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A QUAINT LOOK BACK AT THEATERS

          

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Nov. 25, 2016

EDITOR’S NOTE: This column was published in the Deseret News on June 13, 1993, and looks at the ‘innovations’ of multiplex theaters and TV ads on movie screens. Today, only the Tower Theater remains as a single-screen venue, a first-run house for offbeat independent and foreign films, operated by the same folks that run the six-screen Broadway Centre Theater art house in downtown Salt Lake City. And as for commercial advertisements preceding movies, they’ve only become more prolific. Let’s just hope that they don’t start interrupting films, which is just about the only obnoxious TV-style thing left to do.

An old song asks the question, How you gonna keep 'em down on the farm after they've seen Paree?

In the case of local moviegoers, we might ask, how you gonna keep 'em going to little single-screen theaters after they've seen multiplexes?

The freestanding, single-screen first-run theater is, of course, virtually a thing of the past. The only one-screen first-run theaters left in the Salt Lake Valley are the Villa and the Valley Vu Drive-in.     

                

                       Salt Lake City's Tower Theater 

The Avalon, Murray, Queen and Tower theaters are single-screen discount venues, with the Avalon specializing in showing golden oldies and the Tower showing primarily art, foreign and cult films.

The Murray, however, has come up with a little gimmick of its own that you will not likely see elsewhere. Before the feature begins, an old piece of film comes up on the screen, showing scenes of America as a backdrop to the "Star Spangled Banner."

At most screenings, the entire audience stands — and even sings along.

This show of patriotism may strike some as corny or old-fashioned — or perhaps nostalgic. And it may indeed be all of those things.             

But it's also unique. And in a marketplace where the Murray Theater may be one of as many as seven local theaters showing the same movie — such is the case right now with "The Sandlot" — the owners no doubt felt the need to come up with something that sets their theater apart.

       

In the words of another popular show-tune of the past, Ya gotta have a gimmick

And as we approach Independence Day and the 24th of July, this isn't a bad one.

However, a gimmick that is less popular with moviegoers is that old sore spot, advertisements shown before the movie.  

With a Friday night audience at a showing of "Guilty as Sin," my wife Joyce and I sat through no less than four television commercials as the lights went down.               

I'm not talking about the previews of coming attractions — there were four of those, too.

I’m taking about actual commercials made for TV: One for the MTV Movie Awards, one for the USA cable network, one for the Sci-Fi Channel (which isn't even available in most parts of the Salt Lake Valley) and one for AT&T.        

Joyce wished aloud that there were a mute button we could push.

And someone behind us shouted, "I came to the movies to get a way from commercials!"