
But my education on French use of movie advertising was not over with the end of the commercial.
After the commercial was over the screen went dark and the lights came up in the theater. Down the aisle came concessions folks hawking boxes of the very ice cream bars that had so thrilled their matching models on the screen. I then learned of another cultural difference between the French and Americans: while Americans like popcorn with their movies, the French like (or liked at that time) to eat ice cream bars while watching their flicks.
Nobody was put off by the silly, semi-raunchy ice cream bar add. Au contraire, a good many audience members bought ice cream bars from the vendors. My friend and I bought ice cream bars, though, at 20 years old and still entrenched in my 1972 American mores, I did feel a little funny eating mine.