Showing 1 - 25 of 33 comments found
Went here several times in the 1980’s as an alternative to the Cross Creek Mall or Eutaw cinemas. The last movie I saw at Westwood was the remake of THEY FLY (1986). The Westwood was nice in that it was connected to a small shopping center and there was a Big Boy restaurant in the parking lot. The theater was easy to get to from Fort Bragg as it was right off of the All American Highway.
I remember this cinema well. During my six week tour at Fort Bragg in 1981 the Eutaw was my group’s primary movie destination for films such as RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, FOR YOUR EYES ONLY and DRAGON SLAYER.
I remember this theater well. My friends and I took the old rickety Erie Lakawana train from Berkeley Heights to Summit to see THE HOT ROCK (1972). Years later my high school German class took a field trip to the Strand for a special showing of a German-language film. The movie was boring and I spent most of my time trying to read the rapidly changing English subtitles instead of soaking up the linguistic experience. Still it was good to be back in that theater after several years.
Unfortunately the Strand met a fate similar to other theaters: They either closed or were rebuilt into cramped shoe-box multiplexes (ala the cinema in Bernardsville, NJ).
The big screen mega auditorium theaters are few and far between. Going to a movie was certainly a better experience when the screen was tall and wide and the projected image was gigantic no matter where you sat in the theater.
I remember the Cross Creek Mall Cinema very well indeed. During my summer 1981 six week stint at Fort Bragg I often escaped to the Mall to enjoy a movie in air-conditioned comfort. At the time the Cross Creek Mall Cinema, and its neighbor at the Westwood Plaza, were the most modern movie theaters in the area. The first film I saw there was SUPERMAN II. No matter how corny you judge the second installment of the Christopher Reeves Superman franchise, it was absolute heaven to enjoy the film in a climate controled auditorium after the first week of exhausting Army training. Soon afterward I was back in the same auditorium for Mel Brooks' HISTORY OF THE WORLD.
At that time the Cross Creek Mall was, more or less, all by itself astride the All American Highway. A short few years later the area around Mall was awash in a sea of retail stores and fast food restaurants.
In the mid 1980’s I was back at Fort Bragg and made it to the Cross Creek to see John Candy in ARMED AND DANGEROUS. I remember at that time there was a large gaudy display in front of the theater advertising HOWARD THE DUCK.
Unfortunately the Cross Creek Cinema became a victim of General Cinemas' bankruptcy and ultimate collapse.
The Jersey Theater was another victim of multiplex fever. The grand old theater was done an injustice when it was rebuilt as a triplex. As I recall one of its auditoriums had seats (possibly built over the cinema’s old balcony) situated on such a steep grade that you felt as if you were going to fall forward. You actually looked slightly downward toward the screen.
Unfortunately I do not recall ever seeing a production at the Jersey Theater before it was rebuilt as a multiplex cinema. Some of the films I saw there were THE ELEPHANT MAN, TERROR TRAIN and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. The last movie I enjoyed at the Jersey in the summer of 1982 was STAR TREK II.
Jumping ahead from summer 1982 to spring 1994. My minivan was at the Chrysler dealership for some warranty related work. The dealership was a few blocks down the road from Jersey Theater on South Street. Even though I had an appointment and the auto repair should have only taken an hour or so I quickly discerned that the cigar chomping shop manager was not going to grant my minivan priority treatment. Stranded in Morristown I wandered toward the Morristown Green (town square) and figured I would check out what was playing at the Jersey Theater. I was hoping that there might be a matinee.
Standing in front of the theater I noted that it had obviously been closed for some time. I later blundered into the Headquarters Mall and its cinemas, but by then my car was ready for pick up. Good-bye Jersey Theater.
I remember this theater from my brief official visit to Fort McClellan in 1989. At the time Fort McClellan hosted the US Army Chemical and Military Police schools. I had driven from Fort Stewart, GA to the US Army Chemical School at Fort McClellan. My stay was for less than 24 hours and I was billeted in a tiny apartment in a collection of buildings on the wooded hill south of the theater. It was a rainy Thursday afternoon in early April. After I checked into my quarters I walked down the hill (having done enough sitting during the six and a half hour drive to Fort McClellan) and found the AAFES Theater near the intersection of 12th Street and Summerall. IRON EAGLE II was scheduled to play that evening. I saw the original IRON EAGLE and was not even aware that there was a sequel (Years later I was even more surprised to discover there was an IRON EAGLE III).
