2012-05-24 / News

From the Braver Institute

The Delft Theater in my hometown of Marquette would be closing for good. That was the news I heard while visiting my mother last week.

The Delft was the last remaining theater downtown. The Nordic had given way to a bookstore more than a dozen years earlier. The marquee of the Delft is arguably the most recognizable feature of Marquette’s downtown district. The Delft once boasted the largest screen north of Milwaukee. Growing up, it was the only screen I had seen. I thought they were all that big. It wasn’t until the multiplexes started showing up that I realized that many people watched movies on the equivalent of very large televisions.

The screen at the Delft was huge.

Prior to this news, coincidentally, I had asked my oldest daughter if she would like to go see “The Avengers”, which had recently premiered. I had no idea what the movie was about beyond it being a live-action version of the comic book superheroes I had grown up with. My daughter, being a kid, was very familiar with all of the movies that are out right now, and was game to check it out.

Unfortunately, it was playing at the multiplex, and not the Delft.

Looking at the show times, I noticed that we had a choice of which version of the film we wanted to see. We could see the two dimensional version, or we could see the three dimensional version. Well there was no question in my mind that we should see the whizbang

3-D version. To my daughter it didn’t really matter which version we saw, and 3-D was no big deal because apparently almost all films these days are available in 3-D.

Once upon a time 3-D was a big deal.

In 1981, a 3-D western film called “Comin’ at Ya” was released to much critical acclaim. Well, okay, there was no critical acclaim, but the advertisements on tv made it out to be the most spectacular film of our age, and our age at the time was 15, and anything that was 3-D had to be spectacular. Being a western was like adding an extra scoop of ice cream. “Comin’ at Ya” was playing at the Delft and we had to witness this “new” 3-D technology. Of course 3-D technology wasn’t anything new, but it was new to us.

My daughter and I arrived at the theater early to be sure that we would have plenty of time to buy junk from the concession stand, and get good seats. At the ticket booth—well it was more like a ticket counter, the Delft had a real booth—I discovered what it was like to be held up without a gun. Nineteen dollars for two tickets??? We paid only three bucks each to see “Comin at Ya”! At least this time we got 3-D glasses that looked and felt like real glasses, instead of the cheesy cardboard glasses of the past that would give you a headache if you wore them when you weren’t watching the movie.

At the concession stand I was hit again. Seventeen-fifty for two large Cokes and a medium popcorn. I took out a second mortgage on my house and paid the kid behind the counter.

To my surprise, there was no line of people waiting to get in. In fact, we were the first in the theater and had our pick of seats. At the Delft years ago we would wait in line for what seemed like hours to be admitted.

We had about ten minutes to kill before showtime, so we sat and watched the commercials that were playing on the movie screen. I kind of thought it was odd that they weren’t playing previews of coming attractions, but commercials help pay the bills I suppose.

People slowly trickled in as showtime approached, but the place never came close to filling up even though it was incredibly small compared to the Delft. The Delft had over 700 seats, and while I am sure that it rarely sold out, it was frequently very crowded.

At showtime, the house lights went down, and the volume of the sound system got louder. This was the universal signal that the show was about to start—was. It would appear that now this was signal that you were going to watch twenty minutes of previews. Well at least the commercials were over.

When the movie finally did start, I was a little surprised that there were no real 3-D special effects. The 3-D glasses added a lot of depth to a film that would have been just as good in 2-D. Where were all of the things that would come out of the screen and cause the audience to lean out of the way of being hit?

I came to realize that the makers of “The Avengers” put a lot into creating a really great story that didn’t need the gimmick of 3-D. By this writing I have largely forgotten the 3-D part of it, and I remember the fun of the story. I would definitely see this film again, even at nine bucks a head.

On the other hand, “Comin’ at Ya” was a forgettable film. The only thing I remember about it was the bad 3-D glasses, and a couple of arrows coming out of the screen.

Looking back now though, the best thing about that movie was seeing it at the Delft.

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Waye Braver can be contacted on Facebook or by e-mail at waye@braverinstitute.com

Visit the Braver Institute at www.braverinsitute.com

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