When I was growing up, my hometown of Staunton,Virginia had three theaters: the Plaza Cinema (now The Staunton Mall Cinema 6), the Visulite Cinema, and the Dixie Theater. All three were still open for business until Sunday, July 27th when the Dixie Theater presented a final showing of Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1980) and then closed its doors. This historic theater that first opened over a century ago was forced by a weak economy and rising operational costs to shut its doors for the last time.
|The New Theater, 1913|
At least the Dixie went out with a flourish this last weekend by screening the classic blockbusters Jaws (1975), E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Back To The Future (1985), and the aforementioned Raiders Of The Lost Ark. Of course, any one of these titles would have been a treat to see again on the big screen, but I opted only for tickets to the last showing of Jaws on Sunday. It was the only one of the four I'd never seen in a proper theater. As great as it was to see Jaws on the big screen for the first time, I found myself preoccupied with the ghosts of movies I'd seen at the Dixie in the past.
|Time Walker (1982)|
I also recall a few screenings made memorable primarily by virtue of who accompanied me. My first apartment was in downtown Staunton within walking distance of the Dixie. My grandmother crashed at my place while visiting from Minnesota one summer, and we walked to the Dixie together to take in a matinee of Pump Up The Volume (1990). The R-rated story of an angsty teenage loner (Christian Slater) broadcasting a pirate radio station from his parents' basement was a bit of a shock to my grandmother, who professed to have no idea how difficult things were for the youth of the day. We then spent the evening back at my apartment bonding over one of our first real adult conversations with one another, an evening that defined the tenor of our relationship from that day forward.
|South Park: Bigger, Longer, And Uncut (1999)|
Not surprisingly, though, my most vivid recollection of the Dixie actually involved a horror movie screening nearly fifteen years earlier. You see, the Dixie is where I saw Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter (1984). The first two Friday The 13th movies had been seminal viewing experiences for me, and at the ripe old age of fourteen I actually believed that The Final Chapter would be Jason's swan song as well as the end of the Friday The 13th franchise. I hadn't yet become the cynical and jaded curmudgeon I am today.
|Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)|
Now, some thirty years later, I found myself watching a movie at the Dixie Theater for the very last time. It didn't really hit me until the shark had been vanquished and the end credits rolled. The capacity audience broke into applause at the end of Jaws, but in this one instance I'm pretty sure the applause was for the Dixie Theater itself rather than the movie. A friend had teased that I would probably cry when I saw my last movie at the Dixie. She was right.
|A few more disappointing snapshots of the Dixie Theater in Staunton, courtesy of my crappy TracFone.|
Please visit Cinema Treasures for a gallery of fifteen higher quality Dixie pics as well as a street view of the Dixie you can manipulate to get a closer look at the arches, terra cotta tiles, and laughing theatrical faces that adorn the front of the building. The property is owned by the Staunton Performing Arts Center, which has plans to restore and renovate both the Dixie and the adjacent Arcadia Building.
At least the building itself will be restored to an approximation of its original glory. Sadly, however, the Dixie Theater I knew is gone for good.
The Dixie Theater