As a boy growing up with four younger sisters, family trips to the movie theater were exceedingly rare. My family was of modest means, and taking the whole herd out for that kind of outing was a very pricey proposition. Unfortunately for my mom, I was cinema-obsessed from a young age. Whenever a movie I was excited about was on the verge of release, I would keep a blank tape in the VCR so that on the off chance a commercial was shown I could record it for later viewing. (I even got the idea once that if I taped enough different trailers, I would have the whole movie recorded).
There were a few occasions when my frothing demand for a movie was so overwhelming for my poor mother that she would drop me off at the movies by myself and take my sisters somewhere else for a few hours before coming back to pick me up. This is how I saw Ghostbusters II, and I never had the heart to tell my mother how much it failed to live up to the expectations of my 10-year-old self.
On other occasions, our whole family would go out to see a movie, but usually not until it hit the third-run, dollar theater. By the time I saw Back to the Future Part III, I had seen so many commercials for it that I already knew that the way our heroes would make their way out of the past was by way of a modified steam locomotive. This is the first time I remember my voracious appetite for clips and trailers that I spoiled a movie for myself. I wonder now if that wasn’t the reason I didn’t care for the film, despite being a huge fan of the first two entries in the series. I haven’t seen the movie all the way through since that theater outing as an 11-year old, and I’m considering moving that trilogy to the top of my Netflix queue so I can re-evaluate the film after so many of the GameSpite commenters disagreed with my disregard for that film.
[[image:090421_mti.jpg:Some books on my bookshelf:center:0]]
Still, trips to the movie theater were a rare treat. It was always much easier to talk my mom into buying me the novelization of the film. My first experience with Gremlins, another landmark film in my childhood, was with the novelization. Likewise with the sequel. So many of the movies I now consider seminal experiences that shaped my tastes and preferences were introduced to me via their (often poorly written) movie-tie-in mass-market paperbacks.
Even today I have a soft spot for film tie-ins and novelizations and was even collecting them for a time. Bret Easton Ellis is a writer whose work I greatly admire, and despite already owning his novel American Psycho before the movie of the film was released, I imported the MTI from England so I could own a copy of the book with the movie poster as the cover. The majority of what I read for pleasure these days are books that take place in the Star Wars universe, and while these are mostly originally tales they are all also technically MTIs. I have the MTIs for several works of literature that wouldn’t be out of place taught in a university English course: Jack London’s The Sea Wolf and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road among them, and I have multiple versions of Tolkien’s works with images of Peter Jackson’s films adorning them.
[[image:090421_mti2.jpg:Virtual Bookshelves Just Aren’t as Satisfying:center:0]]
The movie-tie-in satisfies multiple urges present in my lizard-brain: love of reading; love of cinema; love of collecting; and above all my addiction to nostalgia and things that remind me of my youth. As I increasingly move away from collecting physical objects (already I lack room for the hundreds of books I own) and instead get my books delivered digitally (via two magnificent iPhone apps: Stanza and Kindle) I feel like I’m leaving something important behind. Just the other day while browsing the books at the grocery store, I saw a MTI written by legendary sci-fi author Timothy Zahn — a prequel to the upcoming Terminator movie — and I didn’t immediately buy it. I decided instead to see if it was available on the Amazon Kindle store. The ten-year-old me would never understand that decision, as owning something like that would have been one of the coolest things ever.
Oh, what the hell. I think I’ll go back tomorrow and buy it. Can’t read a Kindle book in the tub, after all, and it probably wouldn’t have the movie art, one of the best things about a MTI in the first place.