Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Thomas Hawk's Digital Connection: Photographing Architecture is Not a Crime, Thomas Hawk vs. Building Security Episode 118

In this very strange post-9/11 world, sometimes even the simple act of taking a picture can get people riled up. The link above goes to a entry by Thomas Hawk, a photographer who was rudely hassled by security of 45 Fremont building in San Francisco. Knowing his rights, Thomas stood firm, and reminds us that we should do the same.

For more information on Photographer's Rights:

The Photographer's Right (.pdf flyer)


Legal Rights of Photographers (.pdf)

Luckily, I've only been run off from a few places that I was trying to photograph. Had I been armed with the information above, I would have probably stood my ground.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Tulsa's Lost Twins:
Home of the Midnight Movies

Towards the late 1960s, as many of the grand single screen theaters from earlier in the century were starting to show their age, new theaters were being built. The era of television was gaining firm ground, leaving many of the small-screened older theaters at a disadvantage. Why go to the theater to watch the latest cliffhanger, when you can get it while sitting in your living room? Theater owners started thinking differently about the way people wanted to watch movies. The latest movie theaters had to compete in a different way, by emphasizing multiple movie choices, large screen size and powerful sound systems along with wider venues allowing better views for more of the audience. Though their predecessors were far superior to them in style and architecture, these fresh modern theaters were immediately popular and over the 1970s and '80s, most of the older venues whithered away and died. Many of Tulsa's art deco theaters were destroyed during this period.

Sometime in the mid-'70s, theater owners started looking at ways to increase box office receipts. Someone decided that it would be a great idea to take second run movies (which cost them much less to rent) and play them at Midnight on Friday and Saturday evenings. These were an immediate hit with teenagers all over America. Playing campy horror flicks and sci-fi movies, they drew in crowds of kids not quite ready to go to sleep early on a weekend evening. The role of Midnight Movies took another turn in in the late '70s when a theater owner in New York started running a practically forgotten musical/horror/sci-fi movie from 1975 called Rocky Horror Picture Show. The movie revived the term "cult movie" and spread across the world quickly as it gained popularity among the Midnight Movie crowd.

The big difference between RHPC and other movies was that you didn't just watch the show...you participated in it. When key characters Brad and Janet (played by a very young Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick) are singing while walking through the rain, the audience is also holding newspapers over their heads while water is falling all around, thanks to some spray bottles snuck in via large coats. When a toast is offered up during the film, squares of golden bread go flying about the theater. For nearly every line of dialogue, there's a response or addition that the audience speaks. The movie is so campy...so BAD in so many ways, you can't help but enjoy it. The songs are infectious, and it's really hard to stay seated when everyone around you is doing the Time Warp. The Village Cinema (shown above) on Garnett Rd, near Admiral was the ultimate Rocky Horror venue. We'd load up our pockets with props before we went in. The theaters had large stages below the screens and many of the participants went all out with full costumes and makeup. Many an inebriated soul would act out the various scenes and songs at the front of the theater. Some, such as myself, preferred to stay back and enjoy the spectacle of it all.

Tulsa TV Memories visitor Wilhelm Murg remembers:
"Back in the glory days in the early 1980s at the Village Theatre, the concept was not to watch the show, it was more of a way to take over a theatre, usually with a 65 year old police officer working as security (goofing off until his retirement), attempting to control 300 stoned teenagers - it was the Tulsa version of Altamont!"

Other favorite movies to see at 12am were Tron, Heavy Metal and Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Music movies were really popular too. There was Led Zeppelin's The Song Remains the Same, as well as Pink Floyd, Live at Pompeii. The later was often misrepresented as Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon in the radio ads. However, much to our disappointment, the only DSotM song in this movie is a brief snippet of an early "Us and Them" demo. Earlier Floyd always put me to sleep. Now, when they played The Wall, there was no sleeping. The lyrics and imagery were so powerful. I remember that I was only a few months away from my 18th birthday. I was going to have to sign up for Selective Services on that day. The Cold War was still very alive as it would be 10 more years before the fall of the Soviet Union. It seemed that war could break out at any moment...and we both had nukes! The Wall was deeply disturbing to me at that point in my life, when I certainly wasn't interested in going off to fight the Ruskies in the cold...or nuclear annihilation of the world for that matter.

Eventually, the Midnight Movie craze died out. By the early 1990s, they were pretty much relegated back to the art-house type theaters, who would do it for certain events, but not as a weekly thing. These days, I'm not sure I could even stay awake for two hours in a dark theater after Midnight...age has a way of doing that to you.

This collection still isn't complete. But, I've started posting some photos of what's left of these venues. They really were not much to look at...mostly big boxes. However, they were a important part of my youth and I'll always remember fondly the fun we had and the people we met. If anybody out there has any photos of these theaters when they were still open, I'd love to get a scan for my collection. Also, please give me your thoughts and comments on the subject. I'd love to hear more of your recollections of your experiences at these theaters.

The photoset includes the following theaters:

Bowman Twin Cinema
Plaza Twin
Park Lane Twin Theatre
Village Cinema

I'm still trying to make time to photograph several more. In particular, I'm still missing the Fox Theater at 51st and Harvard, the Spectrum Twin at 71st and Lewis, and the Southside Cinema Twin at 87th and Lewis. I realize that there were several others around back then too, but these were simply the ones I remember from the Midnight Movies. Unfortunately, none of these remaining are much to look at anymore. Of course, I just missed the leveling of the 4 screen Woodland Hills Cinema, and Fontana 6 looked like it had been closed down when I passed it yesterday after eating at Monterrey's. I don't remember them ever participating in Midnight Movies, anyway.

Happy Landings!

I'm Not Dead Yet!! - Eastland Mall

Some good news for a change regarding the declining Eastland Mall. Ashli Sims at KOTV is reporting that a potential new owner is in negotiations to buy the nearly vacant mall. Not only that, they're long-time Tulsans who actually see a positive future for the mall.

From the KOTV article:

"so as we look at this area of town and we see other areas saturated I know movement is going to come here and I think this was a good idea but the timing was a little off and that's just bad luck.”...
"Ed Kallay believes their timing and thus their luck will be better. They're working with Haywood-Whichard, the mall's current owner, to buy the 68-acre property. Kallay's idea, combine office space and retail, reinventing the mall as a place where folks can work, dine and play."...
It’s not a done deal yet, but Kallay says the possibility is generating a lot of business buzz. The downtown entertainment venue, the Hive, which recently hosted a tattoo convention, says they're interested in possibly expanding east.

I'm encouraged with this news. These plans fit in very well with the type of development I linked to in an earlier post. I also agree that there are not many more areas for Tulsa to expand, without building out further East. Broken Arrow is quickly filling in from the West and we've already built out south to Bixby and Jenks. I'm seeing a lot of development taking place on 145th between 61st and 41st these days. They're saying it will be approximately 75 days to close the deal on Eastland Mall. I hope things go through smoothly. I'd much rather have a local developer as a owner!