TLP: Turns Out That Size Matters
Sometimes, the most practical solution is the simplest. And who knows how many of the fucked-up circumstances in this economy might work out better if people did things the small town way.
Every Friday through Monday night, from her perch behind the Skittles and the M&M’s, Amy Freier awaits the faithful at the historic Roxy Theater. There is Dale Klein, the school bus driver (large Diet Pepsi with a refill). And there is Jeannette Schefter, the social worker (large plain popcorn, medium Diet).You don't even have to like movies — and I am looking at you, Jr Deputy Accountant — to see the value in this approach. And it has nothing to do with Hollywood. Seems to work better that way.
“You know who comes,” said Ms. Freier, one of 200 volunteers in this town of roughly 2,000 who are keeping the Roxy’s neon glowing. “They’re part of the theater.”
In an age of streaming videos and DVDs, the small town Main Street movie theater is thriving in North Dakota, the result of a grass-roots movement to keep storefront movie houses, with their jewel-like marquees and facades of careworn utility, at the center of community life.
From Crosby (population 1,000), near the Saskatchewan border, to Mayville, in the Red River Valley, tickets are about $5, the buttered popcorn $1.25 and the companionship free.
“If we were in Los Angeles or Phoenix, the only reason to go to a movie would be to see it,” said Cecile Wehrman, a newspaper editor who, with members of the nonprofit Meadowlark Arts Council resuscitated the Dakota in Crosby, its plush interiors now a chic black, red and silver. “But in a small town, the theater is like a neighborhood. It’s the see-and-be-seen, bring everyone and sit together kind of place.”
The revival is not confined to North Dakota; Main Street movie houses like the Alamo in Bucksport, Me., the Luna in Clayton, N.M., and the Strand in Old Forge, N.Y., are flourishing as well. But in the Great Plains, where stop signs can be 50 miles apart and the nearest multiplex is 200 miles round trip, the town theater — one screen, one show a night, weekends only — is an anchoring force, especially for families.