Night at the Capri

One of the charms the locals used to lure us to Montgomery was the Capri, an independent single-screen theatre that plays films the multiplex takes a pass on.  If we moved into Cloverdale, they told us, we could walk to the movies.

The Capri is both a theater and a movie society, a non-profit that runs the theater.  Becoming a member means tickets are only $6 each–and that’s on Saturday nights.

For my fellow Staten Islanders, the Capri is what the Lane should have been, instead of a night club, dance hall, catering space and whatever else happened there.  The two theaters are about the same size, and look like they were built within five years of each other.

Going to the movies at the Capri is a trip, and not just back in time.  We’ve gone and had to wait for the person selling tickets to come out of the booth to sell us a bottle of water (with a cup full of ice).  You can also get bottled beer at the Capri, or a glass of wine.

You buy your tickets at the one-person booth that sits in the middle, right between two sets of doors that let you into the lobby.  On your left is the ancient popcorn machine (no butter, just the way we like it) and the refreshment counter.  On the right you can pick up the schedule for next month, or flyers for other community events.

Head up a stack of steps and enter the one theater on either the left or the right.  It’s not as intensely art deco as was the Lane, but its got an art deco vibe going on.  There are no annoying commercials running, so you don’t spend 20 minutes before the film starts getting bombarded.  Instead there’s what looks like a basic PowerPoint with posters for the coming movies.

As for the movies, there’s a mix.  Most of them are what used to be called “second-run,” movies that came out to first-run theaters perhaps a month or two before.  I think they hit the Capri, generally, sometime between theatrical release and Netflix.  Plus they’re not the blockbusters that tend to get shown at the Rave, our mall-based multiplex. 

The Capri is where you’ll see the newest Philip Seymour Hoffman film, or, as we did tonight, the Patricia Clarkson film, Cairo Time (spoiler alert: longest case of unrequited sexual tension ever filmed).  But they’ll also run oldies but goodies, like the Christmastime showing of It’s A Wonderful Life, or the special Veteran’s Day showing of Stripes  (yes, the Bill Murray vehicle).  And sometimes there will be southern films, a short festival or something else that seems to fit the town–and the bill.

So you’re in your seat, holding your drink and your popcorn, because there are no cup holders.  If you’re older than 35, you’ll know that theaters didn’t used to have cup holders.  Often, instead, they had ashtrays on the back of the seat in front of you, but this I have not seen at the Capri.  It is not stadium seating, nor do the seats recline.  None of this is necessary anyway.

As movie time approaches, the curtains close over the slide show, the lights go out, and a new image is projected just as the curtains begin to open again.  You remember this, of course — if you are old enough — from when you were a kid.  The image is distorted against the curtain, but as the curtain parts, it freezes in focus on the screen.

Before the movie comes on we’re asked to turn off our cell phones, and reminded that there’s no texting and no talking.  The next screen points out that “courtesy is contagious.”

We only see about two previews, just the right amount to whet the appetite for the film.  When it’s over, everyone stays until the credits are finished.  When you go out into the lobby, people say good night to each other.

We went there a few weeks ago for a special benefit showing of Springsteen’s Hyde Park concert film.  Before it started, the manager came to the front of the house and explained that he’d set the film sound on “normal,” but if people wanted it louder, he’d accommodate us.  The audience agreed that loud was better, and he cranked up the sound.

Anyone want to move to Montgomery?

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2 Responses

  1. Allentown has the 19th Street Cinema, which has the same feel…even down to the old popcorn machine. The 19th Street saved my life (culturally speaking) when I moved to PA almost 30 years(!!) ago.

    Should I equate Cairo Time with Falling In Love (which you may remember we re-named Falling Asleep!)

  2. There is a similar theater in Mesilla, NM, about an hour away from us. It is housed in an old, somewhat crumbling, adobe theater. It too is run by a film society and has the same homey feel. Popcorn with real butter, good coffee and tempting baked goods. Some tables and chairs in the back and old theater seats in front. Plays your typical art house fare (foreign films, small films that never make it to the multiplex, etc.) They are often on the verge of losing the venue, but have manage to hang on thus far.

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