Welcome to February! We are a month closer to green grass and flowers greeting us every day. Seems worth the wait to me.
As much as February is like January in that both are my least favorite months of the year, one annual event I do enjoy each February is the Sunday night when the Academy Awards air. I am and have always been a lover of movies. I spent endless hours as a child in theaters. It was the best time to be a movie lover!
Slapstick in films was prevalent in many of my favorite movies during the ‘60s. Comedy, at the time, was visually simple and innocent. “The Three Stooges” and “The Bowery Boys,” for instance. Though I never saw a Bowery Boy movie on the screen, they ran on television all the time. As much as I loved the theater experience, I never diminished the significance of watching something fun on the television either.
In the ‘60s, one of the best parts of going to the movies was the “Double Feature!” Two for one! What a deal! Double features happened all the time. Horror films were often paired together. Many of them were from Edgar Allen Poe stories starring Vincent Price. I can still see the single poster in the glass display case outside the front entrance of our theater advertising both films. I found that poster recently on Google. It was a pair of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis films, “Pardners” and “Living It Up.” The poster alone ramped up my excitement, and Mom said I could go!
Another bonus from those years was theaters showed cartoons before movies. Usually, Warner Bros. cartoons were the most popular, but “Tom and Jerry,” “Popeye,” and various “Hanna-Barbera” cartoons such as “Yogi Bear” and “Huckleberry Hound” found their way to the big screen. For family movies at our theater, they’d advertise the movies in the daily paper and added “...and 12 cartoons!” Cartoons always appeared before the main feature(s). I’d count them so as to make sure I wouldn’t be cheated. I can still see the location in the paper where the ads appeared. The ads were miniature versions of the movie posters, but they excited my love for the cinema all the same.
In time, we lost the double feature and the cartoons. I understand double features no longer being profitable, but how great would it be to sit in today’s theater and have a Bugs Bunny cartoon appear before the movie. If you’re from the same era, remember the sound you’d hear as the curtain rose and the first image appeared? Applause. Instant applause. I recently saw the final Star Wars film on the night it debuted in the theaters. The crowd had been hand-picked by a former student of mine and his brother as they had rented one screen for their friends as they had for the last three films. The sound of the applause took me back. I miss all that.
Today’s theater is a living room of recliners. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind having a room where I’m not squeezed in next to a total stranger. Yet, there’s something about that old school atmosphere that still has its charm. There are several of those theaters in the Uptown area that remain untouched by time. Sometimes, it’s good for the soul to see a movie there.
Theaters are also restaurants now with many selling alcohol. The Alamo in Woodbury sort of combines the now and the then. Thirty minutes before any movie, forget the ads. You are treated to shorts that pertain to the movie you are about to see. It’s sort of fun.
The new theater in Eagan that just reopened has an ax-throwing area! I’d say more, but ...
Time’s up! See you next week!