By David Raether
Back in the 1950s, a big selling point for a movie theater was the mere presence of air-conditioning. In fact, those words were often on the marquee along with the names of the movies being shown that week. Who cares what the movie was? Here was a place you could go and sit in air-conditioned comfort for a couple of hours during the summer.
In The Seven Year Itch (1962), Marilyn Monroe and Tom Ewell Go to the movies to see The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) and escape the heat of Manhattan in August. Were the two of them interested in a fairly bad monster movie? No. They were interested in the air conditioning.
Back in the 1980s and early 90s, I lived in a 220-year-old house in a small town in New Hampshire. It had many flaws, not the least of which was how the upstairs pretty much turned into a furnace during a hot summer day. A friend told us to put a fan in the window and a bucket of ice cubes in front of the fan. “It’ll be just like having an air conditioner blowing on you,” she said. No, actually, it wasn’t anything like having an air conditioner blowing on us. When I told her, the next suggestion was to put the fan in the window facing outward. “That’ll suck all the warm air in the room and blow it outside,” she said.
During one particularly bad heat wave, I decided to take my young daughters to the movies. The double bill included The Rescuers Down Under (1990) and the Mickey Mouse featurette The Prince and the Pauper (1990). That double bill should give you an idea of how desperate I was for air conditioning.
On a side note, before we go any further, do you know why they are called “dog days?” It really doesn’t have anything to do with dogs. It’s because the constellation Canis Major (big dog) appears in the night sky from late July to August. The ancient Greeks and Romans believed that the heat from this constellation combined with the sun to make the days particularly hot. So there you go. Something you can say at your next dinner party to make yourself sound smart. You’re welcome!
Since air conditioning is much more common now, there’s less of a widespread need to escape to the theater to cool down. Whether you have air conditioning or not, now’s the perfect time of the year to sit on the couch in your underwear with a big frosty jug of ice tea and watch some movies about heat waves. Here are five great ones to consider.