Rather than sit idle all evening in my cramped guest quarters I opted to see IRON EAGLE II. I decided to drive to the theater that evening because it started raining steadily. The theater was typical of the brick and cinderblock theaters of the day. As I recall there were not too many patrons at the theater, which worked out well as it rained with Biblical intensity and those of waiting for the place to open were able to take cover under the overhang. AAFES theater managers/projectionists had a habit of showing up in the nick of time immediately before the advertised showing of the scheduled film. That night was no exception.
Because of the rainy weather the inside of the theater had a damp and stale locker room aroma to it. It was not until the air-conditioning kicked on that the fragrance abated.
I do not recall anything extraordinary about the interior of the theater. Despite the frequent flashes of lightning and theater shaking under each clap of thunder the picture continued uninterrupted. The unfortunate thing was that IRON EAGLE II was such a bomb that I kept nodding off during the show. Fortunately the heavy rain ended by the time the movie let out.
Fort McClellan was another casualty of the base closures and alignments of the late 1980â€™s and 1990â€™s that resulted in the closures of many military facilities. Even those that remain open have much less to offer active duty military, Guard and Reserve or retirees. The theater at McClellan was also one of those casualties.
Mike Rogers, I never made it to Fort Gordon. While stationed in Georgia my wife and I visited Augusta, GA a couple times, but surprisingly never got as far as driving onto Fort Gordon. This is surprising especially as we would normally check out Army posts or Air Force bases, such as Fort Lee or Fort Bragg, if we happened to be in the area for any length of time.
I was sorry to hear that the Lanier Theater closed. Decades ago when my mom and dad drove us to Florida for vacation we always spent an overnight in Brunswick (at the now demolished Oak Park Quality Court — complete with Howard Johnsonâ€™s Restaurant on the edge of the parking lot). At some point in the day we normally ended up shopping in the Lanier Plaza, which was at that time complete with Winn Dixie supermarket, Eckerd Drugs, a Laundromat and small Sears store. In the southwest angle between Sears and Winn Dixie was the Lanier Theater. One evening, circa 1970, my parents took us to see the re-release of Walt Disneyâ€™s Pinocchio at the Lanier. That was when the Lanier was a large single screen cinema.
Fifteen years later I was living in Georgia while assigned to Fort Stewart. Shopping in Brunswick was always a good weekend alternative when compared to battling pay-day crowds in Savannah. When in Brunswick the Lanier Theater was always our first choice for movies. At that time (1985 â€" 1989) the Lanier was a twin cinema that offered reduced matinee prices. The first film I saw there was PALE RIDER. Over the next four years we went to see numerous movies at the Lanier including BATTERIES NOT INCLUDED, WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT?, SPIES LIKE US and MURPHYâ€™S ROMANCE.
The Lanier Theater was just off of US Highway 17 close to the turnoff for St. Simonâ€™s Island and en route to the old Lanier Lift Bridge and thence to the Jekyll Island causeway. Highway 17 was the main coastal route to Florida in the years before Interstate 95 coursed several miles west and was completed in 1979.
In 1988 construction began on an additional wing for the Colonial Mall at Glynn Place. I surmised the Lanierâ€™s days were numbered. The mall expansion included a larger food court, additional store fronts, a hotel, full sized carousel (which was removed some years later), and a modern multiplex cinema. Stores and motels/hotels on old US Highway 17 in Brunswick had already gone through a period of decline including the demise of the Shoneyâ€™s restaurant. I am surprised the Lanier was able to hold out for an additional ten years.
Over time old movie houses have been forced to make the transition from well designed comfortable single screen theaters to cramped multiplex cinemas. Those that have made the transition become little more than tiny auditoriums with pictures not much better than that of a good wide screen HD television. Despite claims of Dolby Sound the acoustics tend to be poor and sound from adjacent auditoriums penetrates the thinly insulated walls. Theaters like the Lanier were not designed to be retrofitted as shoe-box cinemas. Retrofits ultimately lose business unless they command prime real estate, such as the Boardwalk Cinema (literally on the Boardwalk) in Wildwood, NJ. The decline in shoppers at the Lanier shopping center no doubt also contributed to the theaterâ€™s demise.
The Lanier will be missed.
