Welcome to The West Theater Review Page Thursday, January 18 2018 @ 10:56 AM EST

Single or Multiscreen Theaters?

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General News There are advantages to both. However, I've preferred single screen theaters for some time. Why? Well, for me, it's the architecture, the look of a classic theater, the soul of the place. Anyone ever go catch a show at the Akron Civic? The place is gorgeous! Built to look like a Moorish town with an open night sky with "stars". There are only three open air type theaters like this in the country today. This adds much to my filmgoing experience. While multiplexes have their conveniences, the auditoriums have all the soul of a corporate meeting room and the exteriors merely ape the classic look.

When film was in it's infancy, vaudeville was king. However, by the early 1910's, cinema was overtaking vaudeville as well as other comedy acts causing them to decline in stature and popularity. It was cheaper to show a film with a big name, than to pay for a live act. Many of these old stages were quite ornate. And when these old halls were converted to show movies full time, the style was set for other movie theaters to follow.

Movies and radio were king until the early fifties. And like vaudeville, cinema began to lose it's audience when TV began to draw customers away. As the fifties drew to a close, TV was becoming a powerhouse and movie house attendance began to suffer in earnest. Around this time, the first multi-screens began to appear. At first, the older theaters were compartmentalized into smaller auditoriums. Before too long, though, multiplex theaters were purpose-built. The old single-screen cinemas couldn't compete and one by one, they began to close.

At first, gimmicks were used to try to compete, like air conditioning (when A/C was not so nearly universal), door prizes, free passes and others things were used. It was a delaying tactic at best. As time went on, not only were the older places losing to TV, they were losing to the multiplexes, as well. Some were converted to "art houses", some were converted to twin-screens, some struggled along for years, only to go dark in the end.

To me, it was a shame that these grand old cathedrals where people once came to see the flickering lights were abandoned for years, or worse, razed for a convenience store, the ubiquitous loan store or the ever needed parking lot. I've had a few favorite places I've visited in my younger days torn down and it'll always be a little strange to see an empty lot where they once stood. The Falls Theater, the Medina Theater, the Ridgeview Plaza Cinema and others, dark or gone. The West Theater here is an old single screener turning 70 this year. While not as lavish as the Civic, it has plenty of charm. I help out where I can to keep the old girl lit.

Now, don't get me wrong, I've been seen in a few multiplexes. It's convenient, (although in recent times, getting rather pricey), and they offer more choices. I don't hate them, but all things being equal, I'll go to the Civic or the West, the Highland or the Linda any day. The Palace in Canton is OK, too.

And even now, even the big multiplexes are losing ground to streaming and Blu-Rays shown at home with TVs with sound systems that are simply amazing. Will multiplexes begin to disappear? Time will tell.

Let me know what you think about this and we'll compare notes.

Stay tuned.