You could say “well, it was a living...” It wasn’t. In this year, the fortieth anniversary of our ill-fated adventure, I’m pausing at the bottom of each column (take notice!) to salute each movie we ran, week by week. Whether giant spiders, kung fu, or Godzilla, each of these productions has its own entry in IMDB, and involved at least one producer and director, several gaffers and stunt people, various other techies and a cast, human or otherwise.
Although I kept a personal journal of comings and goings at the theater in 1976 — the lightbulb salesman, the slightly daft old jazzman who used to wear his spangly sideman outfits to the Wednesday matinee, the dramas and conflicts of ushers and candy stand staff — I find myself with only a sporadic record of what we were actually showing from week to week. Our anemic weekly grosses, with the exception of a few stellar films, were, overall, too depressing to document.
Mondays and Tuesdays during that mad theater year, I could taste the despair and the hope all at once, as I waited for the week to start with the arrival of the film canisters on Wednesday morning. Tuesday was almost always the end of a disappointing run, but Tuesday also meant hope, especially if we’d somehow managed to get our booking agent to cough up a gem. Forty years ago this week, we gratefully received Taxi Driver, in its second showing. We were sure it would bring throngs of patrons under the marquee, and it did.
Taxi Driver had already won the Palm d’Or at Cannes, with its hot (then young) director, Martin Scorsese, and its prime cast (Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, Cybill Shepherd, Harvey Keitel, Albert Brooks and others), many of whom were just starting out. It was a film that would go on to garner innumerable honors, selected, finally, by the Library of Congress for the National Film Registry and consistently rated in the top 500, 100, or whatever greatest movies of all time, and so on. I’m wondering this week how the hell we got our hands on that print the year it won Cannes? It certainly doesn’t belong in our sad bibliography, a list of films that includes Godzilla vs. Megalon or In Search of Noah’s Ark. It had to have been second-run. We were a buck fifty house, and you couldn’t get a first-run film without putting down a substantial deposit. I do remember being impressed that we had it, sitting down and watching the movie all the way through, when I probably should have been in the back office writing checks to the carting company that towed away our dirty popcorn cups.
It’s a strange experience researching, in back issues of the local paper, forgotten details of your own life. As I fast-forward through Macy’s ads for bell bottoms and absurdly cheap offerings for eggs and milk at long-defunct grocery stores, I get excited waiting for the movie page to drift into my field of vision. What font did we use that week — was St. George Theatre in script or block letters? What classic or turkey or obscure-indie-destined-to-become-a-cult-film will offer itself to me across time for a dollar fifty? Through the whole process, I find myself rooting for those ghosts of my past, our old team, a group of desperado twenty-something entrepreneurs. Maybe this time they’ll succeed...?
FLASHBACK FORTY YEARS:
Wednesday, May 26, 1976
Taxi Driver hit the screen at The St. George Theatre.
"All Seats, All Times, $1.50, children 90 cents."
(Text from the original listing:
Clip this ad and receive FREE popcorn!
Check out our Dinner Movie Special,
Dinner at Casa Barone, Movie at The St. George,
both for only $4.79!)