January 10th, 2007


Movie Theater Post-Mortems

Sad news for the Pioneer Valley: The non-profit Academy of Music in Northampton has stopped showing films due to a lack of funding for the most part. To help keep the theater afloat, the plans are to focus instead on live performances, much like the Calvin Theatre down the street. They laid off their manager of 35 years and all the part-time help. Of course this is being touted as a "temporary" measure, and I'd like to believe that very much. However, this does not look good for a municipally-owned non-profit theater that doesn't get the funding they need from the city.

The Academy of Music is a beautiful theater. Some of my most cherished theater memories involve the place. One of my First Real Dates as a teenager was going to see the 1925 silent Phantom of the Opera with live organ accompaniment. I think I was more enraptured with the theater and the film than I was with my date -- I mean, this was the silent version with the hand-colored masquerade ball sequence, for crying out loud!


In more local and immediate news, the Loews Assembly Square theater's days are numbered; Ron Newman has confirmed with the manager that the theater will close after regular operations on Monday, January 15. The theater, built in 1981 as part of the once-ubiquitous Sack chain, has apparently outlived its usefulness and will be demolished, most likely in the name of Big Box Retail.

Honestly the "Assy Square" theater was never my first choice of film venues, but I routinely found myself going when someone with a car was driving; both the Assembly Square and Fresh Pond theaters had free parking. (Fresh Pond, of course, was then nicknamed "Hey Free Parking", as in "Well, there's insulation hanging from the ceiling, the floors are stickier than flypaper, plus my armrest has been ripped in half and there's jagged pieces of plastic that could potentially embed themselves in my flesh if I'm not careful, but hey! Free parking!")

I'm thinking of going on Monday night if I can get a ride. Being MLK Day, the last Davis-bound Woeful 90 Bus will leave Wellington at 10:00 and show up at Assembly Square around 10:10; the films will get out later than that when you figure in pre-show trailers and commercials and any good-byes. And I'm not going to walk up to Sullivan Square just to wait an hour in the cold for the 89 or take the Orange Line into the city just to take the Red Line back home. That's just goofy.

Judging from the start times and running times, the last two films to play the Assembly Square Theater will be Black Christmas, a pretty crummy remake/sequel to one of the definitive proto-slasher films of the 70s, and A Night At The Museum, which looks like a fun Jumanji-in-NYC story and has received middlin' to mediocre reviews. Both will be getting out at roughly the same time.

Given the choice, I'd rather watch Jumanji In NYC than Teenagers Gettin' Killed In Horribly Ironic Christmas-Themed Ways. A Night At The Museum will start at 8:05 pm on Monday, January 15. If perchance Black Christmas runs slightly longer, I'm sure we could peek in on that auditorium to watch the last-ever frames of film hit the Assembly Square's screens -- I mean, what could they do? Tell us never to return?

I know there are those who won't shed a tear for the loss of the Assembly Square theater. It's run-down and not in the best of neighborhoods anymore, but still, a movie theater is a movie theater, regardless of its crappiness. And the closure of the Assembly Square will mean that Somerville will have only one movie theater left open. So I think it'd be nice to send the poor little multiplex (which once was a monster that killed off at least one nearby single-screen theater) a send-off. It's seen better days and won't exactly go out in a blaze of glory, but I think the place deserves to hear the sound of audience applause one last time.