Only not really, because I don’t do poetry.
When I went to see Brick last week, I was impressed by the film, but I was equally impressed by the theatre-going experience, a topic that increasingly interests me. I don’t go to the Hi-Pointe Theatre very often, but I must make more of an effort. Let’s start at the beginning.
I bought my ticket at the outdoor ticket booth, which is situated between two sets of double doors. The theatre has been around for decades, and they’ve kept the classic theatre design. After entering the lobby through the curtained doors, I found myself in front of a single concession stand with all the fixin’s. It’s rare for me to buy theatre food, both because I find it distracting and because it’s overpriced, but last week I had an overwhelming desire to get something. But that was a little later.
First, I needed to use the restroom, so I headed up the narrow stairs along the side wall, pausing to appreciate the half-sheets of Humphrey Bogart and the reproduction lobby cards lining the walls. My second favorite theatre in town, the Tivoli (which used to be my first favorite), has a bunch of collage-type posters around the lobby, each of which is themed–one that has thumbnails of classic action films, one with thumbnails of westerns, one with comedies, etc. These are great, and fun to look at, but they’re artificial. They call attention to the fact that they are from a by-gone era; that the theatre is consciously styling itself as a “classic” venue. I know the Hi-Pointe is doing the same thing, to some extent, but it feels more real. It feels as though you’re plunged back into that era, rather than into a reproduction of it.
The door to the restroom opens into a little sitting room, from which you move into a bathroom that could be right out of the 1950s. It’s clean but not sterile (by sterile, I mean impersonal…I don’t mean that the place’s healthiness is suspect). I wondered going back down the stairs whether or not the theatre ever had a balcony. It certainly could have, but I neglected to ask anyone to find out. Next time.
More curtained doors to enter the single-screen theatre. I’m always surprised by how large it is. I’m used to multiplexes with stadium seating that hold maybe a hundred people, with something like 20-30 rows. This theatre is three times that long, easily. I would love to see it filled up, but doubt that will ever happen anymore. I sat about halfway back, which was perfect. I will admit that sitting nearer the back lessens the experience, simply because of the distance from the screen. However, even without stadium seating, the seats are well-placed enough in relation to the screen that even had someone been sitting directly in front of me, it wouldn’t have been much of an issue.
And the seats! Most of the time my legs get all cramped up in movies, and it’s a struggle to stay even approximately comfortable. These are older seats, but they are extremely comfortable. They are individual, not bench seats, so the back cradles your body. Granted, you can’t lift up the armrests, so they’re not good for cuddling, but that’s pretty much a non-issue for me.
I was about twenty minutes early, so I had a bit of waiting time in the theatre. No “pre-show countdown” here. No “movie tunes network.” No ads. No dumb trivia. In fact, the curtains were drawn across the screen. I don’t know that multiplexes even HAVE curtains anymore. Curtains are pretty. They were playing Henry Mancini music. No DJ in between the songs, telling you where you can get the CD. Just the classic, mellow sound. Add in the fact that these tracks are almost universally from 1950s and 1960s films–Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Zefferelli’s Romeo and Juliet, etc.–and I was totally in the movie zone. (This was the point when I decided to run back to the concession stand.)
Right on time, the curtains pulled back, and here’s the best part: they played the old “A Day at the Movies” short from the 1950s, where the two kids show how to be good theatre patrons. Including throwing away your trash! Seriously, folks, throwing away your trash is NOT difficult. I think a lot of the negativity surrounding theatregoing these days comes down to the theatregoers themselves, and their lack of respect for the other theatregoers, the theatre staff, and the film itself. Anyway. That short never fails to put a smile on my face. (Speaking of shorts, anyone with me on wanting to bring shorts back into theatrical presentations? A cartoon here and there? Some of these shorts that get nominated for Oscars that never get seen outside of film festivals? Come on!)
This audience wasn’t large, perhaps thirty people at a 2:00pm showing, in a theatre that probably holds ten times that. But they were quite a good audience. They weren’t disruptive, didn’t talk–I don’t really recall noticing them much at all, once the movie started. Everyone seemed just as into the movie as I was. Most of them stayed through the credits. I didn’t notice any abandoned popcorn bags or soda cups. Of course, this probably also says something about art-house audiences vs. multiplex audiences.
I walked out of the theatre with renewed faith in the theatre business. The Hi-Pointe is doing it right. I hope they’re able to keep it up. (They’re owned by the national Landmark Theatre chain, so it’s not like they have to be completely self-reliant, which is probably a good thing.) It’s is a far cry from the movie palaces of that era, movie palaces like the Fox Theatre used to be, but it’s the closest thing remaining in St. Louis.
But perhaps it was only a perfect experience for me–I’m curious if these elements would increase or decrease pleasure for other people, especially those who don’t share my obsession for Hollywood’s Golden Age. Anyone care to comment?