By Zane Braudrick
Before I left Oklahoma to head off to college months ago, I would go to a single-screen movie theater in my hometown called The Rex II. Recently, I went to a theater that had five floors and 25 screens near Times Square. Despite this theater’s size, I found myself missing the theater located in my small hometown of Caddo.
Everybody has an idea of what the “average” movie theater looks like. A large percentage of people will picture a very big structure with many movies playing at once, but that is not always the case. In Caddo, the Rex II has a lobby and then an auditorium. Many theatres used to have a single auditorium where you could watch one movie, but the present has brought a landscape where these theaters are rare. The Rex II was the norm when it operated from the ’40s to the ’60s as the Rex Theater; it reopened in 2000. By then, theaters with multiple screens, called multiplexes, had become commonplace.
The rarity of one-screens is not just apparent in Oklahoma. In many big cities, these theaters are barely a presence. We should support the small theaters that still exist in local communities.
Even though I now spend much of my time on campus in New York, I often check the Rex II website to see what is showing back home. Recently, I was greeted with the home screen and tagline “The Rex II: where memories are made.” However, something else shocked me: there was now a donation tab.
I had been going to see movies in my small hometown and not realized until seeing this how much it depends on the local community to survive. Why did it take me so long to realize this? Suddenly I thought of everything this theater meant to me.
The Rex II is a very intimate place. My parents even rented out the Rex II for a party the night I graduated high school. When I went back home for Thanksgiving, I said hi to people I knew at the entrance – an experience that is unique to small cinemas. I want to keep experiences like that alive. Maybe members of a community can support small cinemas to keep them open? Of course, there will be a counter-argument that multiplexes will be the dominant force because they have more auditoriums. While the option to pick from multiple movies at a theater is attractive, that does not mean small theaters don’t have perks of their own.
When I went back home for Thanksgiving, I saw a movie about Harriet Tubman. The closest place where this film was playing besides Caddo was 45 minutes away. Seeing movies at my local cinema was less time-consuming in cases like this. Small theaters also have special significance because they are more accessible to see. In a time where the average ticket price is around $9, seeing a movie in my hometown for a cheaper price is very desirable. These advantages also extend to location.
These single-screens in small towns may be more noteworthy than the single-screens big cities have; the theater market around them is usually small. The Rex II stands out more in a small town like Caddo. I find something else compelling about supporting my local cinema because there are so few options around.
When I first visited the Rex II before moving to Caddo, I was surprised that a theatre was there, but I soon grew to love it. I continued to go over time and would always find myself checking the showtimes every week. I believe that the cinematic fixtures in small towns can stay open with the right support. I am not asking that you ignore every other type of theater that exists around you. I just ask that if you have a small cinema, you go support it every chance and make memories while you watch a big screen in a small town.