The swanky movie theater pictured above is the old Eric in Fairless Hills featured in a 1964 issue of Box Office magazine. This nearly half-million dollar auditorium seated 1400 and was lavishly decorated with full draperies that were illuminated from above. This got us wondering about some other things that you don’t see so much in modern movie houses.
The Eric in Fairless Hills also displayed art work along the wall of its lobby. Speaking of art, a giant mural and tribute depicting steelworkers once adorned a lobby wall of the Eric Penn-Jersey. These days theater lobbies are filled with cardboard dumps, arcade machines and advertisements; a far cry from the classy decor of old.
Those are just a couple local examples of the level of detail that used to go into building movie theaters. As time moved on these intricacies disappeared. Here are a couple more things, portrayed in a Mental Floss article, that you may or may not remember from the golden age of movie-going.
2. UNIFORMED USHERS
Those gallant men and women who escorted you to your seats at the cinema used to dress in more finery than a decorated soldier. But that was at a time when movie ushers did much more than tear tickets and sweep up spilled popcorn; they kept an eye out for miscreants attempting to sneak in without paying, offered a helpful elbow to steady women walking down the steeply inclined aisle in high-heeled shoes, and were quick to “Shhh!” folks who talked during the movie. Ushers carried small flashlights to guide patrons who arrived after the movie had started, and they were also the ones who maintained order when the film broke and the audience grew ornery. Of course, cell phones hadn’t yet been invented, so doctors or parents who’d left youngsters home with a babysitter often mentioned such to the usher as they were seated, so he’d be able to find them during the show if an emergency phone call was received for them at the box office.
Movie theater seats didn’t come equipped with cup holders until the late 1960s, and even then it was something of a novelty that only newer cinemas boasted. What every seat did have for many decades before then, however, was a built-in ashtray. You can probably guess why that particular convenience has gone the way of the dodo bird: fire regulations and second-hand smoke dangers and all that.
6. DOUBLE FEATURE PLUS A CARTOON
Movie patrons of yore certainly got a lot of bang for their buck (actually, more like their 50 cents) back in the day. Very rarely would a cinema dare to show just a single motion picture—patrons expected a cartoon or two after the newsreel, and then a double feature. That is, two movies for the price of one. Usually the second film was one that wasn’t quite as new or perhaps as prestigious as the main attraction, which is why we oldsters sometimes still describe a bad B-movie as “third on the bill at a double feature.”
See these and the rest of the list on Mental Floss.