The Greatest Summer of Movies: Part I

July1985

Everyone has ‘their’ year for movies. For me it’s a combination of two years. It starts with the release of Footloose in Februray of 1984 and doesn’t end until the screen goes dark on Enemy Mine in December 1985.

Now if I wasn’t cheating, my year would be 1985. I’ve seen no less than 70 movies from 1985. I didn’t see them all that year, but I saw a lot in the theater that year. May 1985 changed the way I watched movies forever. 23 May 1985, Southbridge Mall, the first (and only) mall in my town, opened it’s doors and with it came the Cinema V theaters. Now five movie theaters may not seem like a lot, but at that point my town had one theater and one Drive-In theater and the Drive-in was only open three months a year!

Memorial Day 1985 Movie ad
Memorial Day 1985 Ad

Movies didn’t on a set schedule. If a movie was making money it could easily be in the theater for 4-5 weeks. Which means other good movies were missed. They did offer matinee movies back then and it wasn’t the same movie as night time only cheaper. It was usually something for the kids, animated or otherwise, while the PG and R movies were left for the night time crowd.

the strand theater

Originally my hometown had 7 theaters and I’m talking the early 1900’s. Four of them closed down by the 1940’s leaving three. Those three were converted to movie theaters and stuck around for awhile. The Strand, closed in 1975; leaving The Palace Theater and the Park 70. Both were decent enough to watch a movie in, mainly because I didn’t know any different.

The Palace theater closed in the early 1980’s, which left us with one theater the Park 70. The Park 70 opened in 1912 as an Opera House called the Cecil Theater. It was converted to a movie theater and renamed the Park 70 in 1966. Throughout the 1970’s and early 1980’s the Park 70 would show an X-rated movie once a month to help boost business.

Park 70 theater

I loved watching movies at the Park 70 for one simply reason, it had a two balcony sections! Sitting in the balcony made it feel like you were the upper class. And I liked hearing my sisters scream when the bats would start flying around! I remember sitting in the top balcony watching E.T and the bats were swooping in and out of the projector light the entire movie. You don’t get that experience at the theater nowadays!

The Park 70 closed by the end of 1986, it couldn’t compete with the new mall. The building sat empty for another year and then started to collapse in on itself and they tore it down in 1988.

Getting a movie theater complex with five screens was big time! I could go to one movie on Friday night, a different movie on Saturday night and a completely different movie on Sunday. The only flaw in my plan was money, I was a broke kid. But the potential was there and it was great during High School.

Southbridge Mall free movie ad
Opening Day Free Movies

When the Cinema V theaters opened they offered free movies the first day. When the movie ended they cleared the theater, let the next crowd in and started the movie again. My friend, BJ and I headed down to the mall to watch Footloose. Not knowing where to go, or what to do we entered the first door that looked good. It seemed weird, we were in the back half of the theater. We made are way to the one playing footloose and grabbed a seat in the theater. We had, inadvertently, skipped the ‘waiting in line’ process by coming in the back door! Had we waited in line I don’t think we would have made it into the theater.

Cinema V opened at the right moment in time, during the colossal summer of movies in 1985. A year that is rivaled by few, if any. I was hustling as many lawn mowing gigs and chores I could to get money that summer.

Thirty-five years later I still have fond memories of the first summer in that mall and all the movies I watched. The list below are all movies released in July 1985 that I saw in the brand new Cinema V theater. There’s also a few good ones that never made it to our theater. The Goonies opened in June 1985 so it won’t be listed below but it was definitely a favorite that summer as well.

Back to the Future

I don’t remember watching the trailer for this back in 1985 but watching it now doesn’t make me want to see the movie. …Oh, the Family Ties kid is in a movie, I guess I’ll go see it. I’m glad I did! It was (and still is) a great movie. The trailer doesn’t do it justice. The writing is fantastic, the acting is great , the story is engrossing and it’s what a kid in 1985 needed. A fun movie to watch filled with wonder and excitement.

With television star Michael J. Fox in his first major starring role, emerging stars Lea Thompson and Crispin Glover supported by veteran actor Christopher Llyod, Back to the Future didn’t have the look of a summer blockbuster. But no one should doubt the magic of Robert Zemeckis and Steven Spielberg.

Everyone saw this movie in the summer of 1985! It carved a niche in American pop culture immediately. This movie is the reason I bought a skateboard! We acted out scenes, endlessly recited movie lines and tried recreating the town square skateboard scene. President Ronald Reagan even referenced the movie in his 1986 State of the Union address.

Back to the Future was nominated for four Academy Awards and won one for Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing. Huey Lewis’ song “The Power of Love” was up for Best Original Song but lost out to Lionel Richie’s “Say You, Say Me” from the movie White Nights.

Back to the Future is currently available on Netflix.

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome

The final installment of the Mad Max trilogy. Yeah, I know there’s a fourth movie, but it doesn’t feature Mad Max. I consider it a new start to the franchise and not a ‘Mad Max’ film. Now, In 1985 I was in line to see this movie. It had everything I was looking for; car chases, intense action, explosions!

Starring Mel Gibson as the titular character for the last time and music Superstar Tina Turner as the ruler of Bartertown, Aunty Entity. When I saw this movie Mad Max was new to me. I hadn’t discovered the two prior films yet. It would be a few more years before I rented the original Mad Max.

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome was a moderate success. I only saw ‘Thunderdome’ once in the theater. Even with our brand new Cinema V complex it left quickly to make room for other movies.

