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.
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.