I rallied to save the Madison theater!
So I went to my first protest last week. Okay, it wasn't a protest, as my husband would have quickly corrected me. It was a rally. Last Sunday, a small group of concerned citizens gathered in front of town hall to save our local movie theater. This was a cause that I believed in. And I've watched as many friends and neighbors have shown their support for (or dismay about) other issues, I didn't go. Not because there isn't something there I believe in, more because they are often protesting many different things and proposing lots of different ideas. In the end I didn't feel galvanized about any one issue until now. And while I'm still hoping the theater will survive, I'm still not sure marching or rallying or protesting is for me. I totally respect those who march, sometimes I'm even thankful that they do, because they are representing my interests and putting their own self out there in part on my behalf.
And, to be entirely honest, I was having a little FOMO, seeing my friends out there with others standing up for what they believed in. I sensed a little FOMO on my daughters' behalf as well, and I brought them so they could see what it was like. I could tell we should do something when I recently saw a play that my daughter was part of. The kids wrote their own scripts, and one involved making a lemonade stand and getting together to make signs, and I thought they were probably inspired by hearing about or participating in similar activities before a march. It was time for us to see what it was all about.
I know it might sound silly that the thing that got me out of the house was just a movie theater. But it meant a lot to me. If there is a way to prevent our beloved theater from being demolished and replaced with condos, our family is for it. We may disagree about other things people protest, but not this.
We frequented the theater when we first moved here as a newly married couple, spending a new year's eve as the only ones in a theater playing "American Werewolf in Paris." We had our coats on AND our hats and gloves, because part of the heating system at the theater was body heat, and two humans weren't enough. I noticed that I could see my breath and went to find the projectionist, but there was little he could do.
We went back when the kids came along. I remember I wanted to see "Charlie and The Chocolate Factory" so much I took my four kids, all under 5 at the time, to see it one weekday afternoon. I breastfed my infant twins as Johnny Depp navigated a boat down a chocolate river.
When the kids were older, that was where we saw the final Harry Potter movie. The theater was completely decorated, with floating candles and lots of velvet as I recall.
So when the theater abruptly closed last year, we were really bummed. I had just begun letting the kids go on their own and walk to Romanelli's or McCool's afterwards. My daughter saw friends there on a date for the first time! How could it just close?
I say abruptly, but that's only part of the story. Yes, the theater operators didn't give much notice (I even heard a few scheduled birthday parties there had to be relocated). But the company had changed hands a few times over the years, and that empty theater we sat in on new year's eve was a harbinger of things to come. Fewer people are heading out to the movies as home equipment improves and ticket prices increased. Even the snacks that you always hear really support the theaters had to take a hit as families became more health conscious.
The big indicator, and what finally did the theater in, was that the building had been for sale. When I first saw the sign, my husband and I tried to find out whether we could maybe try investing in some commercial real estate. We probably would not have been able to do it, but I don't know because we could never get a call back when we left messages at the number posted on the for sale sign.
So is the theater really doomed? Not as far as Sandy Kolakowski, who organized the rally is concerned. A Madison resident, Kolakowski has set up the Save The Theater Committee to prevent it's demolition. She pointed out that the theater is part of a federal and state historic district. Plans for the new building have been presented to the Historic Preservation Commission which must approve them for the project to move forward.