Silverado

When I was a kid anytime an old timey western was on TV my dad was watching it and it was usually in black and white. When Silverado hit the screen it was a chance to watch a new western with my dad. We went to see this on a Saturday afternoon, when the tickets were a little cheaper and the theater not as crowded.

Silverado is a fresh take on the classic western. Featuring a star studded cast led by Kevin Kline, Scott Glenn, Danny Glover and relative newcomer Kevin Costner. He wasn’t really new in the field but hadn’t made it big yet. This role could be considered his breakout role. Costner plays a young, rambunctious gunslinger who steals the movie.

The supporting cast is impressive as well featuring John Cleese, Rosanna Arquette, Brian Dennehy, Jeff Goldblum and Linda Hunt. Besides the massive star power in the film it wasn’t the normal cast you’d see in a Western. And Silverado wasn’t your normal Western.

Written by Lawrence Kasdan, who also wrote a couple other movies you may have seen including Raiders of the Lost Ark, Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, Silverado shares the same spirit of adventure as those movies.

I love watching a good Western and Silverado deserves a lot of credit for that.

Silverado was nominated for two Academy Awards for Best Sound and Best Original Score. It lost to Out of Africa in both categories.

The Black Cauldron

I’m not sure how or why the The Black Cauldron ended up in our theater. I’d guess that since it held the Disney brand the theater ordered it for opening weekend. It didn’t last much longer than that in my town, or any town. Following the extremely successful 1981 movie, The Fox and the Hound (my favorite Disney movie) The Black Cauldron was the first Disney movie to lose money at the Box Office, ever.

After 48 years and 24 movies, Disney made a dud. Except I loved it! It was darker than the last Disney movie, The Fox and the Hound and it drew me in completely. The Black Cauldron tells the story of Taran, a young hog farmer dreaming of becoming a great warrior and defeating the Horned King.

Besides being the first Disney move to flop it is also the first in a few other categories. It was the first Disney movie:

  • Filmed in Dolby Stereo
  • Receive PG rating
  • Use Computer Generated Imagery (CGI)

If you didn’t see The Black Cauldron during it’s short theater run in 1985 you had to wait until the late 90’s to watch it. Disney didn’t release it on VHS until 1998!

National Lampoon’s European Vacation

This was my first introduction to the ‘Vacation’ movies. The first Vacation movie received an ‘R’ rating which meant I’d never see it in the theaters and couldn’t rent it to watch at home. But European Vacation was able to get a ‘PG-13’ rating and I was at the theater opening weekend. I loved (and still do) this movie.

I’ve discussed things not allowed in my house as a kid and Saturday Night Live was a show we couldn’t watch. I wasn’t exposed to the funny, slapstick comedy of Chevy Chase until seeing this movie. It reminded my of the black and white comedies my dad watched; The Keystone Cops, The Three Stooges and Laurel and Hardy.

Clark Griswold is a clumsy buffoon who wants to make sure his family has the best vacation possible. Along the way he destroys Stonehenge, gets stuck in a roundabout for hours(this is more fact than fiction, those roundabouts are nuts!), starts a fight at a Bavarian folk dance festival and breaks the Statue of Liberty on the way home! Just your average, boring vacation.

More from July 1985

Those aren’t the only great movies released in July 1985. The others on the list never made it to my theater.

1985 Movie_Posters

Explorers

A decent science fiction story for young kids. It faced a lot of difficulties during release and never made an impact at the box office. It’s notable as the movie debut of both River Phoenix and Ethan Hawke. When I finally saw the movie, I enjoyed it for the sci-fi adventure and space theme.

Explorers is available free on Amazon Prime

Red Sonja

I would have loved to see this in the theater!! But it wasn’t meant to be. It never came to my town. Red Sonja was by all accounts a box-office bomb. It was produced by the same team that made Conan the Destroyer, but it didn’t have the same impact. I rented Red Sonja the following year and loved the movie! It’s right up my alley, Barbarians, Sorcerers, sword fights, what’s not to love.

Brigitte Nielsen would redeem herself later in 1985 playing Ludmilla Drago in Rocky IV.

The Legend of Billie Jean

Another one that didn’t make it to my theater. It wasn’t a success at the box office but has become a cult classic over the years. The Legend of Billie Jean features Helen Slater as Billie Jean and Christian Slater(no relation) in his movie debut, as Binx. When Binx’s scooter is trashed by the local rich kid, Billie Jean demands his father give them the money to fix it. During the confrontation Billie Jean shoots the father, who was trying to rape her, and Billie Jean and Binx go on the run. Along the way they become local heroes and try to prove their innocence.

While it sounds like a depressing story, it’s not. It’s a fantastic movie with a great soundtrack! The Legend of Billie Jean was quick to the VHS market, hitting in late 1985. I rented it sometime in 1986. Fair is Fair!

What was your favorite movie from July 1985? Below is the list.

Movies Released in July 1985

  • Back to the Future
  • Red Sonja
  • The Lift
  • Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome
  • Explorers
  • Silverado
  • Day of the Dead
  • The Legend of Billie Jean
  • The Man with One Red Shoe
  • The Black Cauldron
  • The Heavenly Kid
  • Kiss of the Spider Woman
  • National Lampoon’s European Vacation

Stay tuned for Part II, I’ll be covering movies from August 1985

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About Pitfall Gary 85 Articles
Just your average Gen X'er. Born in the 70s and raised in the Decade of Decadence! I rode my bike without a helmet and was home when the street lights came on. I love to reminisce about the good ol' days; Movies, TV, music, if it happened in my childhood I'll share it with you.