Titirangi Storyteller

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Cinema

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The Glory Days – 1938 – before my time!

Back when I was a seven-year-old kid in the South Bronx, every Saturday afternoon my best friend Marilyn (named after THAT Marilyn) and I would take our weekly pocket money – fifty cents – and head up 167th St to the Kent Theater, a second-run theatre whose glory days were 20-30 years before we were born. But we didn’t know that – to us, The Kent Theatre was an escape hatch – the entryway to glamour and fantasy, laughter and fright. It set us free from the grit and grime of our concrete encased childhoods. We’d hand over thirty-five cents to some orange-lipsticked crone in the ticket booth and then spend twenty minutes at the candy counter deciding what we wanted, though as I recall it always ended up with ten cents going for popcorn and the last five on a packet of Good’n’Plenty or Sugar Babies. We’d wait til the usher’s back was turned and sneak up the darkened staircase, past the No Children Allowed sign to the balcony and throw popcorn at teenagers making out. We never cared what was showing – double and triple features of stuff that was ancient even then – a lot of Jerry Lewis, occasionally a Disney flick, tonnes of grade B monster movies like The Blob or House on Haunted Hill that left me crouching under the seat in front of me and endless comedy shorts – the Little Rascals, Bowery Boys, Three Stooges, Laurel & Hardy, Abbot & Costello and of course, Bugs Bunny and Porky Pig.

The Kent Theatre in the South Bronx.  Taken in the baaaad 70’s when the neighbourhood was nearly a war zone. Stripped to the bare basics, she looks so very sad. The theatre closed for good in mid 80’s.

We’d stay all day, sit through the entire show twice and get scared at the same things and squeal at the same stupid jokes. I’ve never stopped watching – thought maybe I’d be a movie star when I grew up, but ended up a film critic and film magazine editor – almost as much fun, but a lot safer. These days I hardly ever make it to the cinema – I’ve got a home theatre with a better sound system and a plasma hung on the wall that’s nearly as big as some inner city screens. I still do the odd review. There’s just so much time in anyone’s life to pursue one’s passions and this satisfies my love of movies, though I do miss the days when I attended every preview and had an opinion on everything in the theatres. Here are a few articles of interest I wrote back in the day along with reviews and some current thoughts.

Reviews

Written by Titirangi Storyteller

01/01/2009 at 5:03 pm

7 Responses

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  1. Hey, we are neighbors!

    ciao
    Alessandra

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    Alessandra

    27/05/2009 at 2:59 pm

    • Howdy neighbour! I like your site too. And I know Tony O’Brien… it’s such a tiny world. I’m sure we’ll bump into each other soon!

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      titirangistoryteller

      29/05/2009 at 12:33 am

  2. The theater was closed in the mid to late 80’s. I remember seeing the Golden Child and Police Academy there. That’s my old neighborhood.

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    Richard

    28/01/2013 at 1:10 pm

    • Howdy old neighbour! I’ve updated the caption! When did you leave? I was dragged away (literally kicking and screaming) when I was 7… Now I live in New Zealand and just haven’t been able to get back for a visit.

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  3. I don’t know how you could have sneaked upstairs, since this very small theater had no balcony!

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    Ed Miller

    26/08/2014 at 12:47 am

    • Really? I remember it vividly! The teenagers and smokers were up there… But… I will grant you I was 5, 6, 7 years old at the time and it’s not impossible my memories of another theatre may have blurred with these. Though I can’t possible figure out what it could be.
      Fortunately for me – I am planning a holiday in New York in November and will be meeting up with my childhood friend Marilyn (we have not seen each other since 1964!) and I will be going there with my camera and will ask the management of the building if I can have a look around… I will, of course = have my camera with me every step of the way!!!
      I will get to the bottom of this!

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    • Hey Ed! You are absolutely right! Tiny little theatre… hard to believe it was one at all… turns out Marilyn and I used to also go to another theatre up by the concourse – and that one did have a balcony… I was six and seven at the time and my memories must have blended cos I remembered it as one theatre! Now I know. But I’m gonna leave the story the way I remembered it – even if it isn’t quite right. 😉

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