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Pulp Fiction

I was an usher and doorman at the Harvard Square movie theater (Loews) in the early 1990s. At that time Loews sent us what they considered to be more "artistic" movies, at least as far as major studio distributors were concerned. We may not have had the esoteric art films being screened at the Coolidge Corner or the vintage classics of the Brattle Theater down the street, but we did screen all of Woody Allen's movies, Kenneth Branagh's Much Ado About Nothing, a number of subtitled foreign movies including Ang Lee's early movies, Like Water For Chocolate, and so on. We showed Reservoir Dogs when it premiered, and then we had the premiere of Pulp Fiction. That was an experience in itself, and one of my favorite memories of working at a movie theater.

Miramax sent Pulp Fiction to us in the fall of 1994, and it remained in our big theater for the entire three months it was here. The theater was packed for this movie during the entire three months. We had a preview screening the night before it premiered, and I caught a few minutes of the movie during my break that evening: I watched the scene where Butch (Bruce Willis) sneaks into his apartment, discovers the gun on the kitchen counter, and kills Vince (John Travolta). That was enough to get me to come in on Saturday morning see Pulp Fiction on the big screen.

One curious phenemenon occured with this movie at our theater: every Saturday night, without exception, we had to call an ambulance to the theater. Imagine sitting in a packed 500-seat house, watching for the first time the scene when Vince stabs Mia with a huge needle. The tension of that scene was so intense, someone in the audience would pass out during that moment. I'm not kidding: every Saturday night, someone panicked or fainted during that scene, and the theater manager had to call an ambulance to help the person. The Cambridge 911 line even expected our call: at least once, they quipped, "Pulp Fiction again?" "Yup."

Pulp Fiction was still drawing crowds when Loews moved it from our theater to a different one. Our theater manager commented that we'd miss it. And indeed, we did. It was quite a while after that before we had a movie that packed the house the way this one did. We'd had Schindler's List and The Crying Game for a full six months each, but they eventually dwindled and were moved to our second-rate screens. I don't think any other movie during my time there kept the crowds coming in the way Pulp Fiction did.