Friday, June 10, 2005

Pass the Popcorn...

Going to the movies has been on my mind today. I signed up for Netflix a few weeks back and that is working out well, but I know that during Mrs. Pratt's absence I'll probably be at the movies to watch films she wouldn't want to see. Translated that means any sci-fi, or comic book based flick.

So yeah I'll catch "Batman Begins", "Fantastic Four", and "Star Wars III" by myself.

I really should insist she goes with me, since ten years ago if a movie had Merchant-Ivory above the title I was forced to sit through it...You know that Howard's End/Remains of the Day/ Enchanted April triumverate of chickflickery.

I think back to my earliest memories of going to the movies. The old Palace Theater in Hamburg, NY. It used to be an old vaudeville theater,built in 1926, and it still stands today right in the center of town. I used to go to 75 cent matinees on Saturday afternoons.

Yes they were talkies. sheesh.

I remember seeing Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory there. And all those 70's live action Disney movies like "Escape from Witch Mountain", "The Apple Dumpling Gang", No Deposit No Return", "Herbie Rides Again","Gus","The Strongest Man in the World." "Taxi Driver"...yeah all the kid fare at the time.

There used to be an elderly man and woman who I think ran the theater. The lady sold the candy. The old guy took tickets and was the usher who would bark at you to keep your feet off the seats. He wore thick glasses and resembled the Mr. Six character from the Six Flags Great adventure commercials.I always remember his dark green jacket he wore and he never smiled. Well of course, he was ushering in groups of unruly kids every saturday and that theater got rowdy between the Woody Woodpecker cartoon and all the Pixie sticks we scarfed down.The Palace had this beautiful purple velt curtain that would slowly and silently rise when the movie would begin.That's my favorite meory of going to the movies.That curtain rising moment.


There was also LeisureLand Cinemas. This was a theater with 2 screens!! Added on to the largest bowling alley in town, well it became a social hot spot for teens. The thing I remember most about the Leisureland cinemas was in their lobby wall they had a great mural of Chaplin,W.C. Fields, Mae West, The Marx Brothers, James Cagney, Garbo, Lon Chaney. I fell in love with the movies every time I saw that.
That theater closed when the multiplexes of the malls started.

The first time I went into a ginormous Mall movie theater was in the Summer of 1977. My oldest brother one day packed me and my two younger sisters into the car and said. "C'mon you have to see this movie."

It was Star Wars.

Yeah. I've never forgotten that.

Throughout high school the Mall movie theater became where my friends and I would go when not at the roller rink.Sometimes the Skyway Drive-In. Oh stop laughing it was the early 1980's.

I moved to Long Island in 1983 and was nearby another mall multiplex at Roosevelt Field Mall. The summer of 1989 me and a bunch of my college friends stood in lines for hours( the only time I did that for a movie) to catch the premiere of Batman.
Another cool moment. I think my friends Clive, Dave and I made a homemade bat signal with a pen flashlight and a bat cutout and as a joke put that on the blank screen.

But by 1989- renting a movie was becoming an option. The multiplexes flourished, but going wasn't that fun an experience anymore what with endless previews, then commercials, cellphones, people who bring crying kids into late night showings. With a good set of cable channels and a decent video store , I eventually caught all the must see movies I'd previously had to troop down to the cinema to see.

I haven't been inside a movie theater since last winter. I think we saw Sideways.

But in the next few weeks I'll return to catch some summertime entertainment. Home theater is great but there is still the magic of the darkened theater and laughing or crying with an audience of a few hundred.

Pass the popcorn...

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