October 16th, 2007

Tom Lehrer is Smug

Not the Pleasant Street!

Disturbing news from the Pioneer Valley: The Pleasant St. Theater in Northampton is slated to close in the next few months. The building is changing owners, and while the new owner doesn't mind having a movie theater, he "doesn't want to run it himself." The soon-to-be-former owner mentions several offers to run the theater were made, but they "didn't work out for one reason or another."

This is really terrible news, even moreso since the Pleasant Street is the last movie theater in Northampton. It was also the first "indie" theater I ever knew, the place where you'd see the non-mainstream films that the Academy of Music (now no longer showing pictures) hadn't picked up. Their teeny-tiny "Little Theatre" in the basement, no bigger than the coach section of an airplane, was an odd screening room but it worked. Heck, I was part of a pick-up performance of The Rocky Horror Picture Show in that little space once when it was screened as part of the Northampton Film Festival in the mid-90s, playing Riff-Raff as usual along with much of the same crew who terrorized the Tower Theater in 1991-1992. (Yes, I used to be stick-thin before my hummingbird metabolism departed for parts unknown sometime around 1997.)

The Pleasant Street was my theater of choice in the 1990s. I remember seeing so many Spike & Mike animation fests there, including the Sick & Twisteds. I remember seeing Welcome to the Dollhouse there because no other theater would pick it up; ditto Heavenly Creatures. There was a row or two in the back of the main auditorium that featured special cushioned loveseats designed for two. Jendave and I had our last date there in 2003 (we saw The Station Agent.) The only video store I had a membership at was the Pleasant Street Video store next door; I still have its black-and-magenta card somewhere. (The video store had an extensive collection of Japanese animation and I went through every single offering they had; in one memorable evening of cognitive dissonance, I watched My Neighbor Totoro followed by Legend of the Overfiend. Um.)

Nothing lasts forever, but I never expected the Pleasant Street Theater to go. Y'know? It was always there, a permanent, integral part of Northampton like the courthouse and the mural on the Route 9 railroad overpass and the Pride March. Now it's going to go the way of Jack August, Myers Eatery, Sheehan's, the Words & Pictures Museum, Bart's Ice Cream, Childs Toy Store, and the hideous four-story 1960s plastic facade that hung above the Woolworth's.

Hmm. Perhaps some change is for the better, but losing the Pleasant Street most certainly isn't.