Friday, January 12, 2007

At the movies

Do you know at which movie theater you saw your very first movie? I don't know what movie was my first (my mom thinks maybe it was a re-release of "So Dear To My Heart," but if so, I don't remember that film AT ALL), but I am pretty sure I saw it at the Har-Mar (named for HARold and MARie Slawik) theaters in Roseville, Minnesota, since I grew up in neighboring Shoreview.

Har-Mar Mall went through a lot of changes in my life. Built in 1961, by the mid-1980s the mall started to get somewhat seedy, especially compared to neighboring snazzy Rosedale, and the tornado that hit in 1981 (ripping the roof off the Color Tile across the street!) didn't help matters.

But unlike its sad sister mall, Apache Plaza (they had the same designer), Har Mar had nine lives. A Barnes & Noble was added recently, and it's kind of given the entire mall new life. But I was shocked in December when I flew home for Christmas and couldn't find the movie listings for Har Mar. I asked if the movie theaters had closed, but no one seemed to know.

Turns out it did close, in early December, with little fanfare -- the mall remains open, but the theaters gave way to Rosedale's brand new movie theaters, which stupidly have an outdoor box office. (I remember when I first went to California and saw outdoor box offices. I told Rob "We could never have this in Minnesota." But apparently this movie designer didn't care to do any research, or ask a random child on the street, who could easily have told him it gets cold in Minnesota in the winter.)

Outdoor box office aside, I'm sure the Rosedale theaters will be lovely. But I'm a little sad that if I ever have kids, I can't take them to the place where I saw my first movie. Rob and I stopped at the closed Har Mar theaters and pressed our noses up against the windows to take photos, and it reminded me how vintage cool it was inside--shiny gold walls, enormous mod chandeliers, and the most amazing ladies room I have ever seen, where each stall had floor-to-ceiling doors, was painted in a different primary color from the stall next to it, and where each stall had its own private sink inside the door. You try being a kid whose mom takes her to the bathroom during a movie and telling her you want to wait for the blue bathroom to open up.

The Cinema Treasures board features posts from people discussing Har Mar's mod chandeliers and obese mice. And this guy posted some photos *though sadly, none of the bathrooms).Here's another neat exterior shot.

And here's a neat entry about Har Mar Mall in a retail history Weblog that I definitely need to bookmark. Note that a lot of the photos show tables set up in the mall -- Har Mar was always hosting shows or fairs, and my first job, helping a neighbor lady sell bathroom plaques she made at craft fairs, involved more than one craft fair held at Har Mar.

For old Minnesota stalwarts only, here's a photo of the interior of the mall with the new bookstore in it. See that stairway? That goes down to the bathrooms (and a kung fu studio, as I recall), and those were the bathrooms I remember hiding in and crying in one day when I was a freshman in college and had had a horrible fight with my then-still-in-high school boyfriend. I cried in one of the stalls, and was mortified when some kindly momlike lady asked if I was all right. Ah, the heartbreak of first love.


Sarah said...

There are a few bathroom shots on flickr.

Anonymous said...

I want really badly to say that my first movie was E.T., but it was actually The Fox and The Hound, at the theatre in the little town where I was born but never lived. I went with my grandmother for a matinee, and I totally freaked out because I thought we'd been in the theatre so long that it would be nighttime when we came outisde, and I didn't want to walk home in the dark.

The theatre's still there, although it's been closed and re-opened quite a few times since then. I still see it every time I go up to visit family.

Anonymous said...

I ran across this photo on Flickr. Found this while bouncing around other blogs. This is where I saw my first-evef movie, a Disney double feature back in 1962 (age 5) of "Absent Minded Professor" and "Son of Flubber."

New London is about four miles down the road from Hortonville - both were on U.S. 45, but that's been changed - and the theater was a small-town drive-in about a mile north of town. Wonder when the pic was taken.

Liz said...

I grew up in California and my first movie experiences were always family drive-in nights, complete with in-front-of-the-big-screen playgrounds and really fun snackbars. I loved the movies, LOVED them, and when I was a teenager I worked at the local theater, which was almost literally the only show in town (I grew up in rural NORTHERN California, totally different than Hollywood).

Anyway, it was a total rat- (and COCKROACH- ...EEK...) trap, having once been a live theater...there was a scary backstage/dressing room area underneath the big screen, and at the un-climate-controlled box office, we froze in the winter, boiled in the summer, and at the candy counter were nearly electrocuted by a bad ice-making machine. AND we head-added, hand-counted the money! But we loved it and got to see free movies as a side-benefit...which was HUGE.

When multiple theaters became the rage, they (sadly) changed the balcony into two separate theaters, and I remember once having a date in each theater while working one night...bad girl! I was just praying for no simultaneous intermission or bathroom-breakery!

I was even there during the projectionists' strike (they were gone after that) and the closing of the "loge" (smoking section), all of which show my age. But finally, sadly, after I moved away, the old State Theater closed. Main Street (really!) will never be the same...

Anyway, thanks for evoking some great (old) memories!

Adrienne said...

I sure do remember the was the Coral Theater on 95th Street in Oak Lawn, IL...the year was 1978 and I got to see "Grease" with my girlfriend and her single mom. I still love "Grease"! You can view the 1963 Grand Opening commemorative brochure for the Coral at - it was a great classic theater before they tore it down and turned it into a shopping plaza.

Anonymous said...

Having grown up in Roseville, I too believe I went to my first movie at the Har-Mar. I know that I definitely went to see the first movie I made out in the back row during at Har-Mar, but it wasn't in the big theaters, it was the smaller ones behind the big ones. When I was much younger, my dad would come and take me out of school (at Emmett D. Williams and Capitol View) early on Fridays so that I could see stuff like the Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi at the very first showing; I think we ALWAYS went to Har-Mar. I also saw Back to the Future 5 times, all at Har Mar. Thanks for a blast from the past (especially those insane bathrooms)... (btw, I live in Portland now, so I get a kick out of reading about your MN reminiscences coupled with Pacific NW info)