Cinema & Movies

RETURN OF THE MOVIE PALACES: ‘At these prices, something has to give.’

By DAVID BEILSTEIN

THIS is not a polemical argument, but an aesthetic one. These cathedrals of exhibition came to America in the silent era of movies—the 1920’s—elegantly stylised and eclectically carved from the world’s foreign asymmetrical façades. The hint of the minaret and the gothic could be viewed—of celestial air and Hindu opulence. To the man, some would throw in ostentatious. Nonetheless, they had unperturbed critics when they began to topple due to the loss of revenue and unerring public trust from the big studios.

Consequently, Warner Brothers bet present and future on the Vitaphone harnessing in a new future—one where the need for the orchestra pit housed in those cathedrals vanished thinly into history. They were called movie palaces and they rose up in gilded beauty all around these United States. They were garnished with the visions of imagery worlds and splendid adventures to be glimpsed. Some still stand and are in operation; some are tourist stops.

So they came, they disappeared. But the moviegoer in 2012, holding fast to what hard earned money he or she may occupy in our present orbit, could use the palaces of yesteryear now in an epoch of unrest and fiscal turbulence. Call them the metaphorical chaser of movie theater exhibitions. Alas, the private reflection may grasp for the reader a sense of the sober mind.

We begin.

Couple months back, David Beilstein, a handsomely bald and pragmatic Negro of grit and attempted courage, was resting in his apartment bravely fixed to private fears and public expectations. His work was challenging and his mind was fatigued. A small break from work pricked his brutal edge under the stew of heavy tropical clouds.

Yet good news lingered in the windy air.

Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises was being released and the haunting reverberation of the massacre in Colorado had ebbed—only slightly!—inducing Beilstein to ride the crest of wind and rain to descend on the Regal Theatre in Oviedo, Florida. The cost of Beilstein’s labours came to $10.50 during the mid-day stasis. One ticket, one movie purchased; this was an event before his dogmatic tradition of a large Coke (never diet!) and small popcorn.

Worse. Beilstein became privately furious! for his money was loan money and hard to come by not only for himself but also for his generous benefactor. Beilstein enjoyed the movie nevertheless but was conscious of the drab and grim house in which he watched this Shakespearian arch play out its final chapter. Good conquered evil though it required the winded breath of a herculean climb by Bruce Wayne (Batman)—surging up the rising cliff of Gotham’s Everest. Still, after the lights came up and the credits rolled Beilstein glanced around the theatre and felt privately insane.

He thought mightily, ‘there must be something better for $10.50 in the afternoon!’ Never in Beilstein’s small but fertile mind did he forget confidences of the risen Lord’s grip on the gyrating mould of the universe, Imax certainly offered pleasures. Beilstein did not have the ego of the late old man Mailer—nor the talent, but that is a prosaic issue to be admitted later. Beilstein did, however, being an Old School Presbyterian by grafting in, not by birth, looked—prayed earnestly!—for something more richly adventurous to view Nolan’s penetrating myth on motion picture—something more exotic and colourful to be exact.

The Movie Palaces.

The sentimental but good movie Field of Dreams gave us the term ‘if you build it they will come.’ Beilstein knew this line of theological Credo, ut intelligam, ascribed to St Anselm (I believe in order that I might understand), having been taken to this down home flick by his saintly mother some moons ago when the young moses’ only love was baseball and stories. It now seemed presently assured—if the movie palaces returned, the people would come.

Personality goes a long way. Just ask old man Hemingway. It could be beyond difficult since the only writer in America who had a chance to knock out Tolstoy without the hint of dirty tactics has been gone since summer, 1961. Still, Hemingway carried high art on his broad shoulders illustrious of a stoutly talent.

Alas, Movie Palaces without good movies to exhibit will not go far. But they still would be a welcome. And they would enshrine the adventure and shall we say worth of going to the movies and spending the type of money now expected on a ticket excluding refreshments.

Celebrating the past ignorantly is the mistake of the unthinking, stubborn mule. But forgetting the good things of the past is equally tedious and unwise. If movie theaters attempt to offer the paying public something grand and exotic… which they need to at these prices. The movie palaces of days gone by would be a fresh and thrilling place to fade in.

—Finis

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