When I moved to Vermont in 1984, one of the two things I missed most about New York City was the movies. I especially missed the revival houses where I’d watched Fred Astaire dancing in black and white, and Technicolor classics like Rear Window and Ben-Hur. By the 1980s, even 2001: A Space Odyssey was an old movie.
Movies on the VCR
From our first house, it was a forty-mile round trip to see a first-run movie and impossible to see a revival until the advent of the VCR. We bought one about the same time our first child was born, and we watched whatever was available at the local video store. No question, this suited our lifestyle at the time, which was geared toward work, sleep and survival.
Thirty years later, we can stream movies on Netflix.
We rarely do.
After fifteen minutes trying to decide which movie to watch, we give up and read. On the rare occasions we do watch, just as rarely, the phone rings. Or the cat barfs. Or the moon shines through the skylight and we go outside to watch the night sky.
And then the Oscars come around, and everyone’s talking about the Best Picture, and I feel like a troglodyte who lives under a rock. Or I leave town and find out how other people live, with Tibetan take-out and Uber and laundry service.
On my recent trip to Brooklyn, I attended a concert in Kings Theater, once a sumptuous, ornate movie palace. Originally built in 1929 as one of Loew’s Five Wonder Theatres and recently brought back to its early splendor, it’s now a music venue with seating for 3,000. That’s almost twice as many people who live in my town.
The place is a throwback to an era when going to the movies was a dress-up affair, not just for the audience, but also for the uniformed ushers who would show you to your seat. I could have used just such a guide to help me find my seat in the nosebleed section of the balcony. I could have used opera glasses, as well.
Bad Weather and The Oscars
Something about the trip to New York, the coming of the Oscars, and the remarkably snotty weather sparked my desire to go to the movies. I may not be hip, but I could be au courant in this one aspect of popular culture – if only I could overcome my resistance to driving twelve miles to Brattleboro, where I go weekly for both business and household chores. The solution was to try the movie theater in Dover, thirteen miles away.
Dover is a resort town, home to Mount Snow, and a place I rarely have reason to go. But I’d heard that the Mountain Park Cinema had been taken over by MHCA, a non-profit, and that they screened a different first-run movie every week. I talked Tim into giving it a try.
Mountain Park Cinema
Where Loew’s Kings Theatre had been outfitted to palatial specifications, the Mountain Park Cinema was not. But as we learned from the curtain speech that Dan gave, this is a shoestring operation. In addition to selling tickets, Dan chooses the movies, cleans the restrooms, pleads for patronage and chairs the board.
The restrooms are very clean; we became members.
I will admit that the appeal of the place is not the monochromatic decor: red carpet, red walls and red seats. It’s all in the simplicity: One movie a week: seven o’clock weeknights; four and eight on the weekend. With rain ruining the snow week after week, Tim and I have been to the movies three Sunday afternoons in a row, and it looks like it may become a habit.
From now on, if it’s Sunday afternoon and raining, I’ll be at the movies.
My plea: please subscribe and have these essays emailed to you so I can back out of social media without losing my audience. Enter your email address in the box at the right and look for a confirmation email, where you can prove you’re a reader and not a robot. You’ll receive an essay every Wednesday that’s entertaining, educational – and free. Thanks.