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Management, the employees, the high prices and the lousy “will call” (you still stand in line at the ticket window for pick-up) are the downsides to this great-looking theater. It’s great for matinees and weeknights to avoid the crowds. I saw “Grindhouse” and “300” here, and it’s the perfect place for those kinds of big-screen releases — especially “Grindhouse,” where maybe four other patrons showed up. Just like in the old days of trashy double features.
I used to love this dumpy old theater. I last went there in 2002, around the time it closed. I saw “Hannibal” there. My girlfriend at the time wouldn’t go with me again because something ran over her foot. It was in a sad way — the carpets and walls looked like they were originals. The moulding and decorative architecture on the walls was badly aged and water damaged. I kept hoping someone would swoop in to preserve this gem, and I foolishly thought that if I continued to patronize the place I might be pumping some money into that end. I would have thought it would have survived, like some of the older theaters in the suburbs or the Uptown Theater in Washington, D.C.
Maintenance always has been an issue because of the various additions. The lobby was redone in 1992-1993 to move the concession stand back and to allow for more registers. Previously, the entire place was a mess on opening nights and big releases because people were spiraled around a small stand — intended for drive-in audiences — and there was no easy way to situate the lines for those entering the theater. Further, resupply and preparation was behind a door that later became the arcade area. This is to the immediate left when one enters the building through the front doors. We used to have a popper going upstairs to handle any surges. Before the refurbishment, the equipment was getting to beaten up that if you touched popcorn scoops to the back of the warmers you would get an electric shock if your scoop didn’t have a rubber handle. Sometime in the ‘00s, they eliminated the generators that once sat behind the building. These were guarded by a low wall, and we would find people toking up and getting intimate in the weeds there. Location is what keeps this place open. Time has passed it by, but for awhile the $3 twilight shows (4 p.m.-6 p.m.) and cheaper prices than the former Eric up the street helped to drive traffic here.