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Saturday, April 13, 2024

EDITORIAL: The Fading Charm of the Local Cinema


In my youth, the local cinema was a grand place, a place of‍ magic⁢ and mystery. The contagious anticipation that washed over me as I‌ handed over my two quarters -shiny and hard earned after diligent yard work- to the teenage clerk in return for a small entry ticket, could still be touched upon fondly by this ⁤old, wearied heart.

In Schenectady, our cinema was the Proctor’s Theater.⁣ It wasn’t just a theater; it was ⁢a shimmering riveted fortress of dreams and fantasies to us, and a sanctuary for dates and family outings. A communal gathering place,⁤ if you will, where movies dominated our imaginations and conversations.

Flash forward three decades later, and that silver screen magic seems to dissipate‌ like a sleight of hand trick gone wrong.⁤ The charm has undoubtedly faded, akin to well-worn movie posters surrendering their once vibrant hues to the passage of time. I see a husk of a once grand institution, ​plagued by mass-produced mediocrity, impersonalization, and a disconnected audience. ​

I recall a time when one had to really wait to see a movie. There ⁤were no immediate DVD releases or streaming platforms. And the wait, the wait was an event in itself!‍ It was anticipation, speculation, and sometimes ⁣frustration rolled into one thrilling suspense. Hand-drawn posters ‌would adorn the theater enticing us, the age⁢ of Jaws and Star Wars, painting a thousand pictures of possibilities.

And patience, my friends, is a significantly⁢ underrated virtue. I’d talk with my high school buddies – each scenario ⁤more outrageous than the other, each theory⁣ wilder – all in the hopes⁤ of guessing what⁤ each flick might have in store.

The movie outing was a careful plan, almost military logistical precision, honed out of sheer necessity. We observed and⁣ strategized the show times depending on our curfew, intricately‍ plotting the quickest exit⁢ routes to make it home just in time and avoid the wrath of our parents. And the thrill we got​ from a successful mission was palpable. The reward? A good night’s sleep with dazzling images of the night’s discovery tattooed in our young minds.

Look at us now. Disregarding the pandemic that’s forced cinemas to close, when was the last time⁤ scheduling a movie felt like ‌an event? When ⁤did ‍we, as a movie-going public, last eagerly ⁣anticipate a film for an entire month? On-demand streaming has snuffed ‍out the thrill of that wait. I understand the convenience, having tried, albeit‍ reluctantly, some of these platforms myself. But the novelty of watching a newly released movie in my pajamas at home pales compared ​to the vibrant experience of a packed Proctor’s Theater resonating with each‍ gasp, cheer, ​or chuckle.

Theaters these days focus on becoming multiplexes – more seats, more screens, attempting to cater to everyone. But in⁤ the process, they lose the charming architectural details that made‍ them unique. The individuality’s gone, leaving⁣ behind a sameness that’s as bland as the cinema popcorn. Remember ⁤the intricate ceiling detailing and luxurious⁢ chandeliers in Proctor’s? Or the plush, comfortable seating imported from Italy? ⁣Each visit was a feast‌ not ​just for the eyes,⁣ but also for the senses.

I also ​mourn the loss of the knowledgeable ushers‌ who’d guide us to our seats with an almost ⁣reverent‌ seriousness. They used to enhance our cinematic experience with nuggets of film trivia or their input on the upcoming releases. Now we are left fumbling in the dark, relying on​ the invasive glare of phone screens to find our seats.

As the flickering lights of the local cinemas dim,‌ irreverently replaced by the artificial glow of LED screens, we lose a piece of our communal heritage. It’s not just the movies that we are losing,‌ but also the shared experiences that brought us ⁣together as a community. We are letting go of a tradition that our city, Schenectady, once took pride in.

I know​ I’m an old fogey, ever grumbling about how things used ⁢to be grander and more satisfying. But ‍sometimes, maybe it’s not​ just the⁤ grumbling. Maybe it’s an alarm bell ringing to‍ remind us of the charm that once made our shared experiences more human, more personable. Because, God knows,‌ in this current hyper-digitalized whirlwind, we ​could certainly do with a dose ​of that reassuring, cinematic charm of our⁤ bygone days.

Brian McCarthy
Brian McCarthy
I'm Brian McCarthy! At your service to offer traditionally informed perspective on today's issues. Some call it out of touch; I call it time-honored wisdom.
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