02 June 2010

Cinema desolee

Many things have changed in the last 15-20 years, of course, but one of the things that has changed that I find interesting is the evolution of the movie theater.

The town I grew up in had a single-screen theatre, the Times. I remember as a 9-year-old getting in to see Jaws. Scared the snot out of me then. In 1980 the owners made it a TWO-screen venue-we hit the big time!

If we were flush and it wasn't a school night, we could pile in the car and go to Clinton, where they had the Cinema I and II, the Capri, and the Clinton Drive-In if you wanted to see or do something questionable and/or sleazy.

Now if it were a big night, we'd go the 100 km to the Quad Cities. There were a ton of theaters down here-Cinema I, the Parkway, and the Oasis, Corral, Semri, and Memri drive-ins. My friend JP's mom, in a bout of temporary insanity, took a bunch of us to see The Empire Strikes Back at the Parkway-in addition to a visit to Pizza Hut and a drop by the arcade in the mall (Omega Race, Tail Gunner, Galaxian...ah, we'll not see the likes of those games too much anymore). Great fun!

Today, of course, most movie theaters are big multiplexes, with 15 screens, reclining stadium seats, bags of popcorn big enough to feed a horse and pop enough to float a yacht. The projection technology has inproved vastly even since the 90s. I suppose the comfort level has gone up a lot.

One of the first 'multiplex' cinemas in the area was the Showcase Cinemas on the north side of Davenport. It opened with a lot of fanfare in 1989 (5, count 'em, 5! screens) and operated all through the 1990s. I saw many a film there, as did a lot of people in the area. Unfortunately, advancements in technology and the changing flow of people to a new area of shops and restaurants spelled the end, and after a brief 12 years the Showcase Cinemas moved to a new building and the old place was put up for sale (read: abandoned). A short career for what was a state-of-the-art facility!!

Recently, it was decided to demolish the building and replace it with a large, empty flat spot. Probably this is a good idea since people would break in and create the Midwest's biggest crackhouse, if they hadn't already.
The people demolishing the building were opening it to the public and selling the theater seats-$15 a piece and you pull them out (bring a 7/16" socket wrench!) and haul them away.

You can see a gallery of pictures from the old Showcase here. An interesting behind-the-scenes look at a movie theater mixed in with some urban exploration. And the popcorn kettles are still there, if you want them! Great for movie night for you, your family, and 150 or so of your friends!

Finally, a couple of other theater notes. The movie business isn't all big, sterile multiplexes. 2001. I was in the town of Moose Lake, Minnesota-smack dab in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. We saw Enemy At The Gates at the local show. $3 to get in, fancy painted interior in the theater, and popcorn that had been popped that night-with real butter on top! A nice old small-town place to see a flick.

My mom told me about the time they went to Three Forks, Montana to visit my stepdad's relatives. Three Forks was a railroad stop, a couple of bars, and not much else-but they did have a theater. The folks went to the show that night, and the manager announced that if six people didn't show up, they wouldn't run the movie! Can't blame them-it'd cost more to keep the lights on than to show a film to two people. Evidently they got the requisite six, no doubt coming to relax after a long day in the shopping, big business, and general cosmopolitan delights that a town-no, the town-in that part of Montana has to offer. But still, funny to hear.

Any theater stories out there?

yankeedog out.

1 comment:

  1. Randwick Ritz was the independent cinema just down from the local suburb I lived in at uni. In a little precinct full of cool little restaurants and stuff. Was only $6 for a ticket and you could get an awesome pizza from Arthurs afterwards - or head back to the Royal for more schooners. Saw Lock Stock and 2 Smoking Barrels there in about '98 I think.