Let's go to the movies!

Back when I was a seven-year-old kid in the South Bronx, every Saturday afternoon my best friend Marilyn (named after THAT Marilyn) and I would take our weekly pocket money - fifty cents - and head up 167thSt to the Kent Theater, a second-run theatre whose glory days were 20-30 years before we were born.

Of course we didn't know that - to us, The Kent Theatre was an escape hatch - the entryway to glamour and fantasy, laughter and fright. It set us free from the grit and grime of our red brick and concrete enclosed childhood. It opened the way to a world where anything was possible.

We'd arrive half an hour before the start of the first movie of the day and hand over thirty-five cents to the mean, orange-lipsticked crone who sat in the in the ticket booth. (We were sure she was a witch!) Then we'd spend twenty minutes peering into the glass encased candy counter deciding what we wanted. As I recall, my choice was usually between regular popcorn or Cracker Jacks (and a prize!) for ten cents and the last five on a either Good'n'Plenty or Sugar Babies.

(The top photo was taken in its heyday, 1938. This is from the baaaad 1970's when the neighbourhood was nearly a war zone. Stripped to the bare basics, she looks so very sad. The theatre closed for good in 1981 and is now a dollar store.)

We'd wait til the usher's back was turned and sneak up the darkened staircase, past the No Children Allowed sign to the balcony and throw popcorn at teenagers making out. We never cared what was showing - double and triple features of stuff that was ancient even then - a lot of Jerry Lewis, occasionally a Disney flick, tonnes of grade B monster movies like The Blob or House on Haunted Hillthat left me crouching under the seat in front of me and endless comedy shorts - the Little Rascals, Bowery Boys, Three Stooges, Laurel & Hardy, Abbot & Costello and of course, Bugs Bunny and Porky Pig.

We'd stay all day, sit through the entire show twice and get scared at the same things and squeal at the same stupid jokes.

I've never stopped watching - thought maybe I'd be a movie star when I grew up, but ended up a film critic and film magazine editor - almost as much fun, but a lot safer. Here are a few of my favourite movie pieces of general interest I wrote back in the day that you might find interesting.

I still do the odd review just to keep my hand in. There's just so much time in anyone's life to pursue one's passions, though I do miss the days when I attended every preview and had an opinion on everything in the theatres.

I am impressed with the ever evolving grandeur of theatres. I am sure that if I were that 7-year-old today, I would be as dazzled as I was then by the lure of the cinema. But to be honest, these days I hardly go to the cinema - other than the occasional Tuesday matinee date with my hubby and tix are cheap. I've got a home theatre with a better sound system and a plasma hung on the wall that's nearly as big as some inner city screens.

The amazing selection of DVDs and Blue Ray discs offer an unbelievable choice for our own film festivals - including the very same flicks Marilyn and I watched together back in 1963. My favourite three movies of all time -

  1. Touch of Evil - 1958, Orson Welles, Charlton Heston, the divine Janet Leigh and a BRILLIANT cameo from Marlene Dietrich in a film noir thriller set in the Mexican underworld!
  2. Casablanca - 1942, Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and Claude Rains in a slightly noir-ish wartime romantic thriller. "We'll always have Paris!"
  3. The Matrix - 1999, Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburn and Carrie-Anne Moss in a sci-fi thriller that's a white-knuckle ride from the opening frame. (Yes, I have a secret, mad-passion for action flicks!)

Do you remember your first movie theatre? In the years since you first sunk yourself deep into its crushed velvet seats, which 3 movies remain your all-time favourites?

...telling tales from around the world

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