Friday, June 30, 2006

Everything I Love: The Kingsway Theatre

"The posterboards in front of the picture show were naked. It seemed to Sonny it would have been better to have left some posters up, even the posters to The Kid from Texas." -The Last Picture Show
Tonight the lights on the Kingsway Theatre's marquee go out for the final time. An Etobicoke institution since 1939, my dad spent many a Saturday afternoon watching a Captain Midnight short and a Roy Rogers western in this place. A 1950s matinee at the Kingsway was a circus, complete with popcorn boxes flattened into flying saucers and hurled at ushers from the balcony. My aunt and the other grade nine girls from Etobicoke Collegiate wailed through six back-to-back showings of A Hard Days Night in 1964.

The old theatre is only a shadow of its former self, the rowdy ten year-olds and necking teenagers replaced by an audience that is decidedly sedate, solitary, and strange. Still, its plush upholsted seats are comfortable in spite of their teetering, its concessions are cheap and bad for you, and the on-screen entertainment is augmented by the oddball who migrates from seat to seat before inevitably settling too close for comfort. I've seen some great movies there - Sunshine State, Spellbound, Y Tu Mama Tambien - as well as classics, like Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Godfather, I'd missed the first time through.

What I liked most about the Kingsway, and doubtless sealed its fate, was the space to stretch out and relax. Attending multiplexes between Tuesday and Sunday has become almost intolerable. Delusional latecomers spend an eternity stumbling in the dark while they look for seats and multi-pierced teenagers field phone calls mid-film while they tap the soundtrack into your chair. The Kingsway was one of the few remaining places to enjoy a film without risking a coronary.

Tonight the Kingsway is turning back the clock with $1 admission to see Raiders and Casablanca. If I can get anywhere near the box office, I'll sit through one last show.

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