Tuesday, September 9, 2008

#69 Stoney/Avalon Theaters--pt. 2

Continuing from last post: once inside the sacred precincts of Avalon--ah, the magical name--the pint-sized votaries (whatever grown-ups were in attendance, if I recall correctly, would retreat to the two balconies for auditory safety) were served up the best of Hollywood, most always in double-feature form. Along with family/kiddie matinee-fare like Disney, Martin & Lewis, Francis the Talking Mule, your quarter-ticket offertory could expose you to the more edifying and prestigious High Noon, Ben Hur, Mister Roberts, African Queen, Shane, On the Waterfront, Picnic... to name a few of my favorites first seen at the Avalon, and which moreover wouldn't be available on premium cable or Netflix within the following few months, as they would be today. Had to see these classics then and there. I remember, indeed, that the advertising for D.W. Griffith's "Ten Commandments" scare-tactically warned that "This movie will never be shown on TV!" We believed him. (This was the period of all-out WAR between TV and the movie-people, who DID see their attendance numbers dropping.) But my goodness it was so CHEAP--in those good ol' days you could start at 10am and stay all day and into the night for the price of one ticket. No, they didn't hustle you out between shows.

Now if we wanted to see more dicey B through Z movie-fare we'd have to take the bus to the STONEY! This was the venue for great trash like Creature from the Black Lagoon I&II, Devil Girls from Mars, and the "best" of Ed Wood. The theater's plain, brick-and-mortar facade and warehouse interior suited its offerings--it had the look of one of those XXX movie-houses of the 70s and 80s. But wait--I've learned that it BECAME JUST THAT, sometime before it was demolished in the late 70s. But in my day it was a place to get scared stiff, so to speak. I think I ran to the lobby three or four times during the original "The Thing--from Another World," with James Arness as the Monster. And talk about cheap: under-12 at the Stoney was 15 cents, and your blogman could keep that price going till he was 15 or so. We had to pay our dime for the bus (transfer included) to get up to 69th and Stoney Island, and a dime back, but the thrill was worth the added expense (do the math). Because... get this: in addition to the scariest, first-run, double-feature trash of the 50s, the theater showed the very latest 30s and 40s cliff-hanging, action SERIALS, featuring the likes of Gene Autry, Buck Rogers, and Flash Gordon to keep you coming back for more...at the now late, lamented Stoney. And there will be one more installment of this exciting series, likewise.

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