On Saturday night, while Anne and Joanie were dancing up a storm at the Touhill, I went to the movies. I walked to our neighborhood theater, the Esquire 7. The 75 year-old Esquire was closed for most of this year, while it underwent a major renovation. It reopened in October, but Saturday was the first time that I had visited it. In fact by sheer coincidence, Saturday, was the theater’s actual birthday. It first opened on November 8, 1939. I saw Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar” in the main theater. I liked the movie, but I loved the venue more. The renovation preserved elements of the theater’s Art Deco styling, while introducing many modern conveniences.
The first innovation that I encountered though wasn’t so convenient. Ticket tellers have been replaced with kiosks. Like the U-scans at grocery stores these kiosks are an exercise in watching your fellow-man fumble with new technology, while you are left to wait and watch. I have long since learned that trying to help your fellow shoppers is not constructive. It only slows them down.
I was mystified why they had introduced assigned seating, because it really slowed down my ticketing, but seeing the auditorium with its red sea of barcaloungers, the assigned seating made more sense. They spiffed up the regular concession stand and also added a bar. I think that this arrangement puts them ahead of their crosstown rivals, the Landmark theater chain.
The real draw from this renovation though are the lounge chairs. They come in two varieties, single and double. Mine was a single, but I did have to ask the woman in the neighboring double how you operate the chairs. I ended up sitting upright, instead of reclined, mainly because it was easier to eat my popcorn that way. Overall, I am very pleased with the Esquire’s makeover. It has been our neighborhood theater for almost half its lifetime and with this renovation it looks like it will be for some time to come.
Looking back over our shared histories, there are a few things that come to mind. The fact that the Esquire has always been in easy walking distance, has always been a major draw. Not only for Anne and I, but when the boys were old enough to go out at night and were not yet old enough to drive, it gave them a safe place to go.
On the other hand, when it was still only the Esquire 3, I drove to the Esquire to see Patrick Swayze’s “Roadhouse”, a schlocky movie that has somehow obtained cult status. I almost never stay and watch the credits. Just ask Joanie, but for this movie I did. When I exited the theater to the parking lot, it was a sea of police lights. There had been a shooting and the car next to mine had a bullet hole in its trunk.
Finally, but also firstly, there was the thunder-snow incident. We had just moved to Saint Louis. We were exiting a Sunday matinée and it was thundering and snowing at the same time. We were scheduled to drive across town to visit friends that evening. We begged off. Saint Louis was snowbound for three days.