Multiplex memory lane

When I heard that Peter Wilson, the owner of Major Plowshares Army and Navy Surplus, has plans to open a new movie theater in Saranac Lake, I couldnt help but think back to my youth (not an easy feat, considering my advanced age of twenty-five). Growing up in Saranac Lake, I went to a lot of movies at the Berkeley Theater. And while the Berkeley no longer exists in real life, it will exist in my heart until my heart stops beating. I mean, I saw Dantes Peak for the first time at the place. How could I ever forget the theater where I first saw Dantes Peak? (In case youre a philistine, Dantes Peak [tagline: The pressure is building] is widely regarded as the second-best volcano-related disaster film of 1997, inferior only to Volcano [tagline: The Coast is Toast].) After the Berkeley closed, I saw most movies at the Palace in Lake Placid. I also took in the rare feature at the soulless corporate multiplex in Plattsburgh, but all I remember about that place is that the seats had cup holders in the armrests and they showed twenty-seven previews before every movie. I much preferred the old-timey charm of the Palace: the normal-sized snacks (as opposed to the overflowing sacks of popcorn and buckets of soda they had in Plattsburgh), the mere two or three previews before each movie, the ticket prices straight out of 1963. But then, a couple of years ago, I moved to a sprawling Midwestern city and discovered a 24-screen multiplex five minutes from my apartment. Im sure I could find a quaint Palace-style theater somewhere in the greater Midland City metropolitan area, but that would mean driving more than five minutes from my apartment. And, because Im terrified of accidentally wandering into the suburbs, where I might get lost forever amongst the rows of identical houses (all occupied by soulless corporate drones and their glassy-eyed, heavily medicated children), I dont want to drive more than five minutes from my apartment. Now, like I said, I was never keen on the Plattsburgh multiplex, but unlike the Midland City multiplex that place didnt have stadium seating (at least as far as I can remember). With stadium seating in which the seats are tiered, like, coincidentally, in a stadium nine-foot three basketball legend Manute Bol could sit front of me and Id still have no trouble seeing the screen. Throw in armrest cup holders, surround sound, and armrest cup holders, and youve got yourself an evening of sensational entertainment. The problem is that Im spoiled now almost (but not quite) as spoiled as the hateful, snot-nosed twelve-year-olds who bring cell phones to the movies and insist on text messaging their hateful, snot-nosed friends the whole time. When I come home and go to the Palace, I ache for my stadium seating, my surround sound, my armrest cup holders, even my twenty-seven previews. I find myself endlessly extolling the virtues of the multiplex to whoever Im with. Take, for instance, the recent evening when I saw The Dark Knight with my friend Dave. In Midland City, I said, they have seats that rise up as far as the eye can see. I spread my hands out before me, as if asking Dave to behold the face of God. And the cup holders, Dave the cup holders are built right into the armrests. I patted the cup holder-free armrest between us. And dont get me started on the previews they show them by the ton. Can you imagine it, Dave? By the ton! Dave frowned at me. Yes, you moron, I can imagine it, he said. I lived in Midland City for almost two years, remember? Oh, I said, shaking my head and coming back to my senses. Right. Dave had, in fact, been my roommate when he lived in Midland City a detail that, in the heat of my ecstatic journey down multiplex memory lane, Id all but forgotten. But thats the kind of obsessive devotion that multiplexes, with all of their high-tech, luxurious features, can inspire. And thats why I ultimately prefer quaint old theaters like the Berkeley and the Palace: because seeing a movie at those theaters is a festive, communal event. Its about losing yourself in both the crowd and the film. Its not about elaborate seating arrangements, or eating three pounds of popcorn in one sitting, or even drowning in hundreds of decibels of the most realistic artificial sound known to man. So I look forward to the day when Peter Wilson opens a new theater in Saranac Lake. When that day comes, a whole new set of Saranac Lake kids will have the chance to see their generations Dantes Peak in their hometown theater. And if theyre willing to maybe stop texting each other for two hours they just might remember it, if not forever, then at least into their mid-twenties. Dan Leonidas makes shallow observations. He can be reached at dpleonidas@yahoo.com or myspace.com/lastminuteconcerns.

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