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October 16th, 2007


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03:48 pm - 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.

(28 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:ron_newman
Date:October 16th, 2007 08:24 pm (UTC)
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Northampton seems like too educated, urban, and important a place to have no movie theatres whatsoever. Will everyone have to go to Amherst to see a film?
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:October 16th, 2007 08:31 pm (UTC)
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Yeah. The "new" Amherst Cinema (Amherst Center for Community Performing Arts or whatever they're calling it) is apparently doing quite well, and there's still the multiplex in Hadley, which is on Route 9 between the two towns.

It's a damn shame to see films leave Northampton as I remember when I had to actively go to Northampton to see anything good.
[User Picture]
From:alphacygni
Date:October 17th, 2007 02:40 am (UTC)
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The fact that the Amherst Cinema rose from the ashes after so many years could possibly be taken as a hopeful sign that the Pleasant might not be gone forever.
[User Picture]
From:ketala
Date:October 16th, 2007 08:52 pm (UTC)
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Well, the Academy of Music (if they don't close that...) still shows some indie films right?

(I'm from Cummington originally, so yeah, spent most of my time in NoHo)
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:October 16th, 2007 09:15 pm (UTC)
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The Academy of Music stopped showing films earlier this year and instead focused solely on live stage productions.

(And wait -- Cummington? Boggle! I spent the first ten years of my life in Chesterfield. My father helped run the Warner Farm center for the UCC in the 80s and 90s.)
[User Picture]
From:ketala
Date:October 16th, 2007 09:22 pm (UTC)
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Ok, the world is a ridiculously small place...

And by the way, bringing up the Words and Pictures Museum actually made me a bit misty. That place was incredible. My uncle owned a comic book store almost across the way. Lance's Comics. Ever go there?
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:October 17th, 2007 12:18 pm (UTC)
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I remember a Lance's Comics, but I can't remember where it was. Was it ever at the Dead Mall in Hadley around the late 80s-early 90s? Not so sure on the name, but I do remember that the comic store in the Dead Mall suffered an early demise, probably after mall management raised rent or something, and the proprietor gave away a whole bunch of his stock on the last day.

I can believe that; however, the last part of this story was told and re-told and re-told throughout the comic book readers in my junior high (at that point I went to Amherst Regional, go, uh, whatever team we were; I think it was the "Black Bears") and, through subsequent re-tellings, it blossomed into this incredible tall tale of the manager, ripshit mad at the mall and his store's closing, standing on a counter announcing "anything that hits the floor is free!" and then gleefully dumping boxes of stock on the ground while a general riot ensued around him.

("I wasn't there, but I heard it from Mark's brother over there who swears his friend was there and he got a lot of free comics that day, too bad you weren't there, huh...")

Personally I did my comic book shopping at Crossroads Comics in Amherst (which, by the time I started darkening its doors, was a little far away from any crossroads) because the manager let my best friend from high school and I sell our kitchen sink-published comic book there, taking a mere 50 cents off the top of each $1.50 issue sold. It was the best publishing deal I ever got.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:October 17th, 2007 12:22 pm (UTC)
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Yes, it's too bad we couldn't keep up with our rigid "one issue every three or four months" schedule ...

Noah

PS We were the Hurricanes, though I assume, after Katrina, they changed it to "The Indigenous Peoples" or something
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:October 17th, 2007 12:25 pm (UTC)
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The high school team was the Hurricanes (Stop! We are the mighty Hurricanes!) but the junior high had its own team name. I'm pretty sure it was a random animal which didn't exactly strike fear into the hearts of its opponents as much as it just looked nice on a banner.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:October 17th, 2007 12:28 pm (UTC)
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Ah! Kinda like how the Democrats choose candidates.

Hey-o!

Noah
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:October 17th, 2007 12:41 pm (UTC)
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Hey-o! Come for the cat stories, stay for the political discourse!

