Monday, July 5, 2010

Nostalgia for "Main Street" cinemas helps revive them in the plains

This story appeared on the front page of today's New York Times, and it is now on the top-10 most emailed story list on The dateline is Langdon, North Dakota, population 2,101, and the story is about the revival of Main Street cinemas in smallish towns, sometimes thanks to the assistance of volunteers who run them to break even. An excerpt follows:
The revival is not confined to North Dakota; Main Street movie houses like the Alamo in Bucksport, Me., the Luna in Clayton, N.M., and the Strand in Old Forge, N.Y., are flourishing as well. But in the Great Plains, where stop signs can be 50 miles apart and the nearest multiplex is 200 miles round trip, the town theater — one screen, one show a night, weekends only — is an anchoring force, especially for families.
Cecile Wehrman, a newspaper editor who helped resuscitate the Dakota in Crosby, North Dakota, population 1,089, explains that this phenomenon is about more than seeing a show: “[I]n a small town, the theater is like a neighborhood. It’s the see-and-be-seen, bring everyone and sit together kind of place.”

This is reminding me of one of my earliest jobs: working the concession stand at the Buffalo Theatre in Jasper, Arkansas, circa 1976-78, two films each week-end. One showed Friday night and the early show on Saturday. The other showed late on Saturday and on Sunday. I remember Smokey and the Bandit, Carrie, and Saturday Night Fever showing there. Sadly, the Buffalo has been closed for many years. Oh that it could be revived as these cinemas have been.

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