Note: I went to these movies during the week of July 11th-15th.
Movie theaters are essential. A movie theater is the first date with the one you marry, or the one that got away. It's surprise outings with your parents when you are kid that you still remember twenty-five years later. It's the only place where you can enter when it is light, time bends, you have no awareness of the outside world, and when you exit night has fallen in your absence.
Your time in a movie theater doesn’t have to be communal either. Some might think me weird for being all-too-willing to go to a screening on my own. But some of my best thinking is done in those moments before the trailers begin when all is darkness, aside from the projection of softball trivia questions and orders to check in with the concession stand. I’m never more pumped than when I walk away from my seat as the end credits play behind me. This is true, even if the movie is lousy. The music over the end credits of any movie is universally great.
The memory of these places has been on my mind a lot lately. Movie Theaters are now built more as recliner showrooms than movie houses, but I long for the movie theaters of my youth. Some are still plugging along, more or less. Others have been (likely permanently) lost to the sands of time. Over the next few weeks, and perhaps intermittently if other inspiration will not be sated until a post is written, I will be exploring the older, perhaps less-loved movie theaters of this town I call home. Join me, won’t we?
For this week’s entry, I ventured to Eton Square 6. Of all the first-run, non-art house theaters in Tulsa, it has been around the longest. It makes do with cheap prices and less-than state of the art amenities. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Movies I memorably saw here in the past:
Home Alone (1990). I also remember seeing Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992) at the same theater after what only felt like a few weeks interval. It may have been the first time in life that I got the sense that life—or at least movies—tend to repeat themselves.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993). At the age of nine, I didn’t like the movie very much. I was also an idiot back then. That is, I’m still an idiot now, but for entirely new reasons. Anyway…
The Lion King (1995). I get the feeling that any kid’s movie in the 1990s led me to this place.
I haven’t been back to this theater since the 90s, I think. Entries from cinematreasures.org confirm my memory that the theater closed in 2000, but has since reopened. It’s sort of an encouraging notion that a theater can fully disappear, but then come back, even though the other closed theaters in town have been since converted into all sorts of soulless wonders like a Walmart Supercenter or a TGI Fridays, but more about those sad thoughts in another entry.
I remember the parking lot being bigger. Much bigger. But the apartments of fairly new construction must have filled what could previously handle many more theatergoers.
The box office is inside the lobby. It occurs to me now that I can’t think of any movie theater in town (outside of the Cinemark at Tulsa) that uses the designed outside box office consistently. The AMC Southroads does a little bit, but I can’t remember the last time I went there and hadn’t bought my tickets weeks in advance.
The lobby looks no different than it did back in the day, which is encouraging. I half expect to find large cardboard cutouts to be on display, asking me to meet the various cast members of The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Oh, also. They have a pinball table in the lobby. This may be my favorite theater in town now. It’s a “Striker Extreme,” a soccer-themed table, made by the fine people at Stern. It’s seen better days, but is still quite playable and only costs 75 cents per round. The full-service restaurant attached to the Warren is nice, but this place is starting to give it a run for its money, amenities-wise.
Also, and I think we all really need to have a conversation about this, especially if anyone working in the movie theater industry is reading this. The Eton Square cinema has, and is more than willing to serve me, unsweetened iced tea. In a cup with ice and everything. I don’t know why this particular commodity is missing from the usual movie theater fare, but it always annoys me when it becomes clear that the only form of orange pekoe I can consume at most theaters is laden with enough sugar to make it chemically identical to a Mountain Dew. I’m tired of just getting a bottle of water when it comes time to wash down my bag of popcorn salt and kernels. I’m so old and tired, I may have just become the Andy Rooney of Tulsa movie theaters.
The theaters themselves are plenty odd. For the back half of the theater (I have a hard time imagining anybody ever sits in the front half if they don’t have to), they have ripped out every other row of seats and replaced them with tables. It’s actually an interesting solution to the problem of concession.
My first choice of seat was… ahem… wet. So I moved, and I was much happier. Aside from that one problem and the ongoing scourge of crystal-clear digital projection, the theater was kept in the low sixties (the temperature at which the people from my home planet are most comfortable) and I think unless I’m dead set on partaking of the Warren, then this may be my new first-run theater of choice.
Oh, yes. There was also a movie involved in this little outing:
I saw The Legend of Tarzan. Shot with the certain misty production-designed panache that Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) made fashionable and Avatar (2009) made de rigueur, the film is an inoffensive action piece that nearly completely disappears from memory the moment you exit the theater. Of note, I completely didn’t notice that Margot Robbie played Jane until I collected my thoughts just now and did a quick IMDB search. Not for nothing, that’s a fair indication that she may have a longer career ahead of her if I don’t automatically notice that the thought “oh, Margot Robbie is in this movie” doesn’t immediately come to mind. Also, my surprise to learn that both the character and actions of Samuel L. Jackson’s character are taken from history were somewhat akin to the title card at the end of Bloodsport (1988), that claimed the film was based on a true story. Otherwise, the film will probably be forgotten pretty quickly. If you look at the box office returns, then there’s something to the notion that people largely forgot the film before its release date.
Eton Square may be the neglected step-child of first run theaters in Tulsa, but it still has value. Is there a new release you only kind of want to see? Then its lower prices may be ideal. It’s amenities are (almost) nicer than you would think, but there are a few unique things that will likely keep me coming back for any number of matinees in the future.
I venture out to the untamed wilderness that is Sand Springs. The sea was rough that day, my friends, but I lived to tell the tale. Although, if the election continues to go along its current path, I may have some thoughts on that topic.