I went to a funeral a week ago, although nobody died. Rather, Carolyn and I attended a showing of The Perks of Being a Wallflower at San Francisco’s Bridge Theater. It was the Bridge’s last day. I didn’t cry. But I will mourn.
The Bridge’s death was no surprise. Landmark Theatres decided it could no longer make a go of the Bridge, which opened in 1939. The transition for old single-screen theaters from film to digital projection is expensive. But our farewell viewing—the film is wonderful, by the way—brought back memories.
As a kid, my friends and I spent many Saturday mornings at the Drake Theater on Woodhaven Boulevard in Rego Park (Queens). The kiddy matinee cost maybe a quarter. We’d see cartoons and serials and sometimes a feature-length film. My biggest memory? Casey the matron, with her gray hair in a bun and huge flashlight. The Drake fell on hard times, became a porn house then was incorporated into a popular next-door Italian restaurant, Joe Abbraciamento’s.
Manhattan had loads of single screens. My parents took me to the Criterion on Broadway to see Disney’s Bear Country and, if memory serves, Ben Hur. Maybe The Ten Commandments. And quite possibly The Robe with Victor Mature—a Christian picture for some but a Roman epic to me. I love Roman epics. Not the Romans. Just films about them.
At Alfred University in Western New York, we had movies three nights a week in Alumni Hall, an ancient auditorium. I saw Bond flicks and lots of others. I even saw a movie or two at Fort Benning when I was in OCS. And stationed in San Antonio (Fort Sam Houston), I went with a friend to North Star Mall (a single screen, I think) to see The Graduate and later with Carolyn to see 2001: A Space Odyssey. We spent lots of time at the drive-in, too. They’re a shrinking breed, as well.
San Francisco had lots of neighborhood single-screen theaters after most closed down—except for a few porn houses—on Market Street. The most unusual was the Surf near the beach. It had a coffee bar. Unheard of.
Blockbusters meant the late and still lamented Coronet on Geary. I remember fondly waiting on block-winding lines to see The Godfather and Star Wars. The theater seated over 1,000 and was electric for both. And Darth Vader’s entrance—it doesn’t get any better. The Alexandria, only a few blocks from our house, went from one screen to three but never had that multiplex feel. Alas, it has been closed for some years. The Richmond District’s Four Star and Balboa—now two screens each—hang on.
Then there was the North Point where we saw Apocalypse Now. My favorite memory there is of taking Seth, our oldest, soon after he was born to a re-release of Gone With the Wind. When he needed both a diaper change and nursing, we retreated to the cushioned bench seats in the back (never saw those anywhere else), spread out and enjoyed.
So farewell, Bridge. While my kids think I always long for the good old days, I recognize that time marches on. As do I. But I’m keeping my memories close.
Responding is simple. Click on “comments” above then go to the bottom of the article.