Many of Reverse Shot’s staff writers and contributors come from and reside in locations all over the U.S. and beyond. Escape from New York is a new column devoted to reminding us Manhattan-and-Brooklyn-centric moviegoers that we are not the world when it comes to cinephila.
Out of the Past
By Vicente Rodriguez-Ortega
My first memories of going to the movies as a young kid are of seeing Ken Hughes’s 1968 Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Mike Hodges’s 1980 Flash Gordon. Somehow, even though they were released twelve years apart, they both opened in Spain in the early eighties. I saw the first one with my mother in Valencia at the Rex theater, an old modernist building that became a shopping complex in the last decade. The second screening was at the ABC . . . Park, one of the only two multiplexes that existed in Valencia in that era. In Valencia’s downtown, those were the days of theaters with foreign-sounding names—Rex, Tyris, Lys, Capitol—and second-run theaters where I sought refuge from the bright summer sun to view three movies in a row. Back then, kids like me went to the movies and played in the streets; we were only at home by dinnertime. At night, we would get our movie educations on state-owned TV, which would show retrospectives on directors like Anthony Mann and Billy Wilder, or actors like Paul Newman, Errol Flynn and John Wayne. These helped shape the collective film imaginations of the Spaniards. Private TV stations came into existence in the early 1990s; they came hand in hand with malls. Single-screen theaters started to disappear and kids deserted the streets, turning to video games and watching videos at home.
The reader may have noticed that all my movie references have the same origin: Hollywood. For any kid growing up in the early 1980s, American cinema was, as it is now, the reference point. My mother used to say that she would never see Italian or French movies because they were “boring” and “too complicated.” She preferred Rambo and Schwarzenegger, and still does. Spanish movies were out of the question. No one went to see them back then. My only cultural pointer was Hollywood. By the time I reached university, I dared to go to a crammed art movie house that felt on the verge of immediate collapse. For the first time, I was exposed to that other cinema I still watch and love.
All this has faded away. Most of the small venues that show foreign films are barely surviving; many of them are long gone. In fact, all the above-mentioned theaters (except the Lys, now transformed into a multiscreen complex) and many others no longer exist. The days of single-screen movie houses with two balconies, such as the Serrano theater, are forever gone. Multiplexes rule almighty. Continue reading.