The Woodruff Theater was the main post cinema on Fort Stewart. It was/is located across the parking lot from the AAFES Post Exchange (PX) mall and the Commissary. Fort Stewart also boasted a second AAFES cinema, the Moon Theater, which was located in the â€œBrigade Area.â€
The Woodruff Theater was typical of AAFES cinemas of the mid to late 1980â€™s. The theater was also used for briefings, club meetings, post orientation tours, flu vaccinations and pre-deployment activities. During my four year stint at Fort Stewart I recall the cinema showing movies most evenings of the week. The Woodruff regularly had two shows on Fridays and weekends and sometimes even had late night shows and double features. Even though the cost of movies began creeping up, five dollars would still buy you admission, a large soda, bucket of popcorn and pack of candy. Seeing movies at the Woodruff made for an economical evening.
Of the two theaters on Fort Stewart the Woodruff was the better of the two if you actually wanted to see a movie without too much distraction. The Moon Theater, which was in the middle of the troop area, tended to attract rowdy young soldiers who often yelled back at the screen or made those loud guttural animal sounds that were supposed to herald their high military motivation.
The projectionist/managers of the Woodruff were attuned to ticket lines outside of the theater. If the line was particularly long they would delay the start of the movie â€" or possibly show the coming attractions on time, but then turn the music back on until the last person entered the theater. This was quite different some of the AAFES theaters in Germany, particularly Bamberg and Kitzigen, where the film was started on schedule regardless of the line outside or tardiness in opening the cinema. About the only consistent faux pas at the Woodruff was that sometimes the air-conditioning was not turned up early enough to sufficiently cool the auditorium. The result was that the auditorium would get terribly muggy through the first half of the film.
The first movie my wife and I saw at the Woodruff was SILVERADO. Remember too that back in the 1980â€™s movies tended to run in civilian movie theaters for weeks if not months. A film could still be considered first run it if showed up several months after its release (unlike today where a film might spend a couple weeks in various theaters before it is immediately released on DVD and Blue Ray). AAFES theaters rarely hosted films immediately after their releases. This was partly due to economical concerns. AAFES theaters did not charge a lot for their movies and thus were not able to pay a fortune for a film on the day of its release. Secondly, and probably more importantly was the fact that the regulations of the day prohibited AAFES from directly competing with the local market. As such the films usually had to exhaust their runs in local theaters before showing up on an AAFES screen.
The truth of the matter was that there was not much of selection of movie theaters in nearby Hinesville. Hinesville had one run down multi-cinema with an old drive-in movie lot â€" turned flea market â€" in the back of the theater. Otherwise the closest movie theater outside of Hinesville was the Abercorn Cinema on the edge of Savannah. Ultimately the Woodruff Theater was not a bad choice.
One of my favorite memories of the Woodruff was the controversy that developed when the movie PLATOON was scheduled to play. AAFES and the garrison commanderâ€™s office actually received some pleas to not show film. AAFES went ahead anyway. Ultimately the movie played to sell out crowds. For weeks afterward the film generated discussion among officers and noncommissioned officers who had served in Vietnam as to whether not the film was a realistic. Our battalion executive officer flat-out said that the film was absolutely correct. A differing view was offered by one of the assistant division commanders who insisted that PLATOON was nothing more than communist propaganda. Everyone has an opinion.
The other benefit of the Woodruff Theater, and one common to many AAFES theaters in the United States and overseas, was that it shared the same parking lot with the AAFES Shoppette. The Shoppette was basically a convenience store. It was a great place to pick up additional snacks before the movie.
I enjoyed my four year tour at Fort Stewart and the Woodruff Theater helped considerably.
I am glad someone posted this cinema. Prior to coming across the Altama listing I could not remember if the cinema was called Altama or Altamaha. Regardless, the Altama Tri-Plex was one of my favorite theaters in Brunswick, GA (My favorite was the Lanier Theater). My wife and I lived in Hinesville during my four year stint at Fort Stewart during the mid to late 1980â€™s. We regularly took weekend drives to Brunswick and at some point we stumbled onto the Colonial Mall at Glynn Place, which at that time was bounded on two sides by thick Georgia coastal forest, and subsequently discovered the Altama Cinema farther down the road.
