Thursday, August 31, 2017

A Tale Of Two Theaters

UA Cinema 150 - Little Rock, Arkansas - Photo from Cinema Treasures website

The summer after I completed my first year of college, I worked at the UA Cinema 150 movie theater in my hometown of Little Rock, Arkansas. As a long time movie lover, this work was my dream job! I love the smell of fresh popcorn, the excitement of seeing a new movie and the friendships I developed with my co-workers. Built in 1968, the theater featured a large dome roof, 120 degree curved screen and could seat 700 people. It showed several blockbuster films during my childhood, including the original Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Alien.

Raiders of the Lost Ark premiered on June 12, 1981 - Photo from IMDb

Besides cutting two fingers on my left hand in an accident involving a broken floor safe on June 11, 1981, I loved working at the movie theater. With the exception of showing the classic movie Gone With The Wind for one week at the beginning of summer, the theater showed the blockbuster movie Raiders of the Lost Ark for the entire summer. During this era movies were on film and shown using a projector manually operated by a projectionist. I can remember many people lining up outside the theater to buy tickets and snacks at the concession stand. Governor (and future US President) Bill Clinton and local television reporters stood in line next to everyday people.

Fellow Mills High School Graduate Brad Vandergrift (center) with two co-workers at the UA Cinema 150 Movie Theater. Photo courtesy of Brad Vandergrift, taken in early 1980's.

While I was working at the movie theater, I also interned at KTHV-Channel 11 television station in Little Rock. I was one of only three interns at the TV station that summer and worked in the morning organizing video tapes, going out on stories with the reporters and assisting the television producers. In the evenings and weekends, I worked at the movie theater. I made some wonderful friends while working at the theater and had some of the best times that summer. We would go to eat together and several times went to other movie theaters to see a free movie. Some of those friends are no longer with us, but I've stayed in touch with several others.

Riverdale 10 VIP Cinema

36 years later, I found myself working part-time at another movie theater for the summer. Instead of being an idealistic young college student, I am now a widow and mother of two in my 50's. I worked with co-workers who are the same age as my children and for supervisors that are half my age. But once I smelled the fresh popcorn popping and felt the excitement of seeing a new movie, I was once again transformed back to that magical summer of 1981.

I'm with a Minion!

My how times have changed! When I worked at the movie theater in 1981, I would check the weekly schedule posted in the kitchen located behind the concession stand. Now, there is still a paper scheduled thumb-tacked to a bulletin board but the schedule is also texted to each employee every Tuesday afternoon. Instead of just popcorn, soft drinks and nachos, the theater I work for in 2017 offers wine and beer along with food such as pizza, chicken strips and french fries. We use our cell phones to set an alarm after we put food in a deep fryer so we will know when it is ready to serve to our customers. Instead of film projectors, all movies now are contained on a computer hard drive!

The crew at Riverdale 10 VIP Cinema in Little Rock, Arkansas
July 7, 2017
Spider-Man: Homecoming

Leslie Smith Doan, a native Arkansan, is a retired Technical Writer and active blogger. She enjoys traveling and attending special events with her two daughters, ages 24 & 20. A long time TV and Movie Fan, she has also appeared as a Background Actor on the television shows Scandal, American Housewife, the pilot episode of Young Sheldon and the movie God's Not Dead 2, filmed in Arkansas.

Leslie lives in Little Rock with her two rescue pets, Oreo, a black & white Australian Shepherd and Lilly, a calico kitty. 

She blogs about her personal experiences as both a cancer survivor and widow along with movie reviews and humorous essays in her blog Leslie In Little Rock. You can also find Leslie online on her TwitterInstagram, and Facebook accounts.

1 comment:

  1. The domed theater does bring back memories. The drive-in was just down the street on Asher. My favorite Little Rock theater was on Kavanaugh.