February 3, 2011

Going to "the show"

Going to “the show” was a regular part of my childhood.
Tickets cost 50 cents at the small-town theater.
One needed another quarter for popcorn and a small
soda. A local family-owned theater, the Kent showed
first-run movies on its one screen.

In summer 1967, I watched “Gone with the Wind”
at the Kent with my cousin. Seeing the 1939 treasure
represented several firsts. This was my first foray to
a theater without a supervising adult. This was also
the first time I saw a movie with such adult themes.
The movie hints at or demonstrates many of the Seven
Deadly Sins in lush Technicolor.

I cannot forget my first look at the jaw-dropping scene at Five Points Atlanta
where Scarlett O’Hara first encounters the injured and
dead Confederate soldiers. The camera leaves the brunette
beauty and sweeps across the scene, showing the
growing devastation of the War on this southern city.

I did not see “Gone with the Wind” on the big screen
for many years, and subsequent showings of tapes and
DVDs lacked the impact of my first viewing.

In the mid 1980s, we lived in Florida, and joined the Tampa
Theater Society. This group remodeled an old theater
and showed legendary flicks on the big screen. We saw
many movies including “Gone with the Wind” and
“The Wizard of Oz” for the first and only time on a large
screen. This is the way movies should be seen.

This small-town theatre had crushed red velvet seats
and a large screen. Even as multiplex theaters opened
in larger towns nearby, this theater continued to show
first-run movies until after I grew up and moved
away. Access to movies gave me a curiosity
about the larger world, and the love of a good

Local ownership was great for the community but
bad for teenagers. When I went to see “Summer of ’42”
with its For Mature Audiences Only rating, Mrs. Theater
Owner ratted me out to my grandmother.

Several years later, my family attended a movie premiere
at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. The
theater district of the early 1970s was seedy, run-down
and unsafe, especially for a young couple from Indiana
and their two children. We stayed at a Holiday Inn near
Times Square, and walked to the Rockefeller Center area
for the opening “Darling Lili.” The movie starred Julie
Andrews and Rock Hudson and was a box-office bust.
To date, this ranks as one of the worst movies I have
ever seen.

In the 44 years since I watched “Gone with the Wind”
in that tiny theater, much about the movies and the
movie-going public has changed.

Children weaned on the latest video games dictate
the way stories are told. New and greater technology
raises the bar higher and higher. Think of some of the
recent hit movies like “Up” and “Avatar” that are fully
animated. Animated movies are nothing new — “Snow
White” came out two years before “Gone with the
Wind” in 1937.

Maybe I am old-fashioned but all I really need and
want is a good story. “Up” was a delightful surprise, a
tale about a lonely widower and a neighborhood child.
Technology can add to a good story, but technology
without a good story is just that, technology.

When was the last time you sat in a movie theatre
and sobbed? Or laughed so loud your spouse elbowed

I have to admit my passion for movies in a theatre
dwindles as the ticket prices skyrocket. My town has
one multiplex theater and we do not often get movies
as quickly as I would like. A matinee ticket is $7 and if
you add small popcorn and two drinks, that is another
$13. The bad news is that two tickets and snacks bring
the total to $27.

The good news is that small popcorn today will feed
a family of four.

This The Raven Lunatic column was published in several Indiana newspapers during the week of February 1, 2011.