"You can't go home again." We all know that hackneyed saw. If we're past the age of 15, we probably understand the sentiment behind it, with the fast pace of change and the throwaway nature of US society. Well, I once again found this to be true...and not true.
Here's the deal. Growing up as a kid in the 60s, trips to the movies were a huge part of life. For me, that meant going to the Heights Theater. The Heights was within walking distance, a Dairy Queen next door, convenient for Dilly Bar purchases after the show. The high point of our summers were the weekly afternoon matinees, free if our parents remembered to pick up passes at the bank. The program was always the same. A serial Western started the afternoon, followed by one or two cartoons, then the feature film, usually some obscure third run piece we'd already seen on "Mel Jass at the Movies" on Channel 11. It didn't matter. Our friends were all there, throwing popcorn at each other, filling the place with a mass of school kids, free from the textbooks at last!
Just as the popcorn tossing would reach fever pitch, the cranky old man who managed the theater would STOP THE FILM, turn on the lights, and yell at us all, a not-so-curmudgeonly replacement for Mr. Wilson of Dennis the Menace fame.
I probably don't need to tell you, after the description of these elementary school age annual bacchanalias, that the Heights was a dump. A big white cinderblock box with a projector. I'm guessing that maybe the last time I went to the Heights was in the late 60s, having been lured by the flashy two-screen cineplex that had been built nearby.
Well, things change, don't they? I went back to Minneapolis this week to visit my parents, and I've been wanting to see March of the Penguins, which my family had no interest in seeing but I was pretty sure Mom would be game. As I scanned the listings for the movie in the Minneapolis Star, I saw it listed at the Heights.
Well, the Heights is not the Heights of my childhood. More like the Heights of my mother's childhood. It had fallen into even greater disrepair when it was bought and brought back to new life, restored to its original elegance as it was in 1927. The chandeliers alone are worth the price of admission. A beautiful Beaux Arts curtain sways open. Instead of the generic colored screens with text telling us to be quiet, a hilarious short, depicting a Minnesota-type grandma making cookies is telling you to be nice in the movies. Previews are shown, the curtain closes. It reopens for the feature film, truly an incredible piece of film-making, whether you're a bird lover or not.
I'm sure that had the Heights looked like this in my youth, we'd have been less inclined to toss popcorn.
One of those great evenings; watching an independent film in the seats of a beautifully restored independent theater.
And I even managed to pass on the Dilly Bar after the show.