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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Come In and Cool Off!


When Cooled Air Was Value For Your Ticket

One of the biggest reasons people went to movies during the summer was air-conditioning. It was something most of them weren't getting at home. We certainly didn't where I lived. By late spring, our schoolrooms were ovens. Electric fans at home were great for circulating hot air. About the only places in town to cool off were a handful of supermarkets and the Liberty, Colonel Forehand seeing to summer ads where the Liberty name was encased in icicles. Old men, many half-drunk by 1:00 matinee opening, would settle in for afternoon's sleep and leave having no idea what played. Cooled air, then, was valued above any screen attraction when summer was hottest. Where outdoors amounted to barbecue and you were the meat, it was time to get inside, even if that meant sitting twice or more through whatever nonsense Elvis or Jerry Lewis were up to. Theatres in larger, and hotter, bergs sold air-conditioning first and foremost to patronage roasting in residences, as here where the Chicago Woods's cartoonist caught truest meaning of pre-central aired summer. Atlanta's circuit ad at left looks like the inside of a refrigerator; none of participating houses wanted confusion as to coolest spots in town, movies secondary to lowered temp. For many a showgoer, such relief was alone worth price for admission.

5 Comments:

Blogger Scott MacGillivray said...

My wife is from Maryland and she recalls a story about a local doctor. While visiting a racetrack in the early 1940s, he made the acquaintance of another visitor, Jack Warner of Warner Bros.

Warner didn't know about the horses of the east coast and asked the doctor for a tip. The doctor mentioned his own choice, a horse that was a longer shot than most. Jack Warner bet big on the horse and won a potful.

After the race, Warner asked the doctor if there was anything he could do in return for the tip. "Yes," said the doctor, "put in air conditioning at the Warner theater here." The a/c was installed the next day.

11:35 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

That is a GREAT story, Scott!

11:45 AM  
Blogger Dave K said...

"STAY COOL AS A POOL AT THE AIR CONDITIONED STATE THEATER!" Forty years plus and my wife and I still fondly remind each other of the little dater strip they ran before each show in tiny Rhinelander, Wisconsin.

12:12 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

Unfortunately -- for me, at least -- this is not an entirely archaic subject. Just five years ago, while suffering through a brutally hot and humid New York City summer, with no air conditioning, I lived this experience. One afternoon, unable to take it any longer, I checked the listings for the nearby multiplex. I was looking for the LONGEST movie playing, to give me maximum cool air time. Thus it came to pass that I spent a summer afternoon watching HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE. I enjoyed it much, much more than I probably would have under more temperate conditions.

1:00 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Dan Mercer recalls an air-conditioned youth:


Curiously enough, the Mercers were not entirely unacquainted with the pleasure of cool air in the summer. We lived in one of the little houses of Levittown, Pennsylvania, but there was a new Studebaker Commander Starliner in the driveway, a 21 inch Magnavox console television in the living room, and most surprisingly for the early 1950s, central air conditioning. For my folks, this was surely a part of the good life. A few years later we moved across the river to Levittown, New Jersey, to a much bigger house on a much larger lot. Some things changed--there was a Studebaker Golden Hawk in the driveway--and some didn't--there was another big Magnavox console television in the living room, but there was no air conditioning. If I wanted to cool off, I'd have to go to the Fox Theatre for their mid-morning Saturday matinee. The chilled air of the theater was a part my movie-going experiences during those summers, along with wide screens, color movies, and, of course, popcorn, all of them as special now in memory as anything I might have seen.

Daniel

6:34 PM  

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