The Little Boy in Me
Marcus Loew once said, "We sell tickets to theaters, not movies!". In that one statement we find ourselves at the crossroads of an age old dilemma...are the places we watch movies as important as the movies themselves. The wonderful history of the great movie palaces and their place in urban history will be explored in one of the film selections to be shown at this year's Lake Placid Film Festival.
"Going Attractions, the Definitive History of the Movie Palace" speaks to this issue in a way that anyone who loves going to the movies will understand. And yet how far do we have to travel down memory lane to know how important the local theater is to any downtown, whether it be big or small. The Palace Theater here in Lake Placid had been entertaining folks in the North Country since 1926 and is still going strong. Walk into its lobby and you'll know in your heart that this is a special space where time has stood still and where the old are young again. For me, these surroundings are a key ingredient for the suspension of belief in the journey one takes when the lights go down and the credits roll across the screen.
I've heard for years that movie theaters are an endangered species....nonsense. Movies by their very nature are a shared experience. I defy anyone to watch "Its a Mad, Mad, Mad , Mad World" by themselves and not enjoy it more by watching it with a crowd.
The State Theater in Washington, Iowa is the oldest continuing operating theater in the world and had been entertaining audiences since 1897. It would be almost impossible to calculate the number of first dates, first kisses and marriage proposals that have taken place in that theater over the decades. Theaters by their very nature are public spaces that folks over the years take very personally...almost like an extension of their own living room. The Roxy Theater in Manhattan, now long gone, sat 6011 people. The truth of the matter was that Roxy being the Showman that he was counted every seat in the place, including the chairs for the elevator operators and the seats for the orchestra! ...such a huge place, and yet for generations whole families would always look to sit in the same rows, the same seats as if that little bit of this great building belonged to them.
There is no denying that motion picture exhibition is a business. From its earliest days in 1896 when Thomas Edison rented the Koster and Bial's Music Hall for the first public presentation of his Vitascope Projector to todays 4K Digital Projection, it's all about getting people into seats. While today there is an incredible amount of competition for your entertainment dollar, the movies are still a wonderful and magical amusement that is unequaled in today’s Society.
There will always be that little boy in me who will remember his first movie, on a rainy night, people waiting with excitement to get their seats...the smell of popcorn and the giant curtain as it rose to signal the beginning of the show...60 years later I still feel that glow and joy and I guess I always will.
(Going Attractions: The Definitive Story of the Movie Palace, will be screened at the Palace Theatre on Saturday, October 26, 2019 at 3:00pm. Q&A with the Director, Matt Lambros following the film, joined by Nelson Page. Tickets will be available at the Palace box office during the LPFF.)
Nelson E. Page
Chairman, Adirondack Film Society - President, Barrymore Film Center