The Altama Cinema was perfectly positioned for us. After a day, or a weekend, in Brunswick we would zigzag our way back toward Interstate 95 and the Altama Cinema was a natural stop if there was a film we wanted to see. We regularly went to the movies in part encouraged by the fact that our apartment was not wired for cable television until late 1986. I kept the Altama Theaterâ€™s phone number handy at home so as to call the number and jot down the film selection and schedule before we left for Brunswick or Jekyll Island. So many years have passed that I do not recall all the movies we saw at the Altama, but I do remember that we enjoyed BACK TO THE FUTURE at the Altama and then two weeks later were disappointed by TEEN WOLF. I also recall that we went to the Altama immediately following a 1987 tropical storm. The theatersâ€™ back parking lot was flooded and the water seeped into the cinema by way of the rear exits and created a lake in front of the screen. The cinema remained open and screened ERNEST GOES TO CAMP, but the auditorium had ropes strung across the aisles and through several rows of seats to dissuade people from sitting too far forward or exiting through the partially submerged rear doors.
In August 2007 I drove through the area and turned off of I-95 onto the Golden Isles Parkway. It was amazing to see how much of the surrounding forest had disappeared and land had been developed. I noted that the Altama Cinema was long gone. Much as I noted about the Lanier Theater, the 1988 expansion of the Colonial Mall at Glynn Place including the addition of a multiplex no doubt doomed the older theaters.
The one universal constant is that everything has a beginning and an end. Certainly this was case with the Armyâ€™s Fort Benjamin Harrison. With the exception of the Finance Center and PX/Commissary, Fort Harrison is little more than a memory as the former Federal installation was reconfigured for civilian use. One of the casualties was the Army/Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) theater.
The Fort Benjamin Harrison AAFES (pronounced A-FEES) theater was typical of the movie theaters found on military bases in the 1980s. Military cinemas were multi-purpose facilities complete with full stages. In addition to movies they often hosted military briefings and religious services. These theaters primarily screened second run movies. There was normally a two or three month lag between a movieâ€™s release date and its appearance at military theater. Some of this was certainly cost related as AAFES cinemas only charged a couple dollars for a movie. The other component was that in the United States AAFES was regulation bound to avoid competing with cinemas in the local market.
The Fort Harrison cinema was a single-screen theater with the main speaker positioned behind the screen. There were additional speakers retrofitted to the walls. The projectionist wore several hats in that he sold the tickets, manned the snack stand and ran the movie. This arrangement worked as the Fort Harrison theater rarely hosted a packed auditorium. However when there was a line of people outside the theater the line would sometimes stop moving for five minute intervals as the solitary AAFES employee temporarily abandoned the ticket window and devoted some time selling candy, soda and popcorn. As many soldiers paid by personal check the process slowed even further.
The AAFES theater at Fort Harrison was next to the Post Exchange (PX) and conveniently across the street from the post bowling alley and diagonally across the street from the Green Bank where I frequently stopped to get pocket money from the ATM. Five dollars would cover the cost of admission, a large soda, bucket of popcorn and large sized Hersheyâ€™s chocolate bar. My 1984 memories of the Fort Harrison theater are that it was open for business the latter portion of the week, as well as over the weekend. When I was at Fort Harrison movies were limited to single showings per evening. Likewise there were no late night screenings unlike AAFES theaters at larger military bases.
I went to quite a few movies at the Fort Harrison theater, though I had previously seen many of the films at first-run theaters. I do recall going to see THE RIGHT STUFF, TANK, POLICE ACADEMY and ICE PIRATES at the cinema.
The coming attractions trailers were not always in the best shape and often advertised films that would never find their way to the military cinema. The one thing I always enjoyed about military cinemas was that show was always preceded by a short film featuring the Star Spangled Banner backed with patriotic military scenes. The National Anthem always elicited cheers from the audience.
The one drawback of going to an AAFES theater was that there were often young soldiers in the audience who had no sense of movie theater etiquette. These guys would often yell at the screen and carry on loud and profanity ridden conversations with their buddies during the feature film. One time there was even a soldier who toted an enormous boom-box over his shoulder and continued to play music well into the start of the main feature.
The Fort Benjamin Harrison AAFES theater closed in the mid 1990s at the same time military post was inactivated and largely handed over to the local community. Although the PX and Commissary remained open for several years (pending the completion of the new shopping complex built on the site of the former Army hospital) the AAFES cinema was torn down. For years the general outline of the theater could still be traced on the ground, but this disappeared once the PX relocated.
