I've said many times that it doesn't feel like it's really Christmas if I'm not blinded while walking down the hall toward the tree. You see, filming indoors required special lights. Dad had a fixture holding four flood lights that attached to his camera and pointed where the camera was pointing.
Possibly, over the years, indoor film improved to the point that it didn't need quite that much illumination. Dad was a conservative sort, so he'd have kept the lights long after they were strictly necessary, as long as they didn't interfere with the result.
For years he used a Kodak Brownie camera, which had been the first affordable family movie camera. He took films and labeled films and took more films without being able to play them back. It was a long time, in kid years, before my folks thought that they could afford a projector.
I don't know how long it was before Grandma and Grandpa bought a projector. They had one for as far as my memory stretches back.
So we'd arrange to go to Grandma's and Grandpa's, who lived two blocks up the street from us, and we'd watch movies at their house. We had uncles and aunts and cousins who lived nearby, and on movie night, some of them might come over.
Movie night was great. Most of the movies were about us kids, when we were younger, and it felt nice to be made important that way. It was fun to see the projector working and hear the noise it made. It was fun to hear the adults talking over the top of the movie, swapping stories about the people in them.
The highlight, though, for a kid was the ice cream. We never had ice cream at our house. Not in the time of frequent movie nights, anyway. But Grandma usually had some in her freezer.
We'd take our dishes into the front room and sit on the floor (the adults got the regular seats in the front room: the couch, the stuffed chairs, the relocated kitchen chairs). And we'd smoosh the ice cream with the back of our spoons until it loosened up. Then we'd stir it until it softened enough that we could fluff it into peaks.
Peaked ice cream was the best. It made us think of Foster's Freeze, a soft-serve ice cream (to us - technically, it could have been custard or 'dairy dessert') that was a special treat, rarer than boxed ice cream.
If movie night ran late, we'd be given pillows to sit or lean on. Sometimes we fell asleep before movie night was over.
When we were older, Dad bought his own projector and a special 'lenticular' screen. We watched movies at home sometimes, but it was never the same. So sometimes, the family movie nights would still happen. Maybe Dad would bring his projector and screen to my Aunt and Uncle's house. Maybe we'd just go to Grandma and Grandpa's again.
Movie night usually happened after someone got a few new reels back from the developer. I'm guessing that in the very beginning, Mom and Dad had to budget when to get film developed, with the film sometimes waiting months or years before it could be developed and shown. But the point of the movies was to preserve the moments, so as long as they were on film, that was OK. It was more important to be able to afford the next film for the next milestone than it was to develop a reel or two and be able to watch them.