Tuesday, September 12, 2006

This is the first movie...


theater I frequented as a kid. What remains of it anyway.

The name of the theater is/was The Palace (aka The Pagoda), located in San Francisco's North Beach district. Once upon a time (and what a time it was!), The Palace was fronted with a traditional neon-lit theater marquee and shallow window-type cabinets displaying posters/photos of current and upcoming movies, interesting architecture throughout, thick fun-patterned carpets, large balcony, plush seats... From the looks of this recent pic, the old theater just ain't what it used to be. No doubt, the whole of it has been 'modernized' over the years.

A couple of you commented to an earlier blog by posing the question 'the first movie ever seen'. Assuming you mean 'in a movie house', I've been wracking the ol' brain cells for my answer. Truthfully, I simply can't remember. That information, like so much else, is too long gone. Waaaah.

One thing is certain: if the first movie I ever saw was not a Cantonese flick (I often accompanied my parents or Grandma to Chinese movies) it was most definitely some 'American movie' shown at the Palace. Since I can't recall the what of 'my first movie', I felt I could at least supply a where.

There are no great photos online of The Palace Theater in its halcyon days. Nor are there news articles, save for the Palace once having served as the primo venue for a gay theater group called 'The Cockettes'.

Sadly, the old theater is all but unrecognizable to me in this photo. Even the once familar location looks foreign, like it could be Anywhere U.S.A., and not one of the colorful SF street corners facing Washington Square Park. What the heck is happening to my Palace Theater? Is it being sold? Renovated? Retrofitted (lots of that goes on here in earthquake country)? Demolished? (Ooooooooh Noooooooo!!)

I really hope the old theater is not destined for the wrecking ball. It always saddens me to learn when an old-style movie house is felled to make way for condos, a strip mall or a shiny new multi-plex cinema.

Worse yet, if the Palace goes, yet another vestige of my ever-fading youth in The City By The Bay will disappear, and that really depresses me!
It's like I'm melting away...

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

hi b

i don't remember the first movie theater i ever went to, though i think it may have been radio city music hall.
however, i do remember going almost every friday night,during the summer, to the whitestone bridge drive in theater, with my parents. i saw my first james bond movie there, which was thunderball. i also remember seeing the russians are coming..., and flower drum song (which should have been on my must stop and watch list).
those were the days. tinny sounds from that little speaker box, carefully hung on the window, competing with the sounds of traffic, airplanes, and crying children and babies.
getting there early, to get a good spot, and playing in the playground, until it was dark enough for them to start the movie. it was great. but times have changed, and drive-ins have gone the way of the dinosaur. tried to find a picture on the web, with no success. lots of info about the wsb drive-in, but no pics.
back in the 60's, even the nice movie theaters, balconies and all, started to disappear. i blame jerry lewis!! he's the one who brought the 'twin theaters' to our area...with the extremely original and self promoting name... "the jerry lewis twin theater". movie theaters went down hill after that. the "big screen", weren't so big.
i'm glad there are still some old movie theaters left in tact, around my neck of the woods. the one in my town, which dates back to the 30's, isn't very fancy, but it still retains the original woodwork, stained glass, seats, and had been refurbished a few years back, when they stopped showing movies, and started a community theater.
this country has no sense of antiquity. we knock down the old to build the new, which is good, but not at the expense of losing our past. i guess this is the price we pay for being a young country.

D

Anonymous said...

My Dear B:

Since earlier posing the question, "What was your first movie (and, yes, I did mean in theater)?", I, too, have been racking my meager brain for my own such experience. Very much like your dearly departed Palace Theater (extremely so), I spent a good deal of my youth accompanying parents and siblings to a neighborhood movie "palace", also long gone to the wrecking ball. This was of a second, possibly even third, run type movie house, films that already had their time to shine (or crash and burn) in the frontline downtown theaters of the city, and now on their final legs, were shunted to the neighborhood "palaces". It feels that I saw every single Jerry Lewis, Elvis, and most all of John Wayne's "cowboy" movies released in the early to mid '60's within the darken splendor of my movie palace. Yet, that mysterious first movie remains elusive. I do recall seeing, and being very impressed by, "Babes In Toyland" starring Tommy Sands and, good grief, was it B's favorite, Annette? When might that have been, and was it preceded in viewing order by a Jerry Lewis movie or two? The meager brain sizzles and sparks, working overtime.

AF

baffle said...

D & AF ~
I can tell that the two of you are MovieFansExtraordinaire, and I'm really appreciating your comments on films and film venues! Both of you move me to speak a wee bit more on the subject(s):

Recently, I re-watched (can't walk by, right?!) 'The Absent-Minded Professor' starring Jerry Lewis. Though I was oblivious to it in earlier viewings, I must say - that movie is very artfully done!

Talk about losing a past! Now that China (to be sure, one of our oldest and greatest civilizations)is at the forefront of global commerce (therefore fast becoming a SuperPower in ber own right), the Chinese are doing away with their old to very very old structures (fallow fields are getting plowed under as well)and making way for the latest, greatest, tallest, chrome steel and glass monstrosities for their industry as well as higher standard of people living. All in the name of capitalistic affluence. No doubt they have Historic Preservation Societies protesting mass modernization. If so, it would behoove those groups to get a fire lit under soon or there won't be much of Old China left to save see and learn from.

I could never watch 'Babes in Toyland' in its entirety. However, Annette Funicello remains: Classic Queen of the Disney Machine.

me again said...

Oh, b!
Me, too...BABES IN TOYLAND gave me the creeps...why?

Anyone know which Jerry Lewis movie has him yelling, "Hey, LAYdeee!!"?
I need to find that movie.

John Wayne and Roy Rogers were the best,you have to admit.
me

baffle said...

Oops! is my other middle name.
The correct title of the aforementioned Jerry Lewis movie is 'The NUTTY Professor'.

As for: 'Hey Laaaaaaaaaadeee!', I'm not sure, but could it be 'The Ladies Man'?

Someone, please help confirm or correct!!!
(Thanks)