Home Miniature house It’s not ‘The End’ for movie theaters

It’s not ‘The End’ for movie theaters


In the 2000s, a movie buff friend called me from a video store in Stamford to tell me that it was closing and selling DVDs for a few dollars each.

My wife and I scrambled and grabbed as many classics and arthouse gems as we could (we found plenty, since most people were buying multiplex fare).

The guy ahead of me in line asked the owner why it was a stealth and word of mouth closure.

“I just want to retire. I don’t want reporters coming in and doing one of these stories, ‘The Death of the Video Store,'” he replied. “Who needs this?”

I was able to enjoy the view from the other side of the screen.

A year ago I wrote a column which revealed that Greenwich was without a cinema for the first time since 1914. I haven’t had much comment. Just another victim of the pandemic.

More movie theaters have closed in Connecticut in recent months, as we cataloged in a news story last week. Waterbury…Westbrook…Stonington…Branford…New Haven.

History quotes Tom Garrett, film scholar at the University of New Haven believing that COVID came at a time when moviegoers were embracing streaming, making it “sort of the final nail in the coffin” for cinemas.

Television snuffed out Hollywood’s golden age in the 1950s. Video allegedly killed movie star circa 1980. DVDs have obliterated VHS and streaming has made DVD fall like paper pounding out of rock (but it works).

But movies are about art, not electronics. We shouldn’t need reminders 30 months into COVID that cinema is still best enjoyed on the big screen surrounded by our fellow human beings. We might recognize a Edward Hopper paint on a US stamp, but that’s no way to experience the artwork.

So I’m not buying the final credits rolling for the big screen.

Neither Stuart Adelberg, the executive director of the Avon Theater Film Center in Stamford. Adelberg answered the story with a letter to the editor detailing how the independent theater has operated from the same Bedford Street location since 1939 and continues to screen “new releases, art house films, documentaries, foreign language films and even monthly cult classics”.

The Avon is part of the reason I can’t imagine the theaters going black. I thought he died once, but Avon is tougher than Michael Myers in “Halloween” movies.

Its opening in 1939 was celebrated with banners, placards, a banner that ran across Bedford Street, a band performance and a full-page advertisement in the Stamford Advocate which features a theater built by Frank D. Rich which essentially appears same today. The plans used the name “The Colonial” to reflect its architecture, but someone obviously preferred to wink at Shakespeare.

For the next scene, imagine a “Year 2000” title card and a montage of me walking to work season after season after Avon’s “Coming Soon” frame for 1998″Twice upon a time yesterday” with Penelope Cruz.

“For all those who need a second chance”… said the slogan.

Avon got their second chance. After the theater closed, longtime Advocate columnist Don Russel (who had been Jackie Gleason’s TV announcer) expressed in writing the hope that the Avon would one day be transformed into a showcase for independent and overseas films.

So did Greenwich locals Deborah and Chuck Royce, adding classics to this lineup when the doors reopened in 2004. When I brought my mom to the Avon that year, she m surprised by saying that she had already been there. She and a friend would take the train from New Rochelle, NY in the mid-1950s to the Avon. A few years later, my wife and I walked out of the theater on a Sunday to be greeted by rain. We turned around and bought tickets for the movie on the second screen in the cinema. Later, we took our son to a free screening of “polar express“there as a toddler because I was too cheap to pay for what I suspected was a debut movie appearance. The Kid left his seat to stand only so he could walk up to the screen for a close-up of the final credits.

The big screen always invites audiences to consider a film for the first time, even if the viewer has seen it in miniature before. I can’t imagine a better example than the one offered by Adelberg on Friday. He arrived at Avon in 2019 after a career that included 16 years as chairman of Greenwich United Way. Adelberg had plenty of experience running nonprofits after initially pursuing an acting/directing career, mostly on stage (where he recently returned for a role in “Laughter on the 23rd Floor” to Recall at Stamford). Movies weren’t its wheelhouse, but Avon’s schedule remains in good hands with Adam Birnbaum, director of programming since its revival.

The 80se the anniversary screening of a certain Hollywood classic convinced Adelberg that he had made the right choice. Like so many kids of his generation, he lookedThe Wizard of Ozevery year on network television in the 1960s and 1970s. He even did a stage version of it. But he had never seen it as expected.

“That night, I was like, ‘That’s cool. I’m really happy to be here,’” he recalls. “I say all word. I can sing all song. There’s nothing I don’t know about this movie.

“But it was a different movie to see it on screen, to a packed house, to hear people laugh at bits that I never thought were funny before. To hear people whistle at the witch. It was a totally different experience.

That’s why theaters are important, he realized. This is how the film was meant to be seen.

So his advice is to find a movie you think you’ve seen, then watch it on the big screen. Then there are movies that just don’t work without the audience, like “The Rocky Horror Picture Show“, which Avon will screen on October 27 (“Sure, you can watch it on television, but who would?” jokes Adelberg).

Nobody claims that there is a Hollywood that ends in the next scene. The movie industry still has supply chain issues. Home theaters are not going away. Some older moviegoers are still reluctant to return to a crowded room.

But artists will catch up. It can feel lonely in home theaters. And if Zoomers can be convinced to buy vinyl records, they can probably be lured into theaters by a trail of popcorn.

So let’s cut it with “The last picture show” the forecasts. This is not an “end of movies” story.

Like the man said, who needs that?

John Breunig is editorial page editor for the Stamford Advocate and the Greenwich Time. [email protected]; twitter.com/johnbreunig.