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The Uptown was a clean, well-managed neighborhood theater at Pierce St. and 27th in a small business area located between two hospitals. Unlike many “nabes” of the 1950s, it had an excellent wide screen — surrounded by soft blue light, no less. Yes, programs were almost all second-run, but films were usually less than six months old. In other words, they hit the Uptown screen as fast as today’s releases show up on DVD. Movies several years old were classics such as “Shane” and “From Here to Eternity.” Prices were cheap. Students, for example, were admitted for 25 cents. Snack bar not bad. The Uptown closed soon after I left for college. That could have been why. (<:
When I knew the Avalon in 1951 and early ‘52, it looked ready to breathe its last. The whole place smelled like popcorn. Still, it was the only one of the four downtown Olympia theaters to guarantee “always a double feature,” albeit strictly second-run. (Other movie houses were the State, Capitol and Olympic — all upscale compared with the gone-to-seed Avalon.) Despite the twin-bill obligation, the Avalon’s proprietors usually managed to package the program for three hours total — example, “Samson and Delilah” plus “Bowery Boys.” That meant parents could drop the kids off a 1 and pick them up at 4.
This was a charming little theater, well run and nicely equipped — right down to a crying room for patrons with infants. It offered double features on weekends and single features on weekdays. In 1954, it encountered a crisis: introduction of CinemaScope. With the marvelous Fremont in San Luis Obispo (20 miles south) and the Fox in Paso Robles (10 miles north) installing wide screens, Atascadero’s La Moda desperately needed an upgrade. Problem was, the auditorium was almost too narrow. But the owners, the Pecks (who also owned the town newspaper), persevered. They installed a wide screen that, while slightly irregular, nicely accommodated the big-screen hits of the day. My 3-year friendship with the La Moda ended when my family left Atascadero in 1955. I later was saddened to read that it had been converted into a bowling alley. Alas, CinemaScope, heralded as one of the movies' answers to television, couldn’t save the small-town movie houses for very long.