Sadly I also spotted the closure of this multiplex during my frequent drives through Flemington on US Highway 202. I remember the building as a car dealership in the 1970’s. The solitary film I ever saw at this theater was ET. I did not realize until reading the contributions to this site that cinema was once owned by Richard Nathan. My first real employer (outside of the paper route I had as a kid) was a Nathan owned theater in Berkeley Heights, NJ. If I still resided in the area I would have gone to this cinema for more than a solitary film. Unfortunately for the past 30 years it has been not much than a landmark along my lengthy commute. The numerous times I have driven past I noted that the cinema always screened movies immediately after their release.
Found myself in Berkeley Heights late afternoon yesterday and stopped at the Berkeley Cinema to get a look at the theater for myself. As it has barely been two months since the cinema closed it does not yet have that abandoned look. If movie posters had been hanging in the outside display cases it would be easy to imagine the cinema as opening for business that evening. I took several digital photos of the building exterior and walkways. The asphalt front drive is pretty torn up, but that has been a recurring problem over the decades. Even in the mid 1970s the driveway sagged in places and would get noticeably worse if anyone parked there for any length of time.
The fully grown trees on the east side of the building are a far cry from the barely rooted shrubs of the 1970s. The rear parking lot is much different than it was when the cinema first opened and the Foodtown plaza shared the rear lot. Where the condominiums and apartments now stand was once nothing more than waterlogged thicket. Sherman Ave used to curve left abruptly at Summit Ave before Sherman Ave was paved through the thicket and connected to the shared parking lot. At one point, especially after several trip-and-fall incidents, the Berkeley Cinema’s sidewalk was extended through the parking lot. Only a small stretch of the original walk remains.
Did you ever wonder about the large boulders lining the edge of the parking lot adjacent to the Berkeley Cinema? In the mid 1970’s the Berkeley Cinema driveway, as well as the paved road leading downhill into the Foodtown plaza, were level with the liquor store and bakery parking lots. Cinema patrons often parked in the liquor store lot and walked over to the Berkeley Cinema. Despite posted warnings the owners of the adjacent property eventually had the boulders placed at the edge of the parking lot to dissuade movie-goers from parking on liquor store property. Years later curb stones were added to better define the edge of the respective parking lots, but the boulders still remain to this day.
As noted in my previous posting, I hope that someone else seizes the reins of this theater and keeps it running as a cinema.
My memory of the Pecos Theater goes back to January 2, 1983. I was on my way to my first active duty military assignment and had just driven 1,100 miles. I ran into the tail end of a snow storm in western Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle and did not break free of the storm until Amarillo, TX. As soon as the sun barely plied the eastern horizon I pulled into Santa Rosa, NM and convinced the elderly desk clerks at the Motel 6 to allow me to check in early.
After carting my luggage to my room I felt wide awake enough to drive into town where I parked on, what I thought was, a side street. As I strolled down the sidewalk toward a small grocery store I chanced to pass the front of the theater. Having previously worked at a cinema for years I thought it would be a great idea to catch a movie that night. Alas the theater’s posted schedule indicated that it was only open a couple days of the week and Sunday January 2nd was not one of those days.
I visited this cinema only once when I was assigned to Fort Huachuca. My wife and I went to see Sean Connery in NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN (in 1983, the year two James Bond films were released). I was not overly impressed by the theater. I would not even say that the cinema had seen better days because I do not think there were any better days.
We went to see NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN in Sierra Vista the first weekend of its release. As the AAFES theater on the military post normally screened movies months after their release date it was a treat to see a first run movie without having to drive 70 miles to Tucson. Unfortunately the film was spliced together poorly. The film soundtrack sounded “tinny,” and the air conditioning did nothing to circulate the thick humid air out of the auditorium. Most of the seats were dirty or stained and floor had the stickiness of masking tape.
Years later we returned to Fort Huachuca for a brief assignment and found ourselves living in Sierra Vista only a few blocks away from the cinema. STAR TREK V was showing at the theater and I would have gone to see the film except that I clearely recalled the circumstances of my visit six years earlier.
The Ridge Cinema, which we called the Lyons Mall Jerry Lewis Cinema, was located downhill from Ridge High School in Basking Ridge and was adjacent to the train station. It shared a small strip mall with a Grand Union supermarket. Back then this particular Grand Union was also a small department store.
