Retro Theater Memories

A brief look at memorable movies and the Palace that made them magical.
August 18, 2011
Father grips my legs firmly as he dashes across the wet street toward the glowing marquee. Dad gives money to the lady behind the curved glass, she gives him two tickets and an "Enjoy the movie" in her thick Texas accent.

Dad brings me down off his shoulders and as we enter the door I am engulfed by a wonderland of smells and sights. The rich airy smell of fresh buttered popcorn, the sweet smell of coke, and the tart dilly smell of giant pickles are all filed for the first time in my catalog of sensations. Dad buys popcorn a coke with two straws and a big bag of Reese's Pieces as I stair up at the giant movie posters covering the brightly lit walls of the lobby. We move past the art deco lobby – where everything seems larger than life – to our red velvet seats in the middle of the theater. I gaze at the red walls, gold sconces, and the delicately folded red curtains in front and my heart starts to pound in anticipation, I know something great is about to happen. The curtains slowly separate and the loudest music score that has ever played before or since assaults my ears scaring me to point of besmirching my Smurf underoos.

The year was 1982 and my father took me to my first movie "E.T. the Extra Terrestrial" in the Palace Theater. Different members of the family took me to see that movie until I had watched it five times in the theaters. I have a lot of fond memories of that theater which went out of business in the mid 90's when a multiplex was erected. Not all of us remember the Palace especially those who never lived in my small town but chances are you have had a similar experience when your favorite theater was closed in the name of progress. This is a brief look at the memorable movies I experienced in the 80's and early 90's and the magical movie theater that turned every movie into a wondrous experience.

E.T. The Extra Terrestrial

This is my first movie and the loudest ever; this movie gave me a life long love for those tasty pieces of reeses.

The Sword in the Stone

Mom took us to see this one. My mother loved Disney movies. We didn't but were willing to be her excuse for a little popcorn and soda. The wizard duel was my favorite.

Top Gun

This movie displayed Tom Cruse in his finest hour. I was proud to experience this movie with my oldest brother when he came to visit us during the summer. "Is Goose dead?" I asked. "You are watching the same movie as me you little jerk." He replied sharply as he snatched the popcorn filling his thin cheeks. Ahh, the memories.


I took my begging game to an Olympic level to see this movie. Thank goodness it was good. I remember having a sustained adrenaline rush through the entire movie. This was the first movie I got to see in the balcony area. It was amazing, no heads in the way.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

I remember being amazed that they actually found five foot mutant turtles who could act well enough to be ninja turtles. Just kidding, but we all did flinch when Shredder was revealed. I remember some little kid throwing a Baby Ruth at the screen and being promptly escorted out.

Terminator 2 Judgment Day

This movie was the epitome of Hollywood cool, massive explosions hi-tech futuristic props and Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime. My brother and I got to watch this movie on our own, we really felt grown-up as we giggled at the curse words.

Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare 3D

Since by the early nineties I was a bit older and Freddy turned into a psychopathic comedian instead of just a psychopath not only were we allowed to go to this movie with out adult supervision but our going alone was recommended. We had a good time despite the movie itself although Alice Cooper as Freddy's step dad was cool and (spoiler alert) when Freddy's head blew up in 3D at the end - it landed in my popcorn - yeah that was epic.

I would love to have included Ghostbusters, Robocop and Show Girls but I first saw those movies on the then new medium of cable T.V. but thats another story. The Palace was the best besides being the only movie theater in our small town of 5,000 it was also only two blocks from our house. We did experience other movies there but these are the most memorable for me. What kind of theater did you grow up going to and was it as magical as mine? What were the most memorable movies you saw in the theater when you were a kid?
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