Saturday, March 22, 2008

Movie Theaters Used To Have Such CLASS

When I was a kid, there were two movie houses in town. Both were very old theaters, quite ordinary-looking on the outside. Once inside, however, there was nothing ordinary about either of them.

We bought our tickets at the booth outside the theater. Nobody entered the lobby without a ticket. Once in the lobby, the magic started, but the lobby, draped in red velvet curtains and gold trim as it was, couldn't hold a candle to what was waiting for us through either of the two draped doorways into the theater itself.

Most old theaters, on the inside, looked like medieval castles. Since I live in The Limestone Capital of the World, our theaters were stone, inside and out. The stage itself was a genuine stage, where live plays and concerts could be performed, not just a wall with a screen hanging on it. On either side of the stage, in each of those corners, were turrets and towers and colorful flags on long poles, that made everyone in the audience feel that he/she was in a palace. There was often a real balcony by these turrets, large enough for an announcer or emcee or soloist to stand. In my mind's eye, everything was stone, or red, or gold, or velvet, inside those old theaters.

Lining both sides of the theater were real balconies, where people who wanted to be seen could sit, but the view from the side wasn't all that great.

The seats on the bottom floor of the theater began about a foot from the stage and extended all the way back to the opposite wall. If we sat in the front row, we had to look absolutely straight up to see the screen. Above was the main balcony, which started around the middle of the theater and went all the way up to the back wall.

"Sitting in the balcony" didn't cover the front half of the balcony. Anybody could sit in the front half of the balcony. "Sitting in the balcony" meant, sitting in the back ten rows or so of the balcony. It didn't have anything to do with watching a movie, either. Bad girls sat back there. Girls got pregnant just from sitting in a back balcony seat. Once a girl sat "in the balcony," her reputation was ruined. People gasped if you mentioned that the theater was crowded and you had to sit in the balcony. Girls were asked if they had sat in the balcony, or actually "sat in the balcony." Boys would always ask hopefully if their date wanted to sit "in the balcony." Mothers would say, "You didn't sit in the balcony, did you?" Teachers warned us about sitting in the balcony.

Little boys generally sat in the front row of the balcony so they could drop popcorn and ice on the people below. Sitting in those middle seats down there was hazardous.

Every theater had several ushers, in gorgeous brightly-colored uniforms and goofy hats, whose main job was to keep people quiet while the movie was playing. I sincerely wish that theaters would bring back the ushers.

I don't remember ever going to the movies as a kid that I didn't get to watch at least one rowdy get thrown out of the theater. Old people, young people, little kids. . . all you had to do back then was clear your throat a couple of times and the usher would be there, shining a flashlight into your face. It was awesome, and everybody else was always so grateful. If theaters would just spring for a few ushers, there would be no more disgusting chatterers, disturbing gigglers, annoying cell phone talkers or ringing, no crying babies, no climbing toddlers, no rude people at all. What they paid out for usher salaries would be made up in people coming back to the movie theaters who haven't been in years because it was so noisy. As for offended people who didn't return because they weren't allowed to let their kid run wild or talk during the film. . . who cares? Good riddance.

Each theater ran only one movie at a time. A movie was usually there for a week and one, maybe two weekends. Modern theaters run a dozen or more movies at a time, and I think it takes away from the magic that movies used to be. I think studios made better quality movies when they concentrated on making one at a time, instead of trying to release as many as possible in a year's time. Quantity isn't the same as quality, as our mothers used to tell us. They were right, too.

Modern theaters have no individual character now, either. They're just one huge building divided into little cells, each with a different movie showing. The cells could be somebody's basement. None of them has any personality. Some of them have folding chairs. We don't even have to plan ahead to go to a movie now, either. Whenever we get to the theater, there will always be some movie or another getting ready to start. Some people, these days, go to the theater and pay to see any movie that's handy, instead of seeing a preview, reading about a movie that's about something you're interested in and being reminded of that preview, hearing someone who's seen the movie talk about it, discuss going for a while, and then finally, all excitement and money in your pocket for Junior Mints, going to the movie.

Movie trailers, back then, really piqued our interest, too. They were classy and well-done, and made us interested in coming back and watching, without giving away any of the really good stuff. Modern trailers are often the best parts of the movie, including the ending, and then when you do go to see the movie, it's boring because you've already seen the good stuff, or they've changed it so much between the time the preview was filmed and the film was released, you don't even recognize it.

Newsreels were long before my time, but I wish they'd bring them back. It would do people good to know what's going on in the world. They don't show a really good cartoon before the movie any more, either, and I wish they would. Disney doesn't count; they're just blowing their own horn when they do it. Back in the day - and I don't remember this either - movie stars would often visit a theater that was playing one of their films, and stand around in the lobby talking with people and signing autograph books. Nowadays, many celebrities are so full of themselves, they charge money for an autograph or brush a fan's request aside, even when it's not inconvenient. (Fans who bother a celebrity when he/she is busy deserve a brush-off.)

Movies are fun in any case, but having ONE BIG MOVIE playing, and everybody going to see it and therefore having something in common to discuss in study hall on Monday, was a lot more of a big deal than throwing a dart at the list of twenty-seven movies all playing seven days a week, with a new one beginning every fifteen minutes, and randomly going to see whatever title the dart hit.

I seldom go to the movies any more, mainly because of the obnoxious noisy people who aren't thrown out any more but are allowed to remain and destroy the experience for the nice people, and because of the price. Movies are just too darn expensive now. I can wait a month, buy it on eBay or Amazon for less than the price of a ticket, keep it if I like it, and sell it back if I don't. Complicated? Maybe, but not as much of a hassle as trying to keep my temper when I've paid to see a movie and can't because of rude, immature, disgusting loud people who can't sit still, either, and would rather DIE than turn off their cell phones, and who have more rights than well-behaved people because these days, we are all so worried about stepping on somebody's personal rights or injuring their self esteem that we step on everybody else's personal rights and figure the self-esteem of a nice person isn't worth as much as the self-esteem of a rude beast.

I dream sometimes about those old-fashioned movie houses. It was so easy for a little girl to imagine being a princess, when she's sitting underneath a bouquet of turrets.

That's where I was sitting when I first saw Sleeping Beauty in her beautiful BLUE dress.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 1:38 AM | |


I am Mamacita. Accept no substitutes! Hitting the fan like no one else can. . .
I'm Speaking at BlogHer 08 Archives Links

My Classical Blogroll

This is a Flickr badge showing public photos from Mamacita3855. Make your own badge here.

Credits Powered by Blogger

Designed by Swank Web Style
< <


Honors Blogrolling.com Hot 500


Lijit Search/a> < BlogHer.org Logo


Listed Subscribe with Bloglines

View My Public Stats on MyBlogLog.com

Personal Blogs - Blog Catalog Blog Directory

Listed on BlogShares


DIARIST.NET Registered!

Technorati Tags:

Technorati search

Free Hit Counter