The Town Scryer is a mixed bag of humor, socio-political observations and ephemera from the perspective of a eclectic Pagan veteran of the counter-culture.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Neglected Mementos of a Gentler Time

     I was looking through a photo gallery of 75 abandoned theaters that Roger Ebert had posted on facebook this afternoon. There are few things as sad as an empty least to my eyes. A deserted collapsing theater is a metaphor for so much if  one is over forty and of a romantic disposition. We as a culture have traded style and richness of experience for utility and economy.
Most of the grand motion picture palaces are gone now, replaced with pods at the local multiplex. The rich burgundy velvet chairs have been replaced with seats so narrow that the average American may have given up on a night at the movies because he is too broad in the flank thanks to a steady diet of high-fructose corn syrup to fit in the seats without loss of circulation  in the extremities. In my city we are fortunate. One of the old palaces was saved and restored to the glory of its youth.
Strangely enough, the price of admission there is the same as at the multiplex, perhaps even a little lower. It shows primarily "art" films; the ones that you see at the multiplex on their second run after they are nominated for awards. Sadly, this one may be threatened too. The chains have finally caught on that indie films are profitable and they are showing them first run now as well. 

    When I was a boy there was a magnificent palace near my town called The Alhambra Theater. It cost over a million dollars to build in the twenties. It could not be built today. Today a supermarket stands on that location with only a few palm trees and a portion of a mural to give mute testimony to those who remember of a bad bargain made. You may still buy calendars with a picture of that theater  even though it has been gone for over thirty-five years. It is a though the city reminds itself of its bad bargain constantly as a kind of penance for its sin against itself.

   If you think about it we have made the same bargain in so many other places. We have traded dining for refueling, learning for career preparation, and ask you grandfather what air travel was like in his day...back when an airline pilot was a glamorous professional career that paid a good wage. Today if one wants a rich experience one has to track it down in the wild. It is still worth the effort. There are still dozens of struggling art house cinemas and little theater companies out there. You can even find a ballet company or an opera within two hours drive. You might have to dress up a bit, but you will remember the experience a month later.

    Can you say that about the last movie you watched at the MultiMax or on Netflix?

   Be seeing you.

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