I was in kindergarten when Freaky Friday came out…..the first time. It took about six months for new releases to get to our neck of the woods, but we knew no different. My parents drove me, my sister and my little friend 15 miles to Sylva where they had the most glorious movie theatre. Nestled beside the Greyhound bus station and a smoky little coffee shop complete with Mel and Flo, was The Ritz. We parked alongside the street and walked to the ticket booth. I don’t recall how much it cost, but I know it involved change because my Pop let me keep the quarter he dropped from his pocket. We took our tickets and went inside. Immediately, the warm, buttery aroma of popcorn swirled up my nose and into my salivary glands.
To the sides of the entry were more of the window boxes that also appeared up and down the front walk of the theatre. A sign blinked near the window boxes, “Coming Attractions!”. Gator and The Omen flanked either side of the blinkety-blink-blinking sign. Just in front was plush red carpet leading up what must have been about 100 steps. Golden hand rails with red velvet draping down ran up the sides the middle of this Tara-esque staircase. Pop grabbed my hand and that of my little friend, while Mom carried my six-month-old sister. Step, step, step.
At the crest of the grand stairway was the coveted snack bar ready to assault you with the most delectable of confections. It even had a soda fountain with glass sundae dishes. Golden popcorn cascaded out of the popper into a gilded and glass container. What a show. I could stand and watch the attendants in their little red and white striped hats all day long. Pop walked up to an attendant and ordered two buttered popcorns, one Coke and two small sundaes. Again, mere pennies. Salty and sweet yummies in hand, we were set for the show.
There were two sets of doors on either side of the snack bar which lead to the theatre…..yes, only one theatre. An attendant opened one set of doors and let us through. What service. Pop led my little friend and me to a middle aisle. My darling baby sister began to whine. My Mom left us and headed to the set of stairs on the left of the theatre. At the top of these spiral-like stairs was the balcony……you remember what a balcony is, don’t you? One portion of this heavenly retreat was glassed in just for the mommies and the littlest yet most vocal patrons. We took our seats and as we sat down, we sank for miles. Who knew Lazy Boy designed movie seating? We cozied up for the show, stuffed handfuls of light buttery morsels into our mouths and waited for the curtain to draw. Shhhhhh……the lights dimmed and crackling projector counted down.
Years later, a newer and shinier theatre was built and hold on to your hats……it had two theatres inside. The Ritz was still open, but became rundown. It was unofficially renamed The Ratz. I went to the movies in one of the cinemaplexes recently. The ticket booth was run by someone who probably still played with dolls. The floor was sticky and I could’ve filled my gas tank with what I spent on refreshments. Since when is oil a substitute for butter on popcorn? Progress gives us digital surround sound, stadium seating and 20 different screens in one theatre. You can even have dinner and drinks at some theatres. Movies run as early as 10am or as late as midnight. Somehow, I believe I would rather wait six months and sit in the plush red grandeur of The Ritz.
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