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Palace of Memories, Classic Movie Theatre

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  • hawaiiguy123155
    Palace of Memories: Classic Movie Theaters Over the last few months, the Classic Movies Forum has become home to a group of true-blue classic movie fans, who
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 16, 2004
      Palace of Memories: Classic Movie Theaters

      Over the last few months, the Classic Movies Forum has become home to
      a group of true-blue classic movie fans, who delight in posing
      questions for each other, such as "What's Your Favorite Fred and
      Ginger Movie?" and "What's the Worst Line Ever Uttered?" No flames,
      no spam, just fun discussions. Kind of a minor miracle, actually.

      Recently "Mira" started a thread about old movie palaces. I thought
      that her lovely post and the equally fascinating responses that
      resulted were worth sharing with those who may not visit the Bulletin
      Board regularly. If you're one of those, I hope you'll enjoy these
      stories, and then check out the Classic Movies Forum. There's a lot
      more where this came from!

      Born in a Trunk in the Princess Theater
      From Mira

      No, this isn't about Judy Garland's dynamite number from A Star is
      Born. It's about remembrances of theaters past -- the thick-carpeted,
      gilt-arched, wall-sconced palaces of (some of) our childhoods. A few
      such cinema castles still exist, but when I was little, that was
      where you saw movies -- not at home on TV (grateful though I am for
      AMC day and night) and not in the mini-screening rooms of modern-day

      I spent a lot of time in the Patio Theater as a very little kid
      because my mom was one of the two cashiers there, and often, when my
      grandma couldn't watch me, I was allowed to go to work with mom.
      While she sold tickets, I had the time of my life and saw (sometimes
      2-3 times) every movie that came to our small town.

      Bruce was the usher. He wore a snappy light gray uniform with a
      maroon chest and a double row of small brass buttons -- sort of like
      that Johnny kid who called for Philip Morris in the old commericals.
      Bruce saw people to their seats using his flashlight. When no one
      needed his escorting, he gave me rides on his shoulders and talked to
      me about his favorite movie stars (he was in love with Carole
      Lombard) and occasionally sprang for (pure heaven) a nickel treat. I
      spent a long time deciding from among the 5-6 pull knobs on the one
      candy machine in the lobby. Never bothered with popcorn -- went
      straight for the hard stuff: Root Beer Barrels, Nonpareils (never
      bought those), Mason's Dots, Good N Plenty. And a chewing gum knob (I
      never pulled that one, either).

      I understood how quiet one must be, slipping into the darkened
      theater to watch a bit of the movie, and then out to the lobby to
      talk to Bruce, hope for candy, maybe visit my mother if no one was
      buying tickets. And sometimes to see the Theater Manager. I guess he
      was the owner too. I was scared of him, always thinking he would ask
      to see my ticket (he never did, of course). One early evening show,
      he actually invited me to pull the winning ticket stub out of the
      spinning cage to choose the person who would take home the big prize
      on "dish night." Everyone in the audience knew I was the cashier's
      kid and our family wasn't eligible for the prize, so my selecting the
      number was OK with them. What glory!

      And sometimes we had "amateur night" before the feature film. I
      remember that a little girl tried to sing "My Blue Heaven" but forgot
      the words. Her name was Helen Ann Homeier. I'll bet her mama
      reassured her that no one would ever remember. (Don't you believe it,
      Helen Ann.) OK. Sorry to ramble on. What do you remember? What was
      the name of your cinema palace? How much did a big box of popcorn
      cost? Did you sit up in the balcony? Did you sneak past the red
      velvet rope to do that? Could people smoke in your theater? Were
      there ever any amateur night bits before or after the feature film?
      Let's hear!

      Response From Chris

      Although I'm sure they were not as spectacular as some of the great
      old movie palaces in larger cities, I fondly remember the beautiful
      Alhambra and Crest Theaters in Sacramento, California, which I
      frequented in the early '60s. The Alhambra was a stately, white
      Moorish-style building with a little tiled courtyard and fountain
      outside, and the interior, of course, featured plush everything, with
      sweeping, carpeted staircases and graceful lighting fixtures in a
      rainbow of subdued colors. The interior of the Crest was similarly
      elaborate, with a sweeping crescent of a balcony and, as I recall,
      fascinating murals on the walls (always adding a touch of mystery in
      the dim light).

