Of the many memories I have of the recently shuttered State Cinema in Springdale, the one that makes me chuckle most is related to me having a bad memory.
Almost every time I saw a movie in the beautiful old main auditorium in recent years, I’d arrive at my seat with an armful of concession stand goodies only to realize the cup holders built into the armrests during its last major renovation were too small to hold anything.
Not the hefty “regular” size soda.
Not a bottle of water.
Not a box of Junior Mints.
You could maybe wedge in a bag of Twizzlers when you first sat. However, by the end of the previews, a crinkly edged thud could be heard on the floor by your feet when your appetite for the twisty red vines reached a critical mass with the hole in the wooden board under your elbow.
Maybe, in reality, the “child” drink the theater sold fit into that holder but no one goes to the movies to think small. Movies are larger than life, or at least they were for most of the State’s 91-year, off-and-on run. The State was built for the masses to experience unreality together on huge screens the size of double-decker buses, back in a time when movie magic couldn’t be summoned on-demand through the ubiquitous little devices we carry in our pockets.
The State opened in 1927 as a vaudeville theater. It didn’t take long for it to undergo the first of many transformations, soon converting into an all-movie format when the advent of “taking pictures” put the final nail in the coffin of music hall soft shoe. Over the decades the structure at 990 Hope St. even housed an ice rink and a bowling alley. It would occasionally close for months, even years, only to eventually be reborn under the neon glow of a marquee that welcomed people wanting to escape into the world of celluloid heroes and villains.
The State featured discounted second-run flicks and sticky, Jujyfruits-stained floors in the 1970s when my parents started taking me there for whatever “family friendly” fare was showing that they wisely didn’t want to pay full price. Renovations in the mid-80s helped its business, enough that I remember having to wait in line with a high school friend only to be denied entry to the R-rated “Moscow on the Hudson.” (We got in a few minutes later when I spotted the parents of one of our classmates in line and they agreed to be our “guardians.” In retrospect, it wasn’t worth it especially when all I can remember from the film was just how hairy a shirtless Robin Williams was.)
Around 1995, a co-worker and I rented out the top floor of a house down the road and, since I was working a lot of night shifts at the newspaper then, I started becoming a regular patron at free weekday classic movies matinees the State hosted. Even though I was frequently the only person not on Social Security in the theater, who could beat a lazy afternoon with Willy Wonka or James Bond?
This past Sunday our family made a trip to see one last picture show at the State which, we are holding out hope, might once again rise from the mothballs to provide entertainment and escape for new generations. Before stuffing the ticket in my pocket I noticed a line of print across the bottom.
“Largest Screen in Stamford 40 Feet Wide!!!” it brags. The capital letters and exclamation points were not a mistake. The tiny cup holder that my Diet Pepsi couldn’t squeeze into, though ...
Stamford native and resident Kevin McKeever, whose nationally award-winning column appears here every other Friday, is a freelance writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org .