We’ve been talking about showing films at the community center in Penns Valley almost since the day the doors opened five years ago. Now at last we have taken the plunge and bought the license that gives us the right to show most any movie we can find. The church that uses the community center for church services lets us use their projector and sound system, and we’ve invited local groups to sell concessions for their charity work.
If you are a certain age, you can remember the revival movie houses that showed double features of older films, usually linked by a theme. The theater manager would often put together a written synopsis of the films as a way to advertise, often with some critical commentary. My favorite of all of these movie houses was the Naro Theater on Colley Avenue in Ghent, the shabby genteel section of Norfolk near downtown and the university. I used to go there often in the old days when I lived in a little apartment a few blocks away and would walk there on cool Saturday evenings to see films like The Man Who Fell to Earth and The Hunger, or Bladerunner and Liquid Sky.
I remember the excitement of not knowing always exactly what to expect. Would I see something I might like but would never have thought of on my own? Would I find it irritating or amazing, or in the case of Liquid Sky, incomprehensible? I loved the screwball comedies from the ’30sand ‘40s, when the dialogue sparkled with wit, and ate up the film noir crime and detective films with Bogart or Mitchum. I’d go see Casablanca any time it played, and enjoy it for the fifth time as much as the first.
And it was at the Naro where I would often run into an old friend I hadn’t seen since college or someone I had been friends with in high school, and we would go out together after the movie to a restaurant up the street that stayed open late and talk until all hours.
I can’t go to the Naro Theater anymore, but I’d like for Movie Night at the Old Gregg School Community Center to be something like those revival movie houses of yesterday. We’ll have a double feature with some kind of theme, a little write-up, and some great food. Maybe you’ll run into somebody interesting you wouldn’t have met otherwise. It’s already happened to me in the first two months we’ve been doing this.
Back in 2000, Robert Putnam’s book Bowling Alone bemoaned the loss of social connection in America. Our civic life is unraveling, he said; more people are bowling, but not in leagues. They are bowling alone. Opportunities to meet our neighbors are fewer, and we’ve become strangers to each other. And, of course, we can be entertained so much more easily than ever. We can watch movies instantly on our computers or pop a DVD into the box and watch something in the den on a big screen television. It’s all so easy, and we can do it all alone. But as someone said at last Saturday’s show, “Movies are so much better when we see them together.”
Our next Movie Night is Saturday, Feb. 23. You can email me for the details. Stop by if you’re in the neighborhood, we’ll have the popcorn ready.
Walt Mills can be reached at email@example.com or at P.O. Box 174, Spring Mills, PA 16875