Sunday, July 24, 2011

Off To See The Wizard


It is somehow reassuring that today's children are just as familiar with The Wizard of Oz as prior generations were, even though it has been 72 years since the movie was released. I file it under the category of "The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same." And I file yesterday afternoon, when Sarah and I went to watch it on the big screen, under the category of "Great Daddy-Daughter Memories."

Downtown Tampa is home to one of America's best examples of a movie theater from Hollywood's golden age, back when they all had one auditorium and were often extravagant in their decor. Designed by John Eberson and opened in 1926, the Tampa Theater is bedecked with red upholstery and Greco-Roman statues, and its auditorium evokes a Mediterranean courtyard at dusk: The screen is surrounded by castle walls, while the ceiling is painted dark blue like the twilight sky, fitted with tiny lights reminiscent of stars.

I took advantage of my cell phone camera while we were there. Here is a view of the floor level, taken beneath the balcony after the movie was over and almost everyone had left:



Here is one taken from our seats in the balcony, when the organist was providing pre-show entertainment:



And here is another one taken from our seats, looking into the corner to give a sense of how high the walls go. To add to the perspective, keep in mind that we were sitting in the lower third of the balcony:



As part of its Summer Classics Series, the theater broke out Oz for matinee screenings this weekend. Sarah was fascinated with the opulence and I appreciated being able to watch a cinema classic while sitting inside a classic cinema. Even if you have seen a movie before, there is something different about seeing it on the big screen.



The event was touted as a singalong, and as you can tell from the following picture, the lyrics appeared on screen. I certainly didn't sing, nor did the bare majority of people in the audience, but quite a few did.



There were other examples of audience participation that, um, you just wouldn't get at home. Every time the Wicked Witch appeared (or Miss Gultch, her Kansas incarnation) large numbers of people hissed at her. And they applauded when she melted and whenever Toto made an escape.

Yes, some people came in costume, and not all of them were kids. One trio of folks who -- well, I will just say they probably got the senior's discount -- dressed up like the Lollipop Guild.

Yesterday was far from Sarah's first time watching The Wizard of Oz, but it was the first time she realized it was all a dream. She has already asked to go again next summer.

I can't believe that with all the pictures I took, I failed to take any of us. I (or Erika) will make up for that next time, but for now I leave you with the photo that turned out to be yesterday's coolest by far. I was taking one of the Scarecrow on screen and apparently my shutter snapped just as the next frame, of Dorothy, was coming round -- because you can see both their images on the screen, with hers fainter:




Note: "Movie palace" (or "picture palace" in the U.K.) was the name given to the style of theaters designed by Eberson and other cinema architects of his time. For a list of 150 of his creations, most of which are now closed and not all of which were in the U.S., go here.

4 comments:

Betsy from Tennessee said...

How neat, John.... I love going to the old theaters...Knoxville has one --and they have fixed it up and have all kinds of programs in there now.. I love the old theater organs.

I'm sure that Sarah enjoyed the "Wizard"---but not anymore than you and Erika enjoyed it!!!!! I'd love to see that movie again on the big screen..
Betsy

Barb said...

Love that last pic, John - sometimes I try to remember that the best moments might be totally unplanned. Glad you and Sarah could "watch a cinema classic while sitting inside a classic cinema." (I like the flow of that line.) Take care of your Family - stay well.

Barb said...

PS I'm part of the Lollipop Guild!

JDS said...

Barb, you are right about things being unplanned. I can't believe that picture happened using my cell phone camera. If I tried to duplicate it with my SLR for the rest of my life, I probably wouldn't ever come close.