What I remember from the last night at The Ridge Theatre:
It was sold out.
There were more than 30 people waiting who couldn’t get tickets, but most of us got in anyway once the movie started and a few empty seats were found, dangling off the edges of the rows.
The audience was true and brave, enough to make Woody Allen’s portrayal of Hemingway proud. When Midnight in Paris, a film that waxed on about nostalgia, came to an end, we clapped, we cheered.
We were living nostalgia.
Some left as the credits rolled, before the final can-can song ended, but many more stood to take one last look, one last photo, or to be part of one last photo in the great movie house of their youth.
Old photographs of the theatre had been taken down by management: a good thing, as the temptation to pillage was great.
Lists and posters disappeared. Someone talked about wanting to keep the ‘Ladies’ restroom sign.
Up the stairs and past the Crying Room that saw its last tear — and a room labeled ‘Manager’ that possibly hadn’t — a popcorn bag costume hung limp on the wall. In a storeroom, beside stacks of new waxed cups, sacs and sacs of popcorn sat unpopped.
The celluloid heads took advantage of the open projection room. As the film reel was wound back up, the room’s green and grey enameled inventory was explored and photographed.
The projectionist (or one of two, at least) left as fans of 35mm picked through a free bin of movie trailers reels.
I got Howards End, in the end.
A task sheet that has been taped near the right projector (“Perky” that is, not “Pinky”) had been torn off. A manager asked if I’d seen it, perhaps assuming I took it. (I take only photos and leave only the greasy smears of my forehead pressed up against glass.)
He was also looking for the “Restricted” panther reel. It was missing.
An hour later, only a few lingered. Some tried to engage the staff in a discussion about the slow march of the last of the old picture houses. But the staff were done. They wanted to be left to mourn in their own way.
A trick mirror lining the lobby stairs doubles the space; doubles the space now empty.
Outside, some stragglers loiter. An independent film crew is interviewing them.
A middle-aged woman tells them that she grew up nearby and would always come to see midnight shows as a teenager. One time, it was The Shining. She was so scared by it, she wanted to leave. But the seats were full and she wasn’t near the aisle. Her date told her to just shut her eyes. You don’t have to look if it’s too much for you, he told her. So she shut her eyes.
She finished her story.
The film crew packed up.
Past midnight, the neighbourhood was quiet. The block’s lights were reflected as primary hues off the wet asphalt, like the marquee mirrored in the puddles on James Dean’s Boulevard of Broken Dreams.
Below the red Ridge sign, below the pink neon tubes, and below the rose and purple and green stained glass, the old flat white letter board light box bid goodnight: Thanks Vancouver for a swell 63 years.
The shutter goes once more, and I put the camera away.