Monday, September 21, 2009

At the Movies

Each of us probably remembers fondly a childhood movie theater. As a child, growing up on the south side of Chicago, I would go to double features on Saturdays to the Jeffery Theater in South Shore. This ornate theater was long ago gutted, as the neighborhood deteriorated, and now houses the main offices of Shore Bank, a community based lender, specializing in low interest loans for low income people. After moving to Southern California as a pre-teen, my fifty cents allowed me to see every western or horror movie at the Strand or at the historic Fox Redondo Beach. The later, filled with murals and gilt with incredible filigree had been a famous vaudeville stage for L.A. beach goers of the 20's and 30's before being converted to a movie theater. It was torn down in the late 1960's to build King Harbor, an elaborate marina in Redondo Beach. Later, as a young adult, I saw excellent movies, while sitting in plush loges in the rococo-style Liberty Theater in Astoria, Oregon, the interior of which has been photographed and been blogged in Astoria Daily Photo. These venerable old movie houses, marquees with thousands of colored lights, huge flowing curtains hiding the screen and stage, thick cushioned seats, elaborate foyers with highly polished chrome snack bars, and bathrooms with hexagonal tile and porcelain fixtures, made movie-going such a special event.

In my post today, I snapped a picture of Bend, Oregon's former vintage movie theater, The Tower. According to Wikipedia, it was built rather recently in 1940 and had a seating capacity of 998 using two levels. The tower was 40 feet high and the name had been surrounded by 1200 feet of neon tubes of green and yellow. Like so many others of its era, the theater eventually closed. Today, through grants and local support, the Tower Theater is now a hub of cultural activity. There are plays, lectures, musical events and can be rented by the public for special events, such as weddings. It has been beautifully refitted and has an excellent sound system. Nonetheless, when I go inside, I miss the feel of the authentic. I want diligent, uniformed ushers with long flashlights, Movietone News on the screen, three or four cartoons as a warm-up, and John Wayne or Vincent Price in cinemascope. Everything else seems out-of-place.

9 comments:

Sylvia K said...

Ah, you brought back some memories this evening, Lee! Great post! I remember those movie theaters, the ones I went to as a child and a teenager in Dallas. The last time I went to one was almost a year ago here in Seattle and I missed the same things you mentioned.

Sylvia

tapirgal said...

You sure brought the atmosphere home. Excellent post.

bettyl said...

Ah, yes, the fond memories of a Saturday spent at the movie theater. Thanks for the nostalgia.

Raksha said...

It's strange but when I read the first line of your post, I immediately thought of the Strand Theater in Redondo Beach. That was before I knew you were going to write about it. For some unknown reason I'm drawing a blank on the other one you mentioned, the Fox Redondo Beach, although I'm sure I was there more than once. That's a great idea to look up once-familiar places in Wikipedia when your memory flakes out on you. I don't know why never thought of that.

Unseen Rajasthan said...

Great post !! Cinema Hall Reminds me of the time when i used to bunk my school to watch movies..Unseen Rajasthan

Small City Scenes said...

I haven't been to a movie theater in many years and when I think of theaters I recall the ones of my youth. I grew up in Seattle and Portland and they had the great fancy houses. The Paramount, Fifth Avenue and the Orpheum, all grand ladies. My Mother has a chunk of the Orpheum when they tore it down. Thanks for the memory. MB

B SQUARED said...

The Cedar-Lee Theater, $.25 matinees on Saturday and Sunday. Memories!

Jacob said...

I remember those incredibly ornate movie houses in downtown Minneapolis back in the 50s...balconies that went to the heavens...

By the by, we used to go down to the State Theater (I think that's what it was called)on Chicago's south side to hear Jesse Jackson in the late 60s ... that was quite an experience ... I even wrote a story for his Operation Breadbasket...

Now, almost all of those old theaters are long gone...so sad.

prashant said...

Great post !! Cinema Hall Reminds me of the time when i used to bunk my school to watch movies.
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