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December 17, 2012

Nothing like an old-fashioned movie theater


I have loved going to the Oneonta Theatre for all of my 30 years here. Movies, shows, dance recitals, plays, concerts, speeches and more. I even gave my one-man show there to a sell-out crowd. That is a night I’ll never forget.

And so we have faced another closing of a beloved icon in our area. Bresee’s came, stayed for a century. Stevens Hardware store, even longer. Drogen’s on Southside was around for a couple of generations. And many more. I guess that is just the harsh reality of the business cycle. Out goes the old and (we hope) in comes something new.

But a movie theater? That’s different. It is one of the few universal nostalgic bridges to the past that is irreplaceable. I would mourn the loss of the Oneonta Theatre, not just for me and my amber-encased memories. But for those future generations who would someday say to one another, “Yeah, the old Oneonta Theatre. Gee, I never set foot inside that place.”

I spoke with David Hayes of Oneonta’s First Night about the closing of the theater. And this just after they seemed to grab the gold ring with a series of successful near-sold-out showings of classic movies.

David told me, “The doors to the Oneonta Theatre are closed. But they are not locked.” Let’s hope they open again sometime soon down the road.

Unfortunately for me, my old theater is gone. They haven’t shown a movie in Sidney in decades. What is left of the building is now a restaurant and beauty parlor. It used to have a dazzling old-fashioned marquee just like the Colonia. That too is gone. Too bad for the youth in my hometown today.

It is easy to wax sentimental about memories of old movie houses. The excitement of an opening night. The buzz of a live performance, whether it was Roy Rogers in Sidney, Teddy Roosevelt in Walton or John Philip Sousa in Oneonta. The Norman Rockwell background of the marquee proclaiming “Now Showing!” The taste of the popcorn and the penny candy at the snack counter. Memories.

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