Monday, April 03, 2006

Slices of history...and cake.

I had the opportunity to experience the definition of 'local color' this weekend. I went to see Transamerica on Saturday night at the Town Theatre in Highland, Indiana. Very nice movie, and even better was the theater experience.

The Town is one of my favorite places to go to the show. Depending on whom you ask, it is described as a palace (by me) or a dump (by most everybody else). What it factually is, though, is a small cinderblock auditorium on Kennedy Avenue built in 1946. It primarily shows 'art house' films, and it looks (inside and out) just like it did 40 years ago. They even use most of the original projection equipment. The seating itself is indescribeable, which is why I'm glad I have this picture for you:

(yes, those are suits of armor and statues of Greek philosophers up front. Why? Your guess is as good as mine...)

The physical qualities of the Town aren't what make it special, though. Tickets are $5.00, and when you walk in, you are greeted by one of the owners who takes tickets. He is an older man who sits in this chair in between the original metal ticket box on one side and his little chihuahua-dalmatian mix mutt named Pepe on the other side. A big tub of popcorn is $2.75 and they have a 'two free passes' giveaway every week. About halfway through whatever film they happen to be showing, they stop and have intermission and serve free coffee and cake in the tiny lobby. Everyone gets to stretch their legs, visit the restroom and talk about the film (or about what they overheard everyone else talking about).

free coffee

and cake!

I especially love going there with my mom because she'll tell me about how things were when she was growing up. The walls inside the auditorium look a little greasy, and apparently you used to be able to smoke during the movie. The seats are divided into three sections - left, center and right. The left side was reserved for the smokers. Other fun facts: in the evenings, the high school kids would sit towards the back center and make out (some things never change), and on Saturdays kids would go and sit through two or even three showings.

Anyway, I recognize that the Town is not picture perfect with the latest and greatest technology, but it is an experience that you won't get many other places. It's stepping into the past when things weren't homogenized, sanitized and supersized. It's not just about seeing a film, it's about being part of a community.


Phats said...

That looks cool, I am always down for free cake! :) hell free anything. I have been thru Highland, and our girls basketball team has played them in the semi state before.

chattymoon2012 said...

Rocky I just LOVE this post.And the pictures. I went to a small old movie house like this where they had folding seats, the old wooden kind. They were anchored to the floor, but they had wooden slats all the same! Youyrs is like stepping back about 50 years. You are right about the "santized" new stuff. No character. I would feel very at home in this theatre because it is down home and the people care about you. Where else would you get a free slice of cake and a coffee, and intermission for a regular movie? Sure beats the ShowCase around here. That has to have at least 20 theatres in it. When it first opened with 8 theatres it was a new thing, and we all went. Doesn't thrill me now. I'd rather visit your place. Thanks for the walk down Memory Lane. That place gives me the warm and fuzzies :D...hugz, Linda

Zoe said...

This was a very nice post to read. I miss those days and the movies down town.

Thanks Rocky for the memories.

Super Woman said...

You had me at the free cake. I love theaters like that, and was sad back when my hometown theater modernized to 2 theaters, and then eventually moved into a larger space for a 10-plex. I still remember the blue glowing clock that used to be in the corner.

Serra said...

I really miss the old theaters. The one in the town where I spent my elementary school years was a gorgeous old palace inside, complete with balcony. They always had some sort of candy for a nickel--the kind changed, but there was always ONE thing you could get with a nickel.

leo myshkin said...

lend me ten pounds and i'll buy you a drink.

i'll bet they even have the sound at a reasonable level so your ears don't ring after the movie.

buddha_girl said...

Holy crap! I wanna come visit and take in a flick or two. Do you think the movie guy will let me pet Pepe?

Reg said...

That little theatre is so awesome! Hollywood could take a few notes from them. But then again, Hollywood would bastardize the hell out of it and turn the concept into something ugly and ruin it. It's nice to see that smalltown America is still alive, well, and decent.

JDaaris said...

Brings back memories... I love those old hometown theatres...I can remember going upstairs to the bathroom in my hometown "movie house" and being fascinated by the 3-way mirrors, seeing multiples of myself, with the old faded, fancy couches in the background. I don't think it's there anymore, but would be fun to find out...

Katrina said...

Thanks for the history lesson, Professor Sharky.
FREE CAKE!?! Who does that?
That's awesome!

Tina said...

That's awesome. We have something similar called the Byrd Theater and they charge like $1 , maybe $2 now to watch movies and at beginning an organist comes out of the floor and plays. I dig it. ;)

phlegmfatale said...

What a cool-assed theater! Love it to pieces!

yellowdog granny said...

wow..i absolutely loved that post..and what kills me is we have an old theater here in west and has been closed down for years...and i dont know what it costs to buy it but i have wanted to buy it forever and turn it back in to a movie house of the 50's..with arty farty films, old classics, indie's.etc...and have it be cheap popcorn and sodas and candy.not rip offs and an organist(or in our case an accordian player..ha)have sat morning cartoons and have someone there to do animal ballons, paint faces, etc...hmmmm. makes me wonder...wonder how much money bernice WILL loan me..ha...anyhow..thanks so much..i love your little movie theater..

Ted said...

"He is an older man who sits in this chair in between the original metal ticket box on one side and his little chihuahua-dalmatian mix mutt named Pepe on the other side."

That would be my Dad, and "Peppy" is my Rat Terrier :)

"and they have a 'two free passes' giveaway every week."

We give five passes each month.

We have put in a new sound system, and will soon be upgrading the screen, and projectors. That costs a bundle, and little by little we are trying to fix things up. Some are easier then others. Just try to find a guy now who knows how to blow Neon for the marquee. There are a lot of Neon signs, but they are machine made with things like "Open" "Closed" and so on. But it's hard to find anyone who can make them from scratch.

Where did you find the photo of the front of the building, I know where you got the others :) That's a really old shot, if you have any others, I'd like copies if possable.

Thanks for the good words, we always like to hear good, and bad things.