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.
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: