‘Elvis’ drew me back to the real picture show

By John Toth

The Bulletin


We finally ventured back to the movies - the real ones with seats, a big screen, Dolby surround sound and admission tickets.


What drew me back was “Elvis.” I didn’t want to wait until it came out on one of the paid streaming sites, so off we went to the movies.


“Make sure you ask for the senior discount,” Sharon reminded me. That still sounds strange, but it saves a few bucks.


“That will be $12,” said the box office clerk.


“Twelve dollars each?” I asked.


“No,”she replied. “That’s the total.”


“That’s a deal. I’ll take it.” I said.


We were going to spend some more money at the concession stand, but the line was too long, so we just went into the theater and settled into our seats as we watched what seemed to be an endless series of previews.


There were maybe 20 people in the theater on a Saturday night, which suggested to me that today’s younger movie goers don’t know much about Elvis. The film doesn’t really appeal to today’s music connoisseurs, so that’s understandable.


The movie is 2 ½-hours long, not including the 30 minutes of previews. That’s three hours of sitting in a theater seat. But I was a happy camper and looked forward to seeing a movie about a performer I admired as a child and teen.


The bad thing about a movie like this is that we know the ending. I rooted that Elvis would be able to pull away from Colonel Tom Parker’s management, that he would go on a world tour with new management, that he’d kick his drug habit, that he’d get back with Priscilla and that he wouldn’t die at age 42.


But all these things happened, and the ending was sad, just like I knew it would be. What a happier ending it would have been if he could have changed some of these outcomes. There may still not be an ending. Mick Jagger is 79 and going strong. Who knows how long Elvis would have been able to belt out “Hound Dog”?


Austin Butler plays Elvis in the movie and does the best Elvis impersonation I have yet seen. Tom Hanks plays Tom Parker and manages to perfectly portray him as the greedy, two-faced liar that he was.


Elvis was a giant figure in the entertainment world, even in his later years. I was attending a Yes concert in Portland, Maine, on Aug. 13, 1977, after we closed up the summer camp where I worked and were getting ready to return to real life. (For those unaware, the band, Yes, still exists, but has gone through a “cast” of 19 members and is known as a pioneering English progressive rock band formed in 1968. (“I’ve Seen All Good People”, “Your Move,” etc.)


At the end of the Yes concert, they announced that Elvis Presely concert tickets for the next weekend were still available for purchase.


I told my friend that I needed to head back to the big city to register for college classes. If there were any tickets left after I got the classes squared away, I’d get two tickets through Ticketron, and we’d drive back to Portland to see Elvis.


Elvis never made it to Portland. He died on Aug. 16, 1977.