When I first moved to the Westlock/Barrhead region two years ago, I was surprised and elated when I discovered that Barrhead has a movie theatre...the Roxy. Much like grain elevators, the small town movie theatre is another hallmark of small town life that seems to be fading away. It's so easy to head on into the city to catch a movie the day it comes out. Why wait a week or two for it to makes its way to your town? But I kept saying that I must catch a movie at the Roxy. It's part of my community, and I love the movies, so why not?
So it may seem kind of strange that, after two years, the one movie that come to the Roxy that finally made me check it out was Disney's live-action Cinderella. But it in a way, it makes sense. It seems that my memories of small town movie theatres tend to involved Disney movies.
Where I grew up, the closest small town with a movie theatre was Drayton Valley. They had a one-screen movie theatre...the Cardium. Despite being the closest, didn't see a lot of movies at the Cardium growing up. The last movie I remember seeing there was The Lion King. For those who don't remember The Lion King's release history, it came out in the summer of 1994. And then, in a stroke of marketing brilliance, Disney pulled it out of theatres at the end of the summer, and re-released it at Christmas of 1994. When it came to the Cardium over Christmas vacation, my sister and a couple of her friends really wanted to go see it again. I had just gotten my driver's license, and Mom no doubt wanted a few hours of peace and quiet over the Christmas break, so Mom said, "Would you take them?" So I did. The big selling point for that re-release was they were showing an entire musical number from Disney's next animated epic, Pocahontas, before the film, so I got to see Colors of the Wind on the big screen. I remember it as being a nice theatre.
The Cardium closed in the mid-00s, but the name lives on. The Cardium is now the name of Drayton's 4-screen cineplex that replaced the original.
When it comes to small town, one-screen movie theatres, the one I have the most memories of is the Bailey Theatre. The main movie theatre in Camrose, and within walking distance of the college, so of course a movie-loving college student wound up spending a lot of time there. My best friend and I, being of similar movie tastes, spent a lot of Friday nights there seeing the newest offering. Being a couple of animation geeks, I remember going to see Anastasia on opening night, and my friend and I spent the whole film critiquing and analyzing the animation.
About the only movie that I saw at the Bailey myself was The Little Mermaid. Disney re-released it in 1997 in the hopes of crushing Anastasia at the box office, and I leaped at the chance to see it on the big screen. Going by myself meant I could sit in the balcony. I always thought that a balcony in a movie theatre was a Hollywood invention. I only ever saw it in movies and on TV until I got to the Bailey. My best friend -- being from the Camrose area and seeing movies at the Bailey all his life -- always insisted on sitting front row centre. But that night, on my own at The Little Mermaid, I got to sit front row centre...in the balcony. No wonder Siskel and Ebert loved sitting there so much.
Christmas 1997 wound up being a pivotal year for the Bailey, for that's when their competition, the shiny new 5-screen Duggan Cinemas opened up. That's the only time I ever engaged in any student journalism, outside my radio-show-plugging opinion column. My best friend was editor of the school paper, and one night, while we were hanging out as he worked to put the next issue to bed, we began speculating as to what the Duggan Cinemas might do to the Bailey. So we called up the managers of both theatres, got quotes, and put together a story on Camrose's upcoming "theatre war."
But we knew the Bailey's days were numbered. The last movie we saw there was Lost in Space, which opened in April of 1998. After that was final exams, and I was home for summer. When I came back to Camrose for the next semester in the fall of 1998, the Bailey was closed.
That being said, the Bailey's doing pretty well for itself these days. It's been restored to its 1940s art deco glory, and is now Camrose's premiere live entertainment venue.
So it was time to create new memories of the small town one-screen movie theatre by heading out to the Roxy. I went into the theatre, and remarked at how similar the lobbies of these small town theatres are. The lobby is smaller and more intimate that what you'd find in the big city. The box office is right there as soon as you get in. I paid for my ticket, and right next to the box office is the small concession counter. As I've blogged before, I don't eat at the movies that much anymore, because I tend to go right after a meal. The Roxy in Barrhead was no different, as I'd just had supper at the A&W down the street. But I've been assured that the Roxy makes really good popcorn.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that they have a cry room...a nice addition that more movie theatres should have. This is the soundproof booth where parents can take fussy babies to they don't interrupt the show. Don't worry, from inside, they can still see the screen, and there's speakers that have the movie's sound turned to a lower volume for the little one.
I went inside, and it was like going back to the Cardium. Laid out in the very same way. Large speakers hanging off the wall, instead of being built into the wall like most big city theatres. I thought about going front row centre like my best friend would insist back in the Bailey, but I instead went for my usual selection of somewhere in the middle. I noticed the Roxy also has a stage, so like the Bailey, I imagine it must have been a multi-purpose theatre that hosted live events in its 50 year history.
That being said, how was Cinderella? "Magical" is a good way to describe it. It manages to capture all the magic and charm of the original Disney animated film, with a few new wrinkles. Cate Blanchett manages to flesh out the Wicked Stepmother more, as we see her actively scheming and plotting to improve her station in life. And Helena Bonham Carter brings just the right blend of flighty and mystical to the Fairy Godmother.
The bad? Well, it is Cinderella, and they don't deviate too far from the original text, so the plot really doesn't offer up anything new. And I still have the same question I've always had about Cinderella: "Wouldn't glass slippers be horribly uncomfortable and impractical?" But still, I had fun. 3 Nibs, and the full review is up on the website.
Although, on the drive home, I think I finally figured out another question I've always had about Cinderella. And that question was, "How weird must her feet be if those glass slippers fit her and only her?" But it occurred to me: since they are magical, obviously they magically re-size themselves to not fit unless it's Cinderella. Brilliant!
Oh, and it also started with the animated short film Frozen Fever, a nice little expansion of the Frozen universe.
All in all, it was a good evening, and the Roxy can truly stand as one of the greatest of the small town movie theatres.