Back in the day, shortly after I arrived in Canada, I discovered movie theatres and totally fell in love with the concept. I had been to a few cinemas in the Netherlands, but it was mainly to see Laurel and Hardy and a Mickey Mouse cartoon. Most of the films were lost on me., mainly because I was young and couldn’t understand why they did not speak Dutch.
After a few years in Canada, I had mastered the language and decided the cinema was the place to go. It was, of course a weekend adventure, one I continued to enjoy for several years. The sacred time was Saturdays around 11 in the morning. Danny Taylor would ride his bicycle to my house, where I stood eagerly awaiting his arrival. I grabbed my twenty-five cents for the show and a nickle for popcorn, took my CCM Rider from the garage, and off we went. We rode our bikes, as if they were fighter planes, or motorcycles. Streamers fluttered from handlebars and playing cards rattling in the spokes.
We made it to the Willow theatre in twenty minutes and locked our bikes, securely in place, before entering the show. We never knew what the film was, but that didn’t matter, because any movie was a good movie. Best of all, the twenty-five cents got you in to see a double feature.
Film classics, such as Walter Pigeon in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Robert Wagner in the Silver Whip, instantly transformed us into heroes. And what 14 year old kid was not glued to his seat when Raquel Welch starred in the Fantastic Voyage? The days were memorable and the experience unrivaled.
One particular Saturday stands out in my mind; we arrived at our usual place, but there was a lineup. Totally unheard of! We looked at the marquis and saw Ben-Hur was the feature. It may have been released four or five years earlier, but it had finally made its way to the Willow Theatre. We were beside ourselves, and we rushed past the crowds to get as close as possible to our favourite seats. Of course, neither Danny nor I had any idea what the epic film was about, but that didn’t matter. It was historic and we were a part of it.
Nowadays I purchase my tickets with an app and select my seats in advance. Cinemas have become glorified living rooms, with comfy seats that turn into an Ultramatic, Adjustable beds. I am sure Gordy Tapp is sitting next to me. Instead of the three hundred seats the Willow offered, there are now 50 or so. Double features are unheard of, and cartoon openers have gone the way of the serial reels. Popcorn has gone up a bit from five cents a bag and tickets are around $15. What used to be a $4 outing now costs a family $100 in one afternoon.
I think what I miss the most is, as a kid, the experience of the adventure was the highlight of my week and that is no longer the case. Netflix and Acorn offer thousands of commercial free films in my living room. A new, 120 inch TV was just announced in Vegas and Orville Redenbacher has replaced Jiffy Pop.
Maybe tonight I will ride my stationery bike for a few minutes, turn on Netflix and search for the Perils of Pauline, before I settle in for my modernized movie adventure.