I went to see the movie Sideways tonight at the soon-to-be closed El Rey theater in downtown Chico. The theater is due to be closed on Thursday to make way for its transformation into an office-retail complex with perhaps more importantly public parking in the rear of the building.
Being my first, and probably last, time in this theater, I’ve naturally got a few mixed feelings. I’ve grown up in an era with multiplexes. The one or two one-screen theaters I saw films in quickly fell by the wayside. Although seeing movies like Harry Potter at The Pic in Hancock was a joy, it was a rare occasion that brought me there.
In Chico, the old theater’s glory seems to be as faded as some of its interior murals and montages. Some portions of the mural seemed to have been ravaged by the intrusion of water. Still, there’s no denying the grandeur of the large bowl that constitutes the house. The walls are surrounded by what appears to be dancing water nymphs across a pale blue forest. I imagine such lurid depictions would be passe in these times of “outrage.”
There was some stadium-style seating that apparently was there before it became vogue in movie theaters. The seats in the center aisles were replaced with newer models that don’t seem to replicate the big, springy goodness of the older seats that still haunt the fringes. I noticed that most people tended to stay in the newer seats.
So what role does a gigantic, one-screen theater play in a world that has endless entertainment options available 24/7 without even the discomfort of leaving your own rocker-recliner? I’m not sure, but it would’ve been nice to see at least one more film in the old Majestic (its former name).
The thing that these old, one-screen theaters provided is a sense of community on a large scale. As we slowly lose that sensation to evolution and destruction, I hope there’s something that define who we are in the modern era.