Chapter Two - The Closed Theatre
Recap from Chapter One: I had the mumps in third grade; was destined to read a Nancy Drew book a day while I recovered; was convinced I WAS Nancy Drew; Grew up and got a job as a researcher and BECAME Nancy Drew; Job was to investigate what happened to old theatres and when found any that were still standing, made contact with owner of old theatre and sent my “Guy in the Field” out to the old theatre to purchase any old equipment they may have to sell; Found old theatre out West; Found owners wife, Audrey, through the lunch time crew at the small town diner; made contact with Audrey who was baking cupcakes for the big dinner the town puts on for EVERYONE before the big football game that night!!
Okay!! We are now up to speed!! On to Chapter Two!!!
Audrey had become a “telephone friend” simply because she divulged so much amicable information in our conversation. With a feeling of confidence, and after Audrey got another batch of cupcakes from the oven, I began to take our conversation in the direction of the movie theatre. As a researcher, it is very important to gain the confidence of those that you are seeking information and Audrey seemed to like me, too.
“So, Audrey, I heard from someone at the Diner that your husband owns the old movie theatre! Is that right?” I inquired.
“Oh yes!!! Carl’s family built that theatre and for the longest time it was the center of entertainment! Except for the football games, of course! We’re a real football town ya know!!””
“Yes, I do know, Audrey!! So, when was the theatre built?”
“Hmmmm! Probably around ’36 or ’38 or maybe even 1940! I can’t quite remember what Carl told me!! He should be back from the range soon! Maybe you should wait and talk with him!! Hmmm! But, it’s birthing season, so maybe he WON’T be back soon!! Hmmm. OK, what else do you need to know? Let’s see if I can answer anything else for you!”
“When was the theatre closed?” I continued.
“Let’s see…I think he told me they closed it down in ’96 or maybe it was ’98?” Audrey began talking to herself. “I moved here in 2002 and married Carl in 2004 and we moved the extra stuff from the house into the back of the theatre in ’05 and the kids came and picked up all the stuff in ’06…so that was it!! It closed in 1996!!!” Audrey was proud of her strong memory!!
“Why did it close?”
“Well, according to everyone in town and, of course, Carl will concur…eventually. everyone just started to stay home!! Satellite TV came to town and suddenly, they had a ton of television stations to chose from and TV’s started getting bigger and bigger and well, no one wanted to fight the snow and the cold just to sit in the theatre and eat popcorn. Carl told me that there were some nights that just 2 or 3 people would be in that whole building and he couldn’t even cover the cost of heating the place!! I think Carl was really hurt when he had to shut it up!”
“That’s really sad, but not really unusual!” I tried my hand at long distance comfort.
“Oh! I know that!!! I’m just not sure Carl totally understood!! I mean, his family built the theatre and he felt an obligation to keep it running no matter what!!! That’s probably the reason he still has everything in there just waiting to start again!”
I became excited with the thought that an old theatre built in ’36, ’38 or 1940 was still fully stocked with original equipment!!! This was a rare find!!!
As the theatre industry transitioned itself into Multi-plexes and Large Corporate ownership, the “mom and pop” business’s found themselves at a loss of not only customers, but also of revenues. Multiplex theatres were designed with many small-tiered rooms showing a large variety of titles catering to all age groups and movie tastes.
The small single screen theatres started closing down in large numbers starting in the late 80s and early 90s. The physical property they stood on was more valuable to a strip mall developer than to someone who wanted to “restore” the building and bring it back to its original glory. Time marches on as the saying goes.
As a researcher, I would have to find and verify information on about 40 theatres before I found ONE where the building was still standing, albeit now housing a completely different kind of business. The Odds were far greater in finding a theatre still standing that had equipment in it much less Original equipment!
I asked Audrey if Carl had kept everything in working order.
“Well of course!!” she exclaimed1 “Over the years, Carl bought a few prints of old movies and sometimes he’ll go down to the building to make sure everything is OK. When he’s been gone for a couple of hours, I know he’s down there watching an old film and probably eating some popcorn from the Dollar Store and just spoiling his appetite for dinner!!!” She laughs again, that hearty laugh.
“Well, I was wondering Audrey, if my guy who is out in the field, could stop by and take a look at your old theatre and maybe Carl might have some old stuff he’d like to get rid of!!! I might be interested in buying!” I was pretty cautious with my quick presentation.
“Sure!! Come on by!!” She exclaimed! “Now what do you do with that old junk?”
I went on to explain that when we found this old equipment, we would buy it at a negotiated price and then haul the equipment away. We will bring it back to our warehouse, clean it up and then sell it!!
“Who buys that kind of junk?” Audrey was pretty inquisitive but I liked her and wanted to let her know all the details of my Nancy Drew job!!!
I told her that after we cleaned up the equipment and categorized it, that we would send out notifications to renovators of old theatres (private owners, cities, non profit groups, theatrical organizations) that we had these items available for purchase if they needed it for their project. We also notified museums, who often purchased old equipment for displays and schools who also wanted this type of equipment for learning purposes and for adding onto their curriculum. I think the most exciting inquiries we would get are from countries that needed old theatre equipment from the US to start “new” theatres in the backcountry areas that never had a movie theatre. We found these projects through international Chamber of Commerce and Business Associations!
Audrey was quite impressed with our projects!!
So, I told Audrey I would get back with her in a day or two when I had a better idea about when “My guy in the Field” would be arriving. We exchanged further contact information and I let her know how much I enjoyed our conversation! And then I wished her Good Luck on the game that night and we went on our long distance way.
It is people like Audrey, who are open, friendly, talkative and trusting and full of great stories that makes for my Nancy Drew Job to be the dream.
Next, comes the conclusion of our tale about Audrey and Carl and My Guy in the Field and how a deal is made!!!
By the way…Audrey and I became Facebook friends and we exchange stories and Christmas Cards and pictures of children and grand children and recipes and tales of our lives!!! Nancy Drew …Thank You!!!
Until Next Time!!!
Keep on Junkin’