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.