Movies and Theaters

fox1959Over on his Post Modern Pulp blog yesterday my friend Jack Badelaire posted a great little video short called “Four Rules to Make STAR WARS Great Again.” Besides the video being awesome, it made me reflect back on the days when those movies were first coming out, and how cool they were to me, and what it was like to be young and enthusiastic and eager for them to be released. I’d never seen anything like them before, so it was all pure magic . . . which is really what movies are when they are at their best, isn’t it? Now as an adult, the case can certainly be made for why these aren’t “great films” but that’s beside the point. For a 10yo kid, which is how old I was when Star Wars was released, you could never have told me otherwise.

Game of Thrones author George RR Martin did something cool recently. He used some of his considerable largesse to purchase, restore, and reopen the Jean Cocteau Cinema in Sante Fe, NM. He wrote a short blog post about it when the news first broke, and it recently had its grand reopening. This from Martin’s blog:

I love movies and old movie theatres, and it broke my heart to drive past the Jean Cocteau for these past seven years and see it sitting there, dark and decaying. Bringing this beloved theatre back to life is my small gesture at giving something back to Santa Fe, the community that has been my home since 1979. Might be that I will lose my shirt… but, hey, I’ve been very lucky, I have other shirts.

I love movies and old movie theaters too. I regularly drive by the theater where I saw Star Wars in 1977 as well, which sits vacant and for sale on Brooks Street in Missoula. I have an emotional attachment to it, even though it is ugly and old and in no way a classic movie theater that warrants restoration. However, I drive by this site almost every time I go to Missoula as well:

If this just looks like a parking lot, it's because it is
If this just looks like a parking lot, it’s because it is

This is where the Fox Theater used to be. I used to go to this theater all the time, and the memories of some of my favorite movies are tied to it. I remember my mom taking me out of school to go see the original 1978 Richard Donner Superman movie. I remember standing at the front of the line to get in to see Schwarzenegger’s  Conan the Barbarian turn in 1982. I remember the tipis and Indians in mural on the walls. I have a vague recollection of the lobby. I remember dashing down the sloping aisle as a kid to get a seat.

I’ve certainly seen more movies now in the multiplexes we have in town, and there are a few memories tied to those as well. Waiting outside in frigid cold with my kid to catch the first showing of The Fellowship of the Ring, for example. But as great and treasured as that memory is, it isn’t really tied to the theater. It’s more about the excitement of the day, Sid’s enthusiasm, and the snow and cold as we stamped our feet in the parking lot.

Sadly, you can’t restore a theater that was bulldozed in favor of a stupid parking lot. Thankfully, though, we still have the Wilma.


Author: Chris

Chris La Tray is a writer, a walker, and a photographer. He is an enrolled member of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians and lives in Missoula, MT.

2 thoughts on “Movies and Theaters”

  1. Kind of interesting, really.

    Since I came to Boston 18 years ago, every single commercial “Hollywood” theater that was operational then is gone now. Every. Single. One. They have been replaced by newer, and in most case nicer, theaters, but they’re all gone. The Cheri, the Nick, Cleveland Circle Cinema, Harvard Square Cinema, Allston Cinema…all gone. Cleveland Circle has been sitting vacant for about a decade, now. Some of the suburban theaters are still around, but those within the Boston/Brookline/Brighton/Allston area are all gone.

    On the other hand, the three main indie movie houses – the Brattle, the Coolidge, and the Kendall – are still doing business, and are really better than ever. The Somerville Theater, which is sort of half and half, is also still going strong.

    As sad as I am to see some of the old Hollywood theaters go, I’m glad to see the indies still standing strong.

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