Why 'Waldo' isn't at the movies no mo'

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Why 'Waldo' isn't at the movies no mo'

The answer is simply 'cause goin' to the movies has become too problematic an exercise.

Time was when gasoline was 68¢-$1.19/gallon, and in my "Waldo Lydecker" persona, it was easy to fill three 90-second spots each week during the Don Brink early drive-time show on WRCN-FM.

Aside from the two movie venues in Westhampton Beach, there was the Shirley Twin, seven screens at five locations in Patchogue, the College Plaza Twin in Farmingville, and movie houses in Riverhead, Mattituck and Southampton1.

I easily saw 250-275 films a year, and in one memorable extended October weekend which started with a WRCN-sponsored Thursday night preview of "Meteor" at the UA Patchogue, then popcorn stops in Roosevelt Field, Union­dale, Hicksville, Mattituck, Suffolk (Riverhead) and finally, a Sunday matinee at the still single screen Hampton Arts.

(That was eight, count'em, eight movies in approxi­mately 67 hours.)

Couldn't do it... wouldn't do it... today, with gas over $4/gallon, just about everything I want either on cable or through Netflix, and most of the movie houses I regularly visited are gone... long gone, actually!

This was brought home in clear relief recently when Jeanne and I decided to head to the Island Cinemas in Mastic for the 3:30 pm screening2 of "Lawless" and discovered the place didn't even open 'til 4:30 pm!

In for a penny, in for a pound... we headed to Coram and found the multiplex there3 wasn't, just a free-standing marquee sign in serious disrepair and partially overgrown... I swore I'd just seen it yet listed.

We forged onward up Route 112 and was gratified to find what had been the Pine Cinema4 still nestled in the corner of a shopping center, and exhibiting the film we wanted to see... with just a 30 minute wait.

If anyone is interested in where film exhibition is headed in the not too distant future, consider the fate of the xxx-rated "hard core" houses of 25-35 years ago... the ones in Rocky Point, Coram5 and even Center Moriches... video cassettes and DVDs signaled the end for them, and the last one on Long Island probably disappeared in the early '90s.

(Watching porn in the privacy of your own home is a natural... and, you don't have to wear a raincoat!)

Consider now with the advances in home entertainment technology, from the high quality Blu-RayTM media with their wonderful extras... deleted scenes, choice of audio formats, optional subtitles in a variety of languages, voice-over commentary by the director and performers... and the advanced hardware to play them!

Now factor in the cost of tickets... never mind a pit stop at the concession counter... and the $10- $20 cost of a Blu-RayTM purchase makes a lot of sense.

Go with a Netflix subscription (from $4.99/month for discs delivered by mail) to instant streaming via the Internet... it's not the "coming thing," it's already here!

(And we're not even factoring in the ubiquity of the premium cable channels with first run movies, often 60 days6 after the title's theatrical release!)

In the early '50s, Hollywood in an all-out attempt to fight the incursion of the television set into virtually every home, adopted the slogan, "Let's go to the movies!"

That's about to be replaced with: "Let's stay home with a movie!"

  1. Mattituck and Southampton, in drastically altered form, are, 30+ years later, the sole survivors of this venues.
  2. According to the Moviefone Website.
  3. That particular Coram venue, just South of Middle Country Road, had been operated by National Amuse­ments, and seems to have gone dark about the time the company opened its Island 16 in Holtsville.
  4. Operated 40 years ago by Artie Strollo, successfully prosecuted for "Obscenity in the 2nd Degree" by Suffolk County District Attorney George Aspland. Strollo's crime: he exhibited "Behind the Green Door," now considered a "porno chic" era classic.
  5. It's gone now, but it had in the early '70s been part of the Jerry Lewis "Never an X-rated Movie" chain; in August 1973, it started holding midnight screenings of the first hard-core film shown on Long Island: "The Devil In Miss Jones."
  6. Sometimes not even that... the Richard Gere film, "Ar­bi­trage," currently playing First Run at the Hamp­ton Arts, is also available... legally... on the 'Net!


1. Hampton West said...


Where were the local drive-ins? I recall one in Patchogue but you have the institutional memory here. As a young one in New Jersey there were drive-ins all over the place - now all gone!!!

The Patchogue All-Weather Drive-In (indoor as well as outdoor) was razed and rebuilt as an indoor multiplex almost entirely lit by the most ghastly orange fluorescent lights! That too has now disappeared.

There were three drive-ins on Eastern Long Island; the first to go, in the early '70s was the Skyway in Greenport, sold to the adjoining Lutheran Church.

Next up was the Flanders Drive-In, which was blown down by Hurricane Belle and never rebuilt. (Waldo's old radio station, WRCN-AM and FM, sat on the edge of it.)

Last to go shortly after that was the Bridgehampton. (There were also "skytops" in Shirley and Rocky Point.)

The land became too valuable for a seasonal operation.
– Dean

2. Paramarine said...

This brings back a childhood memory of someone outside his "Waldo Lydecker" persona, inviting a bunch of kids to a screening of "Bugsy Malone" for his son's birthday party at the Hampton Arts, and a good time was had by all.

Glad you have fond recollections of that... still love that almost forgotten film.
– Dean

3. Seeker said...

Something to be said for sitting in pitch black, cavernous movie theaters, enveloped in sound and larger than life images, one with fellow movie-going adventurers, ready for whatever the trip ahead might bring! Theaters, like bookstores and even the good ol' USPS, haven't kept up with the times or bothered to think "outside the box." Just plain sad.

You're right! And I haven't been in any "cavernous movie theaters" in almost 30 years... they've all been multiplexed. The only way that United Artists was even going to keep the Main Street location open was if they could multiplex it... they had a plan for three screens side-by-side-by-side along the West wall, but needed five feet of Ria Del Bene's property to be able to do it. Bless her, she wouldn't do it, and that kept me in my office space an additional 13 years!

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