      Moviegoing was one of my greatest pleasures as a kid, and how well I
      remember the delicious sensation of entering the cool depths of a
      theater on a searingly hot summer afternoon, and the equally
      wonderful sensation of feeling the intense rays of the late afternoon
      sun on my face and arms when emerging again.

      The Alhambra was demolished years ago, and whether the Crest has
      survived in anything like its former glory, I don't know.

      Response From Actor

      I grew up in a small town. The theater burned down about 30 years
      ago. I visited there last Christmas, and just for the memories I
      walked the entire length of Main Street, just short of a mile. The
      lot where the theater was is still vacant. It couldn't have been more
      than 20 feet wide, probably less. I remember there were six seats on
      each side of the aile. I think it must have held a maximum of 200
      people. About the size of a "mini-screening room."

      I remember they closed down for a week to install the "Cinemascope"
      screen. The first wide screen movie they showed was From Here to
      Eternity. It blew me away -- not the movie, the screen, which may
      explain why I like letterbox today. Everybody commented on how the
      new screen was not as tall as the old one, although it did reach from
      wall to wall.

      The theater played four different movies per week, one on Sunday and
      Monday, one Tuesday, one Wednesday and Thursday, and one on Friday
      and Saturday. The one night Tuesday movie was generally a monster
      film or teen-oriented flick, and they had a Bingo game to lure the
      customers. When the old theater burned down, the whole town pulled
      together to build a new one. It was built across the street from the
      old one in a pre-fab metal building. The new manager got a new
      projector that would hold the entire evening's program on one big
      reel. He had to do a lot of splicing before and cutting after to get
      it back on the reels it came on, but it allowed him and his wife to
      operate the theater alone. She would tend the box office and he would
      run the concession stand. When it was time for the movie to start he
      would simply throw one switch beneath the counter.

      Some theaters today are taking credit cards. I remember you could go
      to this theater and write a check, even make it out for a little more
      than admission so you would have change for the concession stand.

      When the VCR came out the business began to fail. They tried renting
      video tapes to make up the slack, but the grocery stores and gas
      stations were doing the same thing. The city fathers gave him a
      subsidy to keep him is business (so the kids would have a place to
      go) but in the end it failed. It is still standing, its marquee
      empty. I'm told that the screen, seats, projector, even the popcorn
      machine are still in there gathering dust.

      Response From Rich

      No wonder you love classic films. You grew up practically in a
      theater. Several things you mentioned hit home for me. Yes, I did
      sneak, with a friend, up to the balcony. For Saturday shows, it was
      not allowed. Too many young rascals like me running around, I guess.
      To stop us from climbing the stairs, they used to have two lovely
      gold poles set across the stair. The chain attached was wrapped in a
      beautiful red cloth. The sign said, "Sorry, The Balcony Is Closed."

      My particular memory was of the beautiful Academy Theater, aptly
      named. Above the marquee was a tall, spiral structure adorned with
      lights of many colors. At night, the lights would start from the
      bottom and wind their way to the top of the dome. As you walked
      inside, the carpet seemed to wrap itself around your shoes. The doors
      were very large, and when they opened, the color hit you. Greens,
      blues, and reds. The material looked like pure velvet. The
      exquisitely decorated chandelier then slowly became darker and darker
      while at the same time the curtain began to rise. In stages and in
      horizontal rows, one after another. For me, it was a magical
      experience. There were many other theaters in Pasadena, California at
      that time, but there was something about the Academy that made it
      special in my mind.

      I'm not sure of the price back then. It was probably about 35 cents.
      Smoking was probably allowed, although I wouldn't remember as my
      brother and I grew up in a thin haze that was everpresent in our
      home. Remember, this was the 50s, and probably 7 out of 10 people
      smoked at the time.

      My favorite eats were popcorn and Coke. Once in a while, I would get
      a box of Milk Duds, but that was rare.

      I'm in a daze just thinking back, Mira. What great memories. Thanks
      for reminding us of the great memories we had at the movies
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