Jewel City (aka Glendale) movie palace gem sparks nostalgia on the big screen – Daily News
The Roxy Theater at the north end of Brand Boulevard was fine, but it was small, and the Capitol at the south end was perfect if you didn’t have the 50 cents for the price of a movie ticket because you could sneak in the alley exit door when someone came out.
But it was the majestic 1,500-seat Alex Theater with the classic ticket booth up front and a mile-and-a-half-mile candy counter that reigned over Brand Boulevard in the first-run movies for this growing kid. in Glendale in the mid 1950s and early 1960s.
The Alex was the dream house where I fell in love with Gidget, and I thought Moondoogie was the luckiest guy in the world. Where I encouraged the Tramp to win the Fair Lady’s paw and clapped when Ensign Pulver (such a young Jack Lemmon) threw the Captain’s potted palm overboard at the end of “Mister Roberts ”.
I sat in the cockpit with John Wayne in “The High and the Mighty” at the Alex, I stroked carrier pigeons with Marlon Brando on the roof of a building in “On the Waterfront” and I walked on the “Bridge over the River Kwai” with Alec Guinness.
There was no better day in a child’s life than the first day of summer vacation sitting in the Alex Theater with a bag of popcorn, a medium coke, and a box of gummies.
While waiting for “Ben-Hur”.
“When Charlton Heston found out we were showing Ben-Hur at one of our film events in the ’90s, he volunteered to take the stage and present the film,” said Randy Carter, founding member of the ‘Alex Film Society.
“His wife hadn’t seen it on the big screen for 25 years and he didn’t want to show it to her on VHS. This is how you went to see a great movie. On the big screen.
By the end of the 1980s, the majestic Alex had given way to multiplex cinemas with six or eight screens. His last film in first diffusion dates from 1991. “Terminator II”. Connection.
“Unique theaters didn’t die overnight, some stayed longer than others, but the big houses were hit the hardest,” says Carter. “A few years ago the Alex was inactive until the city acquired it as a performing arts center.
“It was the early days of film preservation, and a few of us Glendale moviegoers, along with the Glendale Historical Society, lobbied to at least preserve the box office and acquire a screen, as we could sometimes wish to have film presentations. “
The Alex, built in 1925, was the prototype of the first film shows in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. It wasn’t about to enter the night of the 1990s quietly without its supporters fighting. .
On a shoestring budget, with no major sponsors to pay the bills, or no free newspaper writing for advertising purposes, the company has taken to the streets. When “Gone with the Wind” premiered, Carter and another member of the company donned large cutouts of Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh and walked across Brand Boulevard, stopping traffic.
“We should have closed our doors 10 years ago, but we’ve managed to stay afloat,” he says. “Anyone with green sunglasses would say, ‘Hey, you need to spend more time with your family. You are in the wrong company.
“We would get 500 people for one of our movie events, the kind of crowd that other movie companies with big sponsors would buy themselves champagne, but we were losing $ 3,000 because of overhead and rental that we had to pay. “
Movies at the Alex looked dire until the most unlikely of movie heroes stepped forward to save the day. Moe, Larry and Curly. The Three Stooges.
“These are our most successful shows,” says Carter, who has spent 30 years in the film industry, including assistant director on Seinfeld. “We had one episode (“ The Gum ”1995) where all the jokes were literally about the Alex Film Society.” In it, Kramer leads the fight to renovate and reopen the Alex Theater.
“With the Stooges a few of us were talking about how everyone knows them, but has anyone ever seen a Three Stooges short on the big screen since the 1930s or 1940s? It was a huge success with people coming from all over Southern California. A couple from Stockton have been descending for over 20 years to see the Stooges on the big screen. “
Still, the facts are that the guys with the green glasses are right. The Alex these days only comes to life for cinematic events six to eight times a year, Carter says. The rest of the time it became mostly a rental house, with a few resident businesses still operating.
“For us, it’s a labor of love,” Carter says. “We have no problem working our butt for free, but it would be nice if we had some big sponsors to help us out.
“The Alex is the last connection to old Hollywood in town. “
Until the first day of summer vacation, sit in this majestic theater eating a box of gummies and waiting for “Ben-Hur”.
For more information, visit alexfilmsociety.org
Dennis McCarthy’s column airs Sunday. He can be contacted at [email protected]