May 14, 2011
My childhood was spent in Bridgeport - as I like to say, I grew up Catholic on the South Side in the 1970s; make up your own punch line. One of the memories I have is going to the Ramova Theater, located near 35th and Halsted. (Conveniently next to the Ramova Grill, which serves the greatest chili on the planet). The first movies I remember seeing were at this theater - a double bill of an Otto Preminger movie and Aloha Bobby and Rose. (It must have been a grindhouse theater, for at some point, I remember a trailer for Master of the Flying Guillotine). At some point, the theater closed, and remained shut off - one of those "reminders of a bygone era"....
Cut to a few weeks ago - I'm meeting a new professional contact for coffee and conversation - sharing contacts, and started because of my Linked In profile. (See, kids, it pays to be connected online!) Although we shared much about the non-profit/social media scene (which is, well, where my heart lies), what really gladdened me was to hear of her involvement in efforts to save the Ramova.
Fortunately, I grew up in an era where single-screen theaters may have been dying, but were still around to provide a local anchor into popular culture. It's no wonder I fell in love with both movies and architecture - between the Ramova, the Colony on 59th and Kedzie (where I conned my parents into taking me to see Alien) and the Brighton near Archer and Sacramento (home of Tuesday dollar nights, with a once legendary triple bill of American Werewolf in London, Halloween II, and Cat People, I had plenty of opportunities to indulge that whim. (In high school, I often bragged about how frequently I saw Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan at the Brighton. Yes, I was a fanboy who wore Doctor Who buttons....which is not unlike my current lifestyle). But now, in our DVD/streaming video/illegal downloading age, having those local touchstones are more important than ever, as they help build a stronger sense of community. (Just ask the Tivoli in St. Louis)
At this point, I am in a phase of reevaluating my activities - I will be stepping down from Net Tuesday in a couple of months, and leaving another commitment at the end of the year. Nothing major - just want to leave my life open for other things and experiences. But there's something about knowing that an effort to save this theater exists that makes me glad....growing up, I had this crazy dream of winning the lottery, buying these theaters, and restoring them.
Although no lottery tickets were involved, it's very heartwarming to know that there are others - like me - who love these old theaters, and who love them enough to move forward and make things happen.