Saturday, November 23, 2013

Requiem for (some) Movie Theatres

This could almost stand as a guest post by my husband. It isn't strictly that, it's a set of a few of his own photographs of old movie theatres we've encountered on our travels. Some are still going strong - well, strong-ish. Some stand unused but with facades still kept neat, some are truly derelict, in need of TLC; a few have been recycled.

While compiling the draft of this post I began thinking about old movie theatres in England. How could I have forgotten that for 23 years I'd lived in an apartment attached to an old cinema in North Leeds, Yorkshire? The cinema, built in 1937, had been The Kingsway. By 1973, when we moved into one of the four apartments attached, laughingly called "Kingsway Mansions", film shows had long ceased, the building had been recycled and was in use as a synagogue.....cinemagogue? The building and apartments are no more. They were consumed by fire in 1996, nearly taking us with them. More on this part of my life and adventures is at a post Tranistory Adventures with Uranus, Neptune, Pluto and Saturn.

But I digress (nostalgia took over!) Back to husband's photographs, beginning with an introduction he wrote to the first photograph shown below, though it could relate equally to all dead or ailing movie theaters across the land - indoors or out.

(Clicking on any of the following photographs will take you to husband's original at Flickr. This link should take you to the full set of around 54 photographs)

Gone with the past.
A few miles from our home 

What does this photo awaken in you?

Do you feel mystified? Do you ask, “What is that?”

Perhaps it just makes you nostalgic; A little sad.

Do you think of your first time at the movies? Do you think of your first time at the drive-in? Or do you just think of a first time?

Do you think of her? Do you think of “that boy” who had a car?

There are those who will see this as a piece of their past, a piece of their culture. There are those who will re-live a moment; an event; remember a movie, a car, a night.

There was that movie. There was the night it rained. There was the night the car wouldn’t start when the movie was over.. There was that movie you weren’t supposed to see. Mom found out anyway.

There was that trunk full of schoolmates. Sometimes the trunk load was more fun than the movie.

Or maybe you remember your life-mate beside you in the front seat and the children asleep in the back.

There was that movie: Creature from the Black Lagoon, Giant, Splendor in the Grass. The Thing. And those perfectly silly concession-stand advertisements that actually made you hungry for hot-dogs and popcorn, even though you had just had dinner.

And after the movie, as you drove home, you could see the strange flickering, blue-white glow in some of the picture windows of the houses on your street. You didn’t think of that glow as an end of an era. But it was.

Then there are those who will wonder what this is. They will wonder what they missed.

Granada Twin theater
In Plainview, Texas. The name Plainview apparently has something to do with being situated in view of the “High Plains” of Texas. The town is noted for a great archeological find establishing a huge bison like animal named the Bison Taylori and a strain of man inhabiting the area some 10 thousand years ago now called “The Plainview Man.”

The Serf
In Las Vegas, New Mexico

Now Showing
In Dumas Texas

In Clayton, New Mexico

Midwest Theater   Scottsbluff, Nebraska
In Scottsbluff, Nebraska

The Fort - Now Playing
Re-cycled - in Kearney Nebraska

Help me
SOS - from Paris Texas

The Cyclone

The Franroy
2 from Snyder, Oklahoma

The Roby
Just a false front remains of The Roby in Roby, Texas.

The Redlands
In Clinton, Oklahoma

Now playing
El Reno, Oklahoma

Cornes Theater
In tiny Farmersville, Texas.

“Humans had built a world inside the world, which reflected it in pretty much the same way as a drop of water reflected the landscape. And yet ... and yet ...

Inside this little world they had taken pains to put all the things you might think they would want to escape from — hatred, fear, tyranny, and so forth. Death was intrigued. They thought they wanted to be taken out of themselves, and every art humans dreamt up took them further in. He was fascinated.”

~ Terry Pratchett, "Wyrd Sisters".

Theaters are always going to be around, and doing fine. With computers and technology, we're becoming more and more secluded from each other. And the movie theater is one of the last places where we can still gather and experience something together. I don't think the desire for that magic will ever go away. ~ Wolfgang Petersen.


mike said...

Most of the old theater photographs you post are beautiful buildings...long may they live. I'm very partial to the buildings built during the nuevo and deco periods.

I tried to find the date of the Peterson quote; it's referenced in a 2006 article. I'm not too sure that Peterson is correct, as I've read about many major theater chains in bankruptcy over the past decade.

My city has a downtown theater building called the Ritz that has been in disrepair for decades. The entire downtown is slowly becoming gentrified and there have been attempts to resurrect the theater to its former effort is underway right now...we'll see if funds can be raised.

My former haunts of Ventura, CA, successfully resurrected their ailing theater to a multi-purpose theater for the performing arts, predominantly musicians, but various other arts requiring a stage. It was a private owner that renovated the structure and brought renewal. The renovation of the theater was concurrent with the renovation of the entire downtown area...a necessary requisite.

“Think of renovating a house like operating the federal government. You start with a budget and the revenue to finance it. Then the special interests keep adding items to the list; you have to end the war between the interior decorator and the electrician, so you pump in more money to buy peace; and by the time you’re done, you’re $16 trillion in debt and having to borrow money from the Chinese.” Billy Crystal

Twilight said...

mike ~ There are some lovely examples of art deco among old movie theatres. I think art nouveau shows up more in the decor of slightly older theatres built before the silver screen came into its own. I've always loved both styles - hard to choose between them.

Our town has an older cinema with 2 screens, in Main Street, still managing to stay alive; and a newer 6-screen one. I think both struggle to remain viable. At the 6-screener we seldom see an audience of more than around 20 to 30 - and that's on a good night! We've been there with just 2 or 3 others on some occasions. We usually don't choose the biggest blockbusting movies though, and tend to go on quieter nights, not Fridays or Saturdays.

I sadly agree with you, I think the next ten years will see the demise of even more cinemas. Some might be used as concert venues or for amateur drama though - that'd be a good thing, and still provide a place for people to enjoy experiences together.