Good evening… come on in. Why don’t you get yourself some popcorn and a Coke from our stunning black-on-silver art-deco refreshment stand? (Be nice to the charming and vivacious young lady manning the counter; you’ll find her attitude very different from the sullen mouth-breathers at the multiplex. She actually likes her job.) Yes, I know our modestly sized bags of corn look puny compared to those MegaTubs you’re accustomed to getting at the other places, but trust me: this is all you need.
Feel free to peruse the vintage one-sheets lining the walls of our lobby. Beautiful, aren’t they? Every one a genuine work of art, individually designed to uniquely showcase the films in question, painted by skilled craftsmen who’ve never heard of Photoshop.
Ah, here we are at the usher’s podium. We called it the chopper back in my day. But of course that means nothing to you, does it? Here, let me take your ticket. That little slip of inch-wide red cardstock there. What’s that? You wonder why it doesn’t tell you which film you’re seeing? But why would you… oh, I see why you’re confused. This ticket says only “Admit One,” without all the other extraneous information that’s printed on other movie tickets nowadays. But we don’t need all that nonsense here at the Black-and-White; you see, we have only the one screen. Now, go on into the auditorium and find a seat… watch your step, please, it’s a bit darker than what you’re probably used to. Slip into one of our low-back red-velvet seats. No, I’m sorry, they don’t rock, but you should find them comfortable enough. I have made one concession to your modern sensibilities: you’ll find the cupholder right there in front of you. There you are.
I hope you’ll use the last few minutes before the movie starts to relax or to converse quietly with your date. We have no pre-show reel to distract you with mindless advertising; this space is supposed to be isolated from the outside world, a bit of escapism even before the movie begins. Isn’t the hushed atmosphere so much nicer than all the blather that usually surrounds us? Please, don’t do that. You won’t be able to text or surf the web, not in my establishment. And no calls in or out, either, not while we’re here in the auditorium. Mobile phones don’t work here, not even the clock function, so you may as well put it back in your pocket and forget all about it for a couple hours. In a moment, there will be nothing trying to grab your attention except the film itself…. and here we go. The big waterfall curtain rises, the lights go down.
Tonight’s feature at Bennion’s Black-and-White Old-Tymey Movie Theatre is… Charlie Chan in Panama! A little bit of pre-war intrigue involving sabotage, a deadly plague, poisoned cigarettes, and the US Navy, all set against the exotic backdrop of the Panama Canal! SEE… a beautiful refugee countess hiding out as a nightclub singer! SEE… the suave Latino club owner who has a secret identity! SEE… the author of countless “blood-and-thunder” adventure novels, drawn into a real-life web of danger!
Okay, I’ll drop the silly patter. Sorry. I was just having a bit of fun remembering/imagining the way movie-going used to be back when there was still some glamour to it. The truth is, Black-and-White Theatre tonight consisted of me sitting on the couch in my bathrobe in front of my hi-def TV, spinning a DVD of a flick from 1940 that I doubt anyone reading this has even heard of. A far cry from the fabled movie palaces of old… or even those far more modest neighborhood movie-houses that used to lure people inside during the hot summers with promises of air conditioning and all-day programs for a dime. They’re all gone now, the palaces and the small houses, all exterminated by the rise of the multiplex. But I love the movies that would’ve run at those places. Black-and-white is not inferior, kids! And just because something is old doesn’t mean it doesn’t still have the power to entertain…