Roger Ebert's Cinematic Conceits

Open Letter To America’s # 1 Film Critic!

Roger, in your article in the current edition of “Chicago’ magazine you displayed some unusual conceits. In saluting our city’s decaying movie palaces of yore, you selected only the obvious big-site examples like the Uptown and the Avalon. Yes, these beauties — erected in the Roaring Twenties — were dazzling tributes to the world of Hollywood fantasy by creating as much fantasy on site as was on the screen. Soaring arches, domed ceilings, thousands of ground level seats and balcony over-hangs, not to mention the spiffy uniformed ushers and usherettes who escorted you to your plush-back seats.

But, Roger, your tearful tribute to those now empty movie houses ignored the scores of other smaller houses. The delicious way-we-were can now only be dimly recalled by those few elders who were actually there in those silver screen years from 1926 to 1956. From then on, arriving television and changing tastes slew the majestic citadels one by one.

No, we can’t exactly call it murder, but we can call it tragic, for what has replaced those palaces are today’s cramped boxes squeezed into large plastic multiplexes where each film is just part of another package of pre-patented studio formulas. And while I can’t call Roger wrong for fondly remembering the city’s giant movie castles, I can regret he ignored the scores of littler neighborhood palaces. Each only a walk or a wish away from your front door. And operated not by a franchise but by a neighbor.

Oh. you ever saw one…? Probably not. More’s the pity. Maybe Roger will feature them in his next tribute.

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