I remember…

… movie theaters with chandeliers and balconies.

Movies had an intermission and Entr’acte.

We rode bicycles to the theater and propped them up unlocked against the wall.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Joe K says:

    There is a place like that in Michigan still, the Michigan Theatre.

    Next time you are there you should go. Sorry for “closing the barn after the horse is gone” on this one, but I was obviously not aware you longed for this.

    The historical room there even has a pre-movie and “intermission” (when used) ORGAN and ORGANIST that they utilize. The organ dates from 1927.


  2. Scott W. says:

    We have The Grandin Theater. Not as grand as the MI I imagine, but still old school. It seems lots of movie theaters borrowed from the old music radio halls. In the early 90’s, if you were in the mood for a Fallout experience, you went to a rock-concert at WUST radio hall in DC. You could see the remains of murals, wildy-unsafe balconies, and other things from the golden days (there is probably a lesson in there watching a band of degenerates jumping around in the ruins.) WUST was remodeled in the 9:30 Club; I haven’t been there since, but I imagine you can still get a small sense of the old days.

  3. Bryan says:

    Better yet…your mom and dad knew that was what you were doing, and weren’t overly protective…that scraped knee you got from sliding into second from the pick-up ball game earlier that day was a fading memory…you were too busy picking a jujyfruit from your back molar.

    Life has changed, hasn’t it?

  4. chironomo says:

    In a “six degrees of separation” moment here… I was best friends as a child with the son of the man who brought that ers to an end. One of my closest friends as a young kid growing up in Kansas City was Peter Durwood…son of Stanley Durwood, the founder and CEO of American Multi Cinema (AMC). They built the first “multiplex” and brought the single theatre house to an end…

  5. paterpetri says:

    Next time you are in Detroit, you might also want to check out the Old Redford Theatre. It is lovingly cared for by volunteers who are engaged in a continual restoration of this gem of a neighborhood cinema from the 1920’s. The Redford offers a variety of classic, often family-oriented films. Last year they showed “The Song of Bernadette,” for example. The Redford is also home of the Motor City Theatre Organ Society, and regularly offers organ recitals and silent movie accompaniment. Check out their website at http://redfordtheatre.com/.

  6. AlexB says:

    In an example of “small world”, the organist for the above-mentioned Michigan Theatre, Dr. Steven Ball (http://www.stevenball.com), is also the principal substitute organist for the EF Masses at St. Josaphat, Assumption-Windsor, and St. Albertus Churches. He also happens to be the organist for pontifical events at Detroit’s Blessed Sacrament Cathedral and an expert at tower bell systems.

  7. eyeclinic says:

    …and we’d sit in the balcony and flick nonpareil chocolates onto the heads of those below. Oh wait, no,that wasn’t me…

  8. MargaretMN says:

    It’s not as fancy as some but the Heights Theater just North East of Minneapolis in Columbia Heights still has an organ and shows art movies, old movies and some second run stuff. http://www.heightstheater.com/index.cfm They did a planet of the apes festival recently.

    Alas, nowhere can you leave a bike unlocked, propped up on a building. In fact, even if you had a lock, you might find it sawed off and no bike when you got back.

    And speaking of organs, when I was growing up, our church organist also played the organ at the old Tiger Stadium. It infected his style to some extent and he also had odd musical choices. My mom was perpetually scandalized that he like to throw in a little Carmina Burana from time to time. Good thing the old man had passed on by the time the Omen movies came out.

  9. Denis Crnkovic says:

    Frieda Mann (+ r.i.p.) was the organist at the Grand Theater on North Queen Street in Lancaster, Penna. for many years from the 1920’s onward. She also played for St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. Many Catholic church organists, volunteers or underpaid, held second weekend jobs playing the magnificent theatre organs that graced the American cinema houses of the early twentieth century.

    As for movie houses as theatres, many of the hometown movies had proscenium stages with magnificent curtains. It was at the King Theater (a funky art deco building whose facade is extant, though the building is now an old folks apartment complex ) that I heard a live concert by the Mousekeeters after a first run showing of “Old Yeller”. Annette and Tommy and the bunch played electric guitars and sang songs that hurt my ears, so loud was the amplification. I have loathed the sound of electric guitars ever since.

