Screen TIme

By Mike Rosso

Having had enough “screen time” for one morning, I took a break from magazine production and treated myself to a different type of screen, a movie in an actual theater.

Never mind it was an hour’s drive each way to get that experience. (Salida’s only movie theater hasn’t been open for a while and its prospects are not good.) In the end, it was worth the trip to Westcliffe to see “Bohemian Rhapsody” at the historic Jones Theater.

The film was the perfect combination of camp, formula and rock and roll. I loved it. Also, it was one I didn’t want to watch on Netflix – in the comfort of my own home. I wanted the full theater experience – complete with rustling popcorn bags. The Jones did not disappoint. The projection system was sharp and clear and the sound system held up to the sonic noise of the band Queen.

The turnout for a Sunday matinee wasn’t bad either, it was mostly fellow aging boomers, taking a break from home and home entertainment systems. One of the best things about a theater is the collective experience. That’s what made going to movies so popular for so many years. Laughing out loud at Chaplin’s antics with a room full of strangers. The collective gasp when the shark in “Jaws” is first revealed.

With the advent of streaming, Bluetooth and super HD, flat-screen televisions, just about anybody can have a high-quality home theater system, myself among them. Between YouTube, PBS, Netflix, and any combination of streaming services, you can watch movies, live concerts, baseball highlights and Russian car crashes, all from the comfort of your recliner.

The missing element of course, are those random strangers sitting all around you, sharing the emotions brought forth from the silver screen. Imagine being one of the lucky souls to watch the original premier of “The Wizard of Oz,” and the delight when the film switches from dull brown sepia to full-on Technicolor? I myself will never forget seeing as a kid “A Hard Day’s Night” at my home town theater, The Garden, and getting caught up in the collective Beatlemania pulsing through the teens in that room.

Five years back, we ran an article about small, hometown theaters and their struggles to switch from film reels to digital projection. (LIGHTS OUT? The Clock is Ticking for Small Rural Movie Theaters, Oct. 2013.) A GoFundMe effort helped convert our local movie theater to digital, but in the end, it was basic maintenance that shut it down. Now, ironically, the only functioning commercial theater in Chaffee County is the Comanche Drive-In outside of Buena Vista. (Hats off to the Groy family for keeping that rare jewel going.)

To their great credit, several Salida folks are working hard to keep movies alive here, and are employing the city-owned SteamPlant as the venue. There are at least four films shown each month, with a digital projector and a modern sound system. Salidan’s tend to be social creatures and they embrace their community gatherings. Public films are another outlet for our gregarious natures.

I do fear for an entire generation of kids who will not have that shared experience. They, and many of us, are caught up in their own personal “screen time,” derived from a smartphone or laptop. They may be texting or Snapchatting their friends, but there is no “face time,” only Facebook. We’ve gone from the Big screen to the Little screen.

What the future holds for small-town cinema is up in the air. I’m just grateful for the small theaters, like the Jones or the Cozy Castle in Saguache, that still allow us to sit as a group, chomp on popcorn and laugh out loud during the funny parts.

Now for some housekeeping. An article in last month’s News from the San Luis Valley, misidentified the “largest pot park in Colorado,” as being in Saguache. It was in fact, its valley neighbor, Moffat, which has created a 420-acre cannabis-zoned, annexed subdivision.

Also, in my editorial last month, I left out the name of a former Salida city administrator, Guy Patterson, who served in between the tenures of Dara MacDonald and Larry Lorentzen, and stayed on the job for about five months.