Note: I went to these movies from 1990 through the first week in July, 2016.
First things first: an editorial note about last week’s entry. My father mentioned a particular outing to the Sand Springs Cinemark that went down in family history, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention it in this series:
The movie: Gladiator (2000). We’re watching the movie, and it’s fine. One of the other theater goers (we came to call him “Cletus”) leans over to his progeny (we came to call him “Little Spud”) and says loudly so that we all hear him over the carnage and savagery of Rome, “Now, you understand boy, they’re all bad guys, ‘cause they have false Gods.”
The pronounced eye roll my pop and I shared has echoed through the ages.
Now, on with this week’s final entry.
Maybe Movie Theaters are passé. 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. But, let’s be honest. Home video technology has advanced to the point where the only good a movie theater is a shared cinematic experience. This can be good and bad. I recently went to a 75th anniversary of Citizen Kane, and the film took on a whole new life in front of an audience, some of whom had never seen it before. On the other hand, see the above incident with Cletus and his spawn.
The memories of these places have 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 past few weeks I explored the older, perhaps less-loved movie theaters of this town I call home. Join me, won’t we?
For this week’s entry, I closed out my travelogue* of the lower theaters by stopping by the Village Movies 8.
Movies I memorably saw here in the past:
Star Trek: Generations (1994). I’m ten years old, and I had acquired the screenplay to the forthcoming movie at a Star Trek convention six months earlier, so the movie held no surprises for me. Kids, that’s exactly the kind of thing we had to do back in the day if we wanted a film ruined for us before opening weekend.
I Am Legend (2007). I went to a number of movies at this theater during the dark, grim days of my brief attendance at Law School. The memories of which movies I saw during this period (aside from I Am Legend) have become hazy, but the ability to run away from a life perpetually out of control sticks with me quite well.
The Village 8 Movie theater, for the multiple hands that the theater has gone through, it has gone largely unchanged after a cursory glance. The theater closed recently, but a theater owner who had just closed another venue elsewhere in town and has upgraded the individual theaters with the remaining bits of his now defunct first-run theater. As such, it was a surprisingly modern set-up for a second run house, and I would really recommend you give the place a shot.
Oh, yes. There was also a movie involved in this little outing:
I saw The Boss starring Melissa McCarthy. It was fine. Ghostbusters is funnier. C’est la vie.
The Movies 8 is fine. I can say without any thread of doubt that it is the nicest second-run theater in town. New amenities and the latest projection systems (again, film would be nice, but I get now that might be an unreasonable request) mean you get an experience close to some of the newer first-run theaters in the city.
But that isn’t the point. These posts have been an attempt to look back and get some sense of feeling that these theaters once brought me. I largely did get to visit those feelings, but with so much of the core business of movie theaters, I find myself missing the experience of going to the movie theater when I was younger, and those feelings will likely never come again.
You know what? I don’t really have too much more to say about this theater. The entire time I’m sitting there while Melissa McCarthy goes through her faux Martha Stewart routine (more on that later), I can’t help but think about all the theaters I can’t go to because they are no longer there. I really want to talk about them. So I will.
Woodland Hills Cinema 6
Right across the street from the Movies 8, no less. Even when it was running, this probably wasn’t the greatest movie theater in town. In fact, I can only remember seeing one movie there in particular, but it was a doozy. Begging and pleading throughout the summer of 1992 yielded a screening of Batman Returns that was equal parts thrilling, horrifying, and… formative**.
The theater lay abandoned for years after it closed in 2001. And then they tore it down and put in a Wal-Mart Supercenter. Some people just have no respect for the proper use of commercial real estate.
A smaller theater that spent most of it’s last days as a second-run house. Large fabric murals of Superman and Indiana Jones remain in my head as testament to the last time the place saw a face lift. Aside from seeing The Empire Strikes Back (1997 Special Edition) there, the theater’s main claim to fame was its proximity to the late, great Novel Idea bookstore. If there is such a thing as heaven, one hopes a second-run theater and a book store are within walking distance of each other. Now, the bookstore is a Dollar Tree, and the theater has been converted to a gym and tanning salon. Not quite the caustic insult of a Wal-Mart, but still disappointing.
This one might yet be a bright spot, one possible opportunity to bring a movie theater back from the brink, although it is probably the least personally memorable on the list. For the life of me, the only movie I can firmly pinpoint seeing at the theater was the leaden Carrot Top vehicle Chairman of the Board (1998). Yes, you read that right. Had it not been for my father and I, the reported box office receipts of $181,233 would be an even $181,230.
A church now runs the space, and I can’t help but wonder if the congregation were to ever fall on hard times, the space might yet be converted to its truer purpose.
Ah, the Annex 7. I won’t even get into all the movies I saw at this theater, before it so callously had the nerve to disappear in the late ‘90s. If I ever found myself trapped in the past***, the first place I would go is to the Annex 7 to catch a screening of…anything. I’d see any movie there, if given half the chance. When I think of where I fell in love with movies, it was in this place. Like many theaters in this list. It isn’t quantifiably anything special, but it is one of the most special places in the world. And it’s gone.
I will mention one movie I saw there. It is the late spring of 1990. I am nearly six years old. I have already nearly worn out my VHS copy of Back to the Future Part II (1989), and my imagination is aflame with how great the promised third movie will be. Then, activity. Sudden. Unfathomable. Dad is coming home early from work, and we are then going…somewhere. In the pit of my stomach, I feel like a doctor’s visit is in my immediate future.
No. We go see Part III. The only thing better than Back to the Future is brand-new, surprise Back to the Future. That particular alchemy of positive things has never occurred again. Even on the inevitable day Universal gives into the immovable forces of the modern movie marketplace and remakes the original movie, something will be lost in translation. It is one of my fondest, and clearest childhood memories.
But did it really go away? It was most certainly demolished in the efforts to revitalize the Southroads area in the late 90’s. But the 41st and Yale Vintage Stock stands at its old location. I get most of my DVDs and Blu Rays here. Old habits die hard; I just can’t stop getting my movie fix from this location.
There are plenty of other Tulsa theaters that come to mind. The Park Lane Twin at 51st and Sheridan, which was subsequently gutted to become a campus of the now-defunct Wright Career College. The Eastland Mall 6, that was sadly swallowed up by the collapsing mall around it. Even the Promenade 8 disappeared in front of the newer (and now decaying) Regal Promenade 12.
Are there any disappeared theaters that tug at your memories? Let me know in the comments.
*I had originally intended to include the Admiral Twin Drive In, but as my home of Oklahoma has been dubbed by meteorologists as “fundamentally indistinguishable from fire,” that trip may have to wait until the fall. There may be yet another entry in the offing!
**Thank you, Michelle Pfeiffer. I’m so proud that I didn’t have to look up how to spell “Pfeiffer.”
***Which, for the record, has yet to happen to me.