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Theater memories (AKA Tabonga waxes nostalgic)


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Any favorite  stories from the far off time when we could still go to theaters?


When the not yet Mrs. Tabonga and I were dating we often went to a really rundown theater (from the deco era) called "The Gothic"  that was likely gorgeous in its prime.   On Friday and Saturday nights they would run 4 movies back to back for a ridiculously cheap ticket - of course they were movies that no one had ever heard of.  So you paid your money and you took your chances.

One night they were running a set of these and the very last one was a collection of East European animation shorts that we wanted to see. 

We usually sat in the balcony (at that time smoking was allowed there - we didn't smoke - just liked the balcony).

Going there was always an adventure of one sort or another. It was very typical for the projectionist to leave while a reel was running.  Invariably the film would either break or jam and burn. A minute later you would hear someone galloping up the stairs and pull the door open (slamming it against the wall) and then the film would come back on.

This happened several times that night.  To add to the merriment someone had managed to start a fire on one of the seats.  They were horsehair and didn't burn per se but they did smolder (and stink really bad).  Someone came up and threw a glass of water on it.  It kept restarting and they put more water on it several times. Finally two of the staff came up and unbolted the section of seats and carried it out.

We finally made it the to film we wanted to see and the first short made absolutely no sense (and there was no audio) and when the short ended we realized by the credits that the thing had been running backwards.  At  which point we threw in the towel and left. 

On the way to my car we noticed that the section of seats was now out in the alley and had been soaked with a nearby hose.

The Gothic has since been restored and by the pictures I have seen it is now gorgeous.

Edited by Tabonga
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The seat fire/removal is just too funny 🙂

My favorite theater memories were from childhood, in the town I grew up we had a historic 50's theater that they unfortunately enclosed the balcony for another screen but also had a little arcade, place was amazing. Sticky floors, beautiful ornate work on the walls just oozing nostalgia while the building slowly got worse (I think they had major ceiling issues a few years ago) and now they're all digital.

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I've only "camped out" for one thing my entire life and that was for Episode I. I was 17 and it was very uncharacteristic of my Mom to let me do anything like that. But, I was a good kid and I was a senior in High School, so she let me. It was kind of amusing. I went to a decent theater and showed up around 6:00PM the night before. I knew that people had been camping out for a couple of days at the two much better cinemas in town, and no one wanted to go to the one I picked as my choice, so I didn't have to waste days of my life on this endevour. Anyway, I got my tickets and had a great time. Eventually other nerds people started to trickle in and it was kind of fun with a bunch of people who'd been harboring years of hope for a new Star Wars film. At 17, when I finally say the film that night (the showing was at midnight), I was blown away. Sure, everyone hates the prequels, Jar Jar is the worst and it's a bit incongruent with what we'd expect but... It was fun and it was new. I saw TPM in the theaters three more times through out the summer. The opening with Qui Gon and Obi Wan on the Trade Federation ship, the Darth Maul battle and the pod racing scenes made it worth enjoying in the theaters again and again. We live in a different time where we get new Star Wars content every year. And though I will agree that TPM is about as bad as it get's, in 1999 it was what we had, and it was a fun ride. I have no regrets.


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Most of my movie experiences happened at the local Clearview Cinemas. But at some point when I was in middle/high school a guy purchased the historical theater in town and started showing movies again and having live bands on occasion. My first year at community college, I took a "literature on film" class as a throw away elective to fill requirements. But one of the big benefits to the class was the owner and the teacher were friends so a number of time we got to watch movies at the theater for class. So I can say I got to see The Godfather in a legit theater, as well as Inception, and a couple others. The place still had the old seating and, well everything else. I don't think the owner could ever get together enough funds to reallsy restore the place and it closed again a few years ago unfortunatley. I found Some pictures of the place through the years. 

Possibly Wartime Era exact date unknown

#045 washington theatre exterior


Image from 1968, a time when my grandfather would have been going and year my dad was born

#046 washington theatre exterior


Circa 1998, Im almost positive it was closed in the 90's

#047 washington twin cinema


What it looked like around the time I went

Washington Theatre



Investigation NJPG-050812-WT - Dave VanderWekke

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I have an old historic movie theater in my area (it's now a play sort of theater instead of a movie one) and it just so happens its final movie when it closed in the late 80s (replaced by a new one somewhere else) was Scrooged.  It's one of my wife's favorite movies (neat coincidence eh?), and she enjoys many Christmas Carol variations, especially the b/w Alistar Sims one.

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