Dear home town theater...

Jan. 20, 2013 @ 05:30 AM

Ed. Note: This is a first-person memory account from The Daily Courier’s photographer Garrett Byers regarding his experiences growing up with the movie theater.

The phrase, home town theater, has a nice ring to it.

In most places it’s a phrase taken for granted, however for my hometown it’s a statement of pride. With the recent changing of the times, many of the local theaters that once populated small towns everywhere are fading out of existence. To be able to say your town still has its own theater is something special. To get lucky enough to have one with such a colorful past and intimate connection to the community as Forest City’s own Retro Cinema 4, well that’s extra special.

Since May of 2009, I’ve watched Retro Cinema’s owner Michael Packett and an army of volunteers transform what was a theater in need of great repair into a reinvented version of itself that clearly displayed the potential and pride it possessed. To see new additions and updated features added regularly was very exciting and made the need to journey far off to experience a good time at the movies, obsolete. Retro Cinema 4 has brought the movies back to Rutherford County, but now they face their greatest challenge yet with the conversion of their film projectors to an all digital format. This is a change set forth by Hollywood and one that offers much danger if not met for our home town theater.

But why do we need a home town theater one might ask? A perfectly reasonable question.

At present date it’s one thing to put your Blu-Ray in, hit the couch and enjoy a movie on your 50-inch flat screen. That’s an experience that is perfectly fine and a product of technological evolution and consumer nicety. But as amazingly convenient as that all is, it’s still missing that one special thing that make the movies magical.

That experience of seeing something for the first time on a large move screen either with a group of friends or a room full of total strangers is hard to match. The excitement of jumping in unison at a

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shocking moment or laughing along with everyone else in the dark is something that is unique to the cinematic experience.

Allow me, if you will, to take a step back for a moment, to a time when the magic of the movies was just that. Whether it was watching Littlefoot and friends find the Great Valley, or not blinking as the Rocketeer took flight, holding on tightly to the seat as I journeyed through Jurassic Park, or cheering loudly when my favorite crime fighter with a cape and cowl saved the day, the theater has offered that one place where as a kid I could enjoy an experience like no other. It was a place that fueled my creativity and pushed my imagination further still. With each new release, I was taken even more by the thrill and adventure that came with going to the movies.

Now remember back to when we got a little older and the films seemed to mature right along with us. Our connections to the theater also grew. It became a place where lasting memories were made, first dates were had, and dreams were fulfilled. Where for the span a couple hours we could go for a ride that would effect us emotionally and have us telling all our friends about it for days.

Nothing quite compares to that feeling you get when the credits have rolled and you exit that dark theater back in to the reality of life. Aside from the wobbly disorientation of your eye’s adjusting, that tingling sensation that often accompanies your stride is your adrenaline kicking in. Perhaps your heart’s still racing from that big budget climatic action scene, or maybe you’re feeling closer to that special someone with whom your arm’s around, or just to be safe you check that back seat twice to make sure the monster’s not there before you head home. These are just a few of the rewards one takes away from a trip to the movies.

It’s a culmination of all these unique aspects that make the whole movie experience one to treasure. The excitement of letting your nerd out at a midnight release, or staying all the way to the end of the credits for that 20-second teaser of the next installment are the moments true movie fans live for. In college, I can remember after the film it was off the the late night diner for a round table discussion that would make even Leonard Maltin envious.

But that’s enough of my long-winded reminiscent rant. The main point I was going for was that had I grown up in a town without a home town theater I would have nothing to really to rant about.

That’s the importance of having a theater.

To entertain, to inspire, to comfort, and escape. To remember that every time that projector pops to life it carries with it the ability to illuminate not only the screen but also the imagination of us all.

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