  10. Gabriella says:

    Oh yes, Fr., I remember that too … and it was a time when our parents could send us children to the cinema by ourselves without fear of bad encounters or of films showing scenes not suitable for us :)

  11. ejcmartin says:

    I remember the haze of smoke in the upper balcony.

  12. chcrix says:

    I remember when my mother used to send me to the corner store to buy her cigarettes. And nobody cared. Or seemed to think I would smoke them myself. And they were right.

  13. Christina says:

    I went to a re-showing of “Gone with the Wind” and they had an intermission…but they also had an arcade instead of chandeliers and balconies. Not quite what you’re going for, I think.

  14. Eric says:

    Remember when most movies were actually worth the price of admission?

  15. I remember when I could go to the movies for $0.50 and when my hometown had 8 movie theaters, all specializing in different types of movies, not just the blockbusters.

    And I’m only 22!

    Sad day.

  16. Fr. John Mary says:

    Wow…lately I’ve been feeling my age, but I do not remember theaters like this. Maybe I’m really NOT that old!!

  17. Carolina Geo says:

    There is only one movie that I recall from my youth (I’m 41) as having had an intermission, and that was “Gandhi.” Part of the problem is that they just don’t make epic-length movies any more. Since the whole goal anymore is to get people in and out of the theaters three or four times in an evening, a three-and-a-half hour movie just won’t fly. It is a pity, really.

    I frequently have friends over to watch movies on my home theater system. When I do, I always show a cartoon first! :-)

  18. Sieber says:

    The famed Casino on Catalina Island built in 1929 still features an organ concert one half hour before the movie on weekends during the season. This was the first theater built for sound movies…terrific acoustics. In fact the builders of NY City Music Hall came to Avalon to take notes.
    Bob Mitchell of the famed Mitchell Boy Choir played the organ for L.A.’s only silent movie house until shortly before his passing this year at age 96.
    Disney has restored the El Capitan on Hollywood Blvd. to its pristine gold leaf condition with organ rising from the floor.
    The dying days of Vaudeville gave us the variety acts that alternated with the feature film.
    The last similar show at the Grauman’s Chinese Theater was a matinee in 1953. Shortly after that the backstage was converted to a warehouse and the organ torn out. Dana Andrews late son used to come in on Saturday mornings just to give that organ a workout. Boy, could he make that thing go!

  19. Geometricus says:

    When I was kid, (late 60’s early 70’s) I would have my mom drop me off at the Terrace Theatre in Robbinsdale, MN which was declining even then, but I still remember the copper fountain and the soundproof TV room talked about here:


    Even though it was “ultra-modern” in its day (and hence not quite the cup-of-tea of people who frequent this blog), it still had something of the old-school opulence and pomp of the older theaters. Now it is shuttered, finding no one with the desire or money to restore it (not suprisingly).


  20. Theaters like that, which were largely family run operations, had trouble making a profit against the large chain theaters. Also, we as a public voted with our feet and quit patronizing the inner city theaters (that often looked like what you describe, Father). Now, we all want 10 choices of movie in one building, stadium seating, dolby sound…those ornate theaters can’t provide that without serious upgrades which require $$$$$$$.

    There are only two movie theaters left in the city limits of St. Paul, MN.

    My two faves were the defunct Cooper in St. Louis Park and the original Southtown Theater in Bloomington. I also think back on with affection to the,closed,Boulevard in Minneapolis because that was the one my brother and I walked to or biked to in the summer.

  21. wmeyer says:

    Joe K, there appears to be more than one of note in Michigan: State Theatre. Another, less spectacular example, also in Kalamazoo, is the Capitol Theatre.

  22. wmeyer says:

    My bad. Despite my earlier note, the Capitol Theatre at the site given is in Flint, not Kalamazoo. The outside was similar, but the inside, not so much.

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