Over the years I went to the Ridge Cinema numerous times, though I cannot recall all movies I saw there. The film I recall most was a late 1960s or early 1970s re-release of LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (many years before the film’s 1989 restoration and re-release). After years of seeing LAWRENCE OF ARABIA on television it was great to finally see the film on the wide screen.
Alas the last film I saw at the Ridge Cinema was Clint Eastwood’s BRONCO BILLY. As I recall the theater still retained its Jerry Lewis caricature logo, though I do not recall if it was still part of the old chain. It was not too long after BRONCO BILLY that the theater closed. A bank replaced the theater. It was about this same time that the nearby theater in Bernardsville was butchered from a grand single-screen movie house into a series of cramped multiplex auditoriums. The days of the single screen cinema began their multi-decade decline.
OUT OF BUSINESS
The Berkeley Cinema closed, at least for now, effective the evening of January 2, 2011. At first I thought the information was just a rumor, but the report was later verified after I read several internet articles. The closing came as even more of a surprise as I drove past the theater only a week before Christmas 2010 and the new “Tron” movie was advertised. At the time it looked like the movie was attracting a healthy size crowd. Apparently the theater closing came without warning or explanation.
I sincerely hope the Berkeley Cinema reopens. It was one of the few surviving stand-alone cinemas (aside from those on military bases) in New Jersey. It would be a shame to see the building used for something other than a movie theater, though I doubt the Township would allow it to become a church or bank (as so many old theaters eventually seem to end up). Maybe this is the opportunity for the Berkeley Cinema to finally make the move into the 21st Century and become a Cinema Cafe. The transition to a theater eatery might be just the thing. Indeed, this change saved numerous other small cinemas, particularly those in some of the southern states.
I will have to make a trip back to my old home town sooner than planned to get a close up look at the Berkeley Cinema. I worked there in one capacity or another from 1974 to 1977, but continued to drop in and visit with old acquaintances until the early 1980s. When I worked there I was a budding amateur black and white photographer and took hundreds of photographs in and around the Berkeley Cinema. In fact my first crude attempt at 35mm night time exposure photo was taken of the Berkeley Cinema the evening of December 25, 1976. As you might have guessed, the camera was a Christmas present. Maybe it is time to take one final photo to close the chapter. I did the same thing when nearby Drug Fair closed.
I will post more information as it becomes available.
Alas, the Somerville Drive-In is now a golf driving range complete with a small miniature golf course near the entrance. The entrance drive, though repaved, is about the only thing that vaguely appears the same. Over the years I have occasionally checked internet aerial photos of the site and watched it transform from an abandoned drive-in movie complex to a golf course.
I was sorry to see this cinema go. I saw STAR TREK II there shortly before I left for Army active duty. Those were the days when the Somerville Circle was actually a circle. In my travels I pass the site several times a month. The old cinema building now houses a hardware store.
Despite my hope that the cinema would eventually reopen, the surviving complex was demolished in early 2008. The mall expansion project and redesigned food court doomed the entombed theater. I drove up to the mall in mid spring and was surprised to find the former cinema extension of the mall a gutted ruin. No more Christiana Cinema.
Up until the Berkeley Cinema was built, Blue Star Cinemas was the closest theater to home. As other people have noted in their postings the cinema started out with a large auditorium that was eventually carved into smaller theaters.
My experience with Blue Star Cinemas is broken into two distinct phases. The first consists of the 1960s and early 1970s when I traditionally found myself at the movies with my parents. Beginning with James Bond’s LIVE AND LET DIE in 1973 I started going to Blue Star on my own or with friends.
It is difficult to even remember all the movies I saw at Blue Star as a kid. THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN AND THEIR FLYING MACHINES, BEATLES YELLOW SUBMARINE, HIGH WINDS IN JAMAICA, KRAKATOA – EAST OF JAVA, THE CHRISTMAS THAT ALMOST WASN’T, 2001 A SPACE ODYSSEY, and many more. As noted earlier the big change for me came with LIVE AND LET DIE. At that time an old retired school bus, painted blue, ran an irregular service from downtown Berkeley Heights to Blue Star. The problem was that you were almost always guarantied that the bus would pick you up by the Berkeley Heights police station get you to the Blue Star Shopping Center, but the bus schedule was far less reliable when you needed a return trip. For the Bond movie my parents attended the same showing, but my brother, a couple friends and I insisted on walking down to the bus stop and making our own way to the theater.
