Near me today all the movie theaters are jammed together into structures called “plexes” of some sort or another. Basically this is a large building with a ticket seller at the entrance, food in the lobby and 10-20 small movie “theaters.” Clearly there is nothing theater like about these partitions. They are simply rooms with tiered seating and a large screen in the front. Two exit signs mark the fire escape routes. The movies are run by computer controlled by one “projectionist” hidden somewhere in the place.
Going to the movies was once an event to be savored. Theaters themselves were extravagant displays of over the top decoration. Heavy velvet curtains hid the screen until the start of the movie when they were opened with a dramatic flourish. A uniformed usher showed you to a seat using a flashlight if the film had already begun. One of my friends in college paid for her room and board by ushering in a Boston movie theater.
Decorum dictated behavior once you were seated. If anyone was disruptive, the usher would appear and escort the miscreant out of the theater. It was acceptable to glare at anyone talking around you without fear of being cursed out. The floors were not sticky with spilled drinks and mashed popcorn as I find many movie theaters today. While seats did not recline, have cup holders or any other accoutrements, they were velvet covered, plush and very comfortable. And it was understood that if you wished to “neck,” the back row was the only acceptable place to do so. Of course, the usher was also watching to make sure you remained sufficiently appropriate.
What I remember most fondly about the movies was the tension on a date about the center arm rest. Did you share it? Should you make your hand sort of available to be held without being overly obvious? Sometimes that dynamic was more engaging than the movie itself. Still movie theater movies were a safe first date. Not like the drive-in. But that’s another story.