On line for Harold and Maude Monday night. (Photo: Lindsey Graham-Jones, KQED)

Last night, at Haight and Cole, the end of an era. For the Red Vic Movie House, purveyor since 1981 of second-run, independent, and retro fare eschewed by mass audiences hot and heavy for the newest Hollywood blockbuster, it was the final fade-out. Curtains down. The Last Victure Show.

I didn’t go. The time to support the Vic was in December, when Vic co-op member Claudia Lehan told us the theater was “month-to-month,” due to attendance drop-off and a large debt. Or maybe in January, when Lehan said “we’re still somewhat desperate.” Or even May, when Lehan conceded “we’re near the end,” but still hoped for a miracle — a George Lucas, perhaps, to swoop in and revive the theater’s fortunes. You know, like in the movies.

But no. I didn’t pay my respects on any of those occasions either. Like so many other narrative junkies, I no longer care to procure my fix by actually leaving the house. HBO, Netflix, iTunes, home theater… Where once I raced to see a film like, say, Touch of Evil, on-screen at the Red Vic last week, now I schlep there. And if I really have a hankering for Orson Welles’ late-noir classic, I own it, the celluloid purist in me now frequently trumped by considerations of finance, time and family.

Twenty years ago, I remember waiting in line at the Red Vic for well over an hour to see The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. If I wanted to see last night’s programmed finale, Harold and Maude, well, someone has actually put the entire film on YouTube.

But I used to go, and go often. While the Vic was never what I’d call a cathedral to moviegoing, it was still a fine place to indulge a worship of escapism. And like some of the old ballparks, its slightly ratty atmospherics were a welcome antidote to the antiseptic, rawly mercantile aspects of the cineplex, where you can be certain, upon ordering a $4.75 medium popcorn, to be pitched a large by a diffident teenager whose knowledge of film may begin and end with Twilight.

Photo: Lindsey Graham-Jones, KQED

So long Red Vic. A lot of movies, a lot of yeast-sprinkled popcorn have I consumed on your premises. You will be missed.

KQED News intern Lindsey Graham-Jones did make it to the final show last night. She collected the following audio from other moviegoers lamenting their loss. Give a listen:

Red Vic patrons react to its demise


Jon Brooks

Jon Brooks is an online editor and writer for KQED's daily news blog, News Fix.  He also writes about film for KQED Arts.

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