And from looking at the homepage, it does appear our alma mater still goes by the team name Hurricanes. Changing it post-Katrina was probably debated -- in fact, I'd have been surprised if it hadn't -- but it would've been incredibly ironic. From what I can remember, the team name was chosen in 1938 after the hurricane that kind of, y'know, took out half of New England.
[User Picture]
From:bex77
Date:October 16th, 2007 08:56 pm (UTC)
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Oh...I loved that place when I was in college in Noho. I saw one of my all-time favorite foreign films there.. "Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands" there. One of Sonia Braga's earliest films. What a shame. I guess it's another casulaty of Netflix. *sigh*
From:lydian
Date:October 16th, 2007 09:36 pm (UTC)
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Oh man, that's depressing. In college I used to cut class on Wednesdays because Pleasant Street gave out free popcorn at the first matinee showing.
[User Picture]
From:stankow
Date:October 16th, 2007 10:47 pm (UTC)
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Well, shit. If they coulda held on for another year or so, I'd be in a position where I'd seriously consider taking the new owners up on that "Maybe if someone else ran it" thing. I always liked that place.
[User Picture]
From:spwebdesign
Date:October 16th, 2007 10:57 pm (UTC)
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I didn't know the Pleasant Street theater. I guess what movies I watched off-campus back then were all mainstream. But, but…Bart's is closed???
From:(Anonymous)
Date:October 17th, 2007 12:30 pm (UTC)
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Just the one in Northampton. The one in Amherst is alive and well.

Noah
[User Picture]
From:minkrose
Date:October 16th, 2007 11:03 pm (UTC)
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I promise Andy & I will head over and enjoy it a few more times before it goes... we haven't been yet, but we will definitely make the effort now.
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:October 17th, 2007 12:23 pm (UTC)
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It's amazing to think Judie's is still around. I think somewhere in Judie's house there is a portrait of her that looks incredibly ancient. I do admit from time to time I get a hankering for a giant popover and the striped ravioli and chicken (which tikva called the "circus tent ravioli").

But man, all the other places that've gone -- Classe Cafe and Buffalo Bill's, each attracting its own brand of clique clientele; Bonducci's where I always stopped to fill my Big-Ass Bondo's Mug of coffee and grab a pastry in the morning before heading to class; Faces, set so far back behind the gas station that it relied on incredibly bizarre facades to remind us it was there... hell, I could even muster up enough sentiment for Augie's if I tried.
[User Picture]
From:malconstant
Date:October 17th, 2007 12:55 pm (UTC)
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Even some of the more recent places have gone... Nancy Jane's, Amber Waves..
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:October 17th, 2007 04:35 pm (UTC)
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Hadn't heard of Amber Waves going away. That's a damn shame, as they had the best damn green curry noodles I ever had the pleasure of sweating thru.
[User Picture]
From:muse0fire
Date:October 17th, 2007 12:13 am (UTC)
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I'd heard that was a possibility when I was staying in NoHo back in July - I'm saddened to hear it's now a fact. What a bloody shame!
From:mhaille
Date:October 17th, 2007 12:16 am (UTC)
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DAMMIT.
[User Picture]
From:dishliquid
Date:October 17th, 2007 07:03 am (UTC)
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I wonder what this is going to mean for the Northampton Independent Film Festival.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:October 17th, 2007 11:20 am (UTC)

well, look at it this way

(Link)
at least the Bing over in Springfield is getting renovated...hopefully
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:October 17th, 2007 12:08 pm (UTC)

Re: well, look at it this way

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I hadn't heard that was happening but if so, that's good news for Springfield. Any word on the Rivoli?
From:(Anonymous)
Date:October 17th, 2007 01:39 pm (UTC)

Re: well, look at it this way

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uh... no idea, i'm out here in ohio, where i grew up... the wife is from springfield, and whilst out there this weekend we went through the X, there was a sign on the Bing saying that one of the local HS there is going to be renovating it... i'll be back on friday night and can ask around?
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:October 17th, 2007 04:31 pm (UTC)

Re: well, look at it this way

(Link)
I checked http://cinematreasures.org/theater/1262/ and saw the last update someone wrote for the Bing there was in 2005. If the renovations are actually going to happen as planned, that's great.

I don't think I ever actually saw anything at the Bing, but I recognize decently accessible performance space when I see it. I'm glad the Hippodrome / Paramount / now Hippodrome again theater in Springfield was renovated, albeit as a dance club. The entry at http://cinematreasures.org/theater/1261/ (with a writeup from "DrRussD" near the end of the page) is absolutely fascinating.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:October 17th, 2007 12:35 pm (UTC)
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My greatest PST memory is going to see Sling Blade with a group of German exchange students. Our family was hosting one and my brother had invited a ton of them to the movie. The theatre was so tiny and so crowded that I was sitting on the floor about five feet from the screen. And, of course, a movie with accents that thick isn't much use for teenagers who speak only a little English. Still, a memorable evening.

Noah


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