“Thank God for the picture show,” my mother always said, as she dragged me along beside her down Michigan Avenue to the tiny Michigan movie house.

It was during the Great Depression, and everyone was grateful for the “picture show,” as they called the movies in those days. My father never went with us. He was retired from the Navy, and after which he sat next to the radio, shouting at Wendell Willkie.

During World War II it was the same routine. We would go down to the movies, at least four nights a week. It was a quarter for Mom, 10 cents for me, with a nickel bag of popcorn and a dime for a Coke. Heaven.

Your mother and dad or grandparents took you to the movies at the Haines, the State and the Opera House, that played through that war, through the “Great Recession,” Korea, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam and Watergate.

We survived with “The Godfather,” “Apocalypse Now,” “The Manchurian Candidate” and “All The President’s Men.” I could hear my mother shouting from the other side, “Thank God for the picture show.”

Even through the almost four years of Trump we had the “picture shows” to carry us.

J.P. Devine is seen in a photo in 1973. Photo courtesy of J.P. Devine

Here we are today in central Maine, hunkered down behind our walls, or sitting masked in our cars, waiting for the “Most influential election of our lives” and the promised vaccine to erase our fears.

If ever there was a reason to go to the movies, it’s now.

So dad and mom suited up and hauled the kids over to the movies, only to find them CLOSED! EGAD!

“Hollywood is over,” the critics cried.

No. Folks of my age remember that Hollywood was over when talkies came in. But along came the ’30s, and Hollywood came roaring back with “Gone With the Wind,” “The Wizard of Oz” and “ It Happened One Night,” and the movies were back.

How long did that last? When television was born, Hollywood got the shivers, and when our screens went to color, they hit the floor.

Now, as Washington is consumed with duplicity, mendacity and COVID-19, we need the darkness of the movie houses more than ever. But when we got over to Flagship and Railroad Cinema this summer, the popcorn machines were cold, the house dark, and no one knows when they’ll open again.

Regal Cinema in Augusta, in fact all over America and the U.K., have shuttered.

Is Hollywood dead for real?

Nope. Hollywood is a master of survival. The grandchildren of the Warner Brothers, Paramount and Disney have new children: Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Disney, and they’re doing just fine, thank you very much.

Flagship and Railroad Cinema will probably open again, but will you be drawn back to $10 tickets, $8 popcorn?

Or will mom shout from the kitchen, “Thank God for Netflix?” Stay tuned.

 

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer. 


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