I have a lot of memories from that second phase of movie going. THE EAGLE HAS LANDED, STAR TREK THE MOTION PICTURE, BLACK SUNDAY, THE ELECTRIC COWBOY, HEAVEN CAN WAIT, were just a few of the movies I had the pleasure of seeing at Blue Star. In fact, I saw APOCALYPSE NOW during the cinema’s New Year’s Eve late show. I also caught THE BIG RED ONE on the big screen.
At the time I worked at the Berkeley Cinema and we supposedly had an agreement with Blue Star that their employees could enter our theater free of charge and that we could do the same at Blue Star. The managers traded lists of their employee names. Unfortunately I found out, much to my chagrin, that when I showed up for a movie at Blue Star, announced my name at the ticket booth and explained I worked for the Berkeley Cinema I was met with, “So what do you want, a medal?”
For some reason that free trade agreement never worked for me.
Sadly one of the last movies I saw at Blue Star was PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES. By that time I was in the Army serving here, there and everywhere. I made it home less often. On one of my ever rarer leaves home I met with friends and went to see John Candy and Steve Martin. About the only regret I had was that PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES is a holiday movie and the film premiered during the summer. Whenever I see the movie on cable television I am very much reminded of my last visit to General Cinema’s Blue Star Cinema.
The Everett Theater hosts a variety of activities. One of the things I enjoy most about the theater is that it hosts re-releases of classic films. Unfortunately these special movie events are normally presented one showing, one night only and are rarely advertised well in advance.
Two years ago we were at the Everett and enjoyed a wonderfully restored print of IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. Unfortunately the short notice advertisements have meant that my family and I have missed showings of THE WIZARD OF OZ, MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET, and GETTYSBURG to name a few.
I am sorry that I did not get to The Lost Picture Show earlier in its life. I was a frequent visitor to the Union Market when I attended nearby Seton Hall University, but took little notice of the cinema. The solitary movie I saw there was DAS BOOT when it was originally released. That was a great movie to see on the large screen.
Unfortunately theaters like The Lost Picture Show are far and few between. Whenever there is an oddball or other than mainline film released (or re-released) it is difficult to locate it. For example, when The Beatles first two movies were restored and re-released they only showed in the newspaper movie schedule at some obscure theater in Philadelphia. The same held true for the more recently released DOWNFALL. The Lost Picture Show was basically one of those obscure theaters that was virtually in my back yard and I regret having discovered it on the eve of leaving for several years active duty in the Army.
The solitary film I saw at this theater was MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL. At the time the Chatham Cinema was one of the few that boldly dared show screen the movie. It was a packed house. It was not until two months later that other movie houses, such as the Berkeley Cinema, got around to showing the same film.
The closing of this theater was a tragedy and followed closely on the heels of General Cinemas' bankruptcy. The cinema was on the south side of the mall adjacent to the food court. The exterior entrance and ticket window have been effectively covered with sheet rock and camouflaged to look like the rest of the building. The interior mall portion of the cinema retained its plate glass windows for several months afterward allowing the curious to peek inside at the dark and abandoned theater. The glass was later either covered up or replaced by white painted dry wall. I often wonder if the cinema auditoriums, candy stands, and projectors are still preserved inside.
The Christiana Mall was the perfect place for a cinema. Finances permitting you could spend a whole day a the mall shopping, having a meal, and seeing a movie — though not necessarily in that order. The cinema was a great sanctuary when my wife went Christmas shopping. The kids and I would duck into the movies and emerge two hours later and effectively avoid having to carry packages.
We saw countless movies at the Christiana Mall. The parking area near the food court was one of the safest to park in as it was well lit and patroled by both mall security and Delaware State Police.
General Cinemas fell on hard times during the recession of 2000 – 2001. The last movie I saw at the Christiana Mall was an uncomfortable disappointment. My son and I went to see PEARL HARBOR. The theater used to boast two snack stands, but only one was open and the pickings were slim. Though it was stifling hot the cinema had no air-conditioning. I complained at the front counter but the two hapless employees simply shrugged their shoulders. The cinema shut its doors for good soon afterward.
At the time I read that the AMC chain acquired General Cinemas and made specific mention on its website that it would honor all existing General Cinemas gift certificates and coupons. I had high hopes that the cinema would reopen as an AMC theater, but they boarded it up instead.