Armagideon Time

Then playing

November 7th, 2019

Maura and I spent a good part of the summer of 2018 clearing out my grandmother’s attic of anything I possibly wanted to keep. There were fewer items on that front than I’d anticipated, though the prospect of shifting heavy crates in the sweltering heat tended to override most feelings of materialistic sentimentality.

The most exciting find was entirely accidental. We were making a final sweep of a dresser beside the attic door when I noticed the bottom of its drawers were lined with old newspaper. It wasn’t just any old newspaper, either. The acid-browned and brittle sheets including the full set of movie listings from the August 31, 1975 edition of The Boston Globe.

I carefully bundled the pages inside an oversized RPG manual and trucked them home for further perusal. Together, they offer a strange and sad and wonderful glimpse into a moment of cinematic and local history. A few of the venues exist in some semi-recognizable form. Most have long since succumbed to the region’s stratospheric real estate prices and propensity for grandiose redevelopment schemes (a.k.a. condos and strip malls).

Only a handful were personally familiar to me. Most existed — and persisted — as garbled memories of the litany of screening locations appended to movie ads on TV and radio stations when I was a kid.

“…Woburn, Lawrence, Dedham and Sack 57!”

So pull your Country Squire into the lot, hang a speaker from the driver-side window, crack open a cold one from the cooler, and enjoy the somewhat faded show…

We used to pass by the shuttered husk of the Lawrence multiplex on the way to adoption training classes in Haverhill. Woburn has undergone a number of expansions and is still going strong. The drive-ins are all long gone.

Those halcyon days before cable and home video became ubiquitous, when revival houses were the primary means of watching older films minus Ronco commercials. The Orson Welles closed down after a fire in 1986. (The block also used to house Looney Tunes, one of my preferred used vinyl shops in the early 90s.) The Brattle and the Coolidge Corner are still hanging in there.

Belmont is the super-rich suburb where Mitt Romney formerly resided, for the record. The (long gone) Pinehurst Drive-in in Billerica was where I first watched Star Wars and Superman during their initial runs. Its pre-movie piped-in audio provided my initial exposure to “Heart of Glass,” which spooked the heck out of me at the time.

Here we have Young Maura’s stomping grounds. The list of movies she watched at Medford Cinema through her tween years would both amaze and fill you with envy. She also remembers getting scared of something at the Medford drive-in and crying when she was really young.

You couldn’t do a better job capturing a cultural moment if you tried. Yeah, a strong case could me made for swapping in Jaws or Rollerball for Hennessy, but having a largely forgotten thriller anchored by a pair of familiar stars fits the temporal snapshot perfectly.

And that’s a nice use of the future Micronauts font for The Dragon Flies.

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2 Responses to “Then playing”

  1. Sol Bermann

    Talk about a treasure trove!! Outstanding

  2. Cygnia

    Oxford & Leicester were the places in Central MA to hit for drive-ins back in ancient times for me…

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