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Lights, Camera, Action: Bringing Back the Family Movie Night

Lights, Camera, Action: Bringing Back the Family Movie Night

December 7, 2021

My husband and I are blessed with the opportunity to “kid sit” one evening each week, and the time spent with our four-year-old granddaughter never disappoints. While the specifics vary from week to week, we typically play some games, share a meal, and enjoy a movie together before beginning the nightly routine of brushing teeth, donning pjs, reading books, and protesting bedtime. 

This got me thinking about movie nights when I was a kid—before the emergence of VCRs, DVD players, and other apps or devices that now offer so many commercial films on demand. When I was a child, “family movie night” meant something very different; it was time spent laughing and reminiscing over events and family—sometimes long-passed—as home movies were lovingly captured with a variety of low-tech movie cameras. (Even as I write, I can almost hear the sound of sprockets catching the film on that beloved, old “vintage” projector!)

As a kid, I simply loved seeing the younger images of my sister and myself on film, and to me, the stories shared about the vacations, gatherings, and relatives captured on these acetate treasures were better than any storybook ever written. As I recall, these family movie nights often began with a significant amount of begging on my part. After my parents accepted the inevitable—namely, that I would not be deterred from my quest for an impromptu movie night—my dad would haul out the 8mm projector and the large canister that magically transformed into an in-home movie screen, while my mom retrieved shoeboxes of meticulously labelled film reels. Movie selection was made by committee, and then it was “lights, camera, action!” as my vision of a perfect evening began to unfold.

As a parent, many years later, I too, recorded the special moments of my own children’s youth, from first steps and “Hallway Olympics” to sporting events and music performances. And I must admit that viewing these films still calls up the comfort, love, and sense of belonging I experienced in my own childhood on those first family movie nights.

So, I wonder: As you read this, are you reflecting on your own family movie nights? Or are you, perhaps, thinking about the film reels, slides, and photos stored in your own “shoeboxes,” patiently waiting for an opportunity to be shared with loved ones? As we approach the season of winter hibernating, perhaps you’ll consider setting yourself the goal of organizing—or better still, digitizing—those filmed treasures to open a vista of new and exciting opportunities for family gatherings in 2022. 

Remember that MGC has a number of published resources to guide you through this process. MGC also has a scanner and slide digitizer that can be used to convert photos and slides to digital images that can be shared remotely with family that can’t gather together in your living room at this time.

So, what do you think? Will you help bring back family movie nights for those you hold dear? Lights, camera, action!

Kim A.
Midwest Genealogy Center

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