According an MPAA study from 2006, there are 1,742 single screens in the U.S. I'm working to find out how many drive-ins are included in this figure (or not).
We've written a story about it, which will be published soon.
Exploring old single-screen theaters is a passion of mine. I'm not against multiplexes, but I don't particularly enjoy the generic, loud and perfected experiences they provide.
I've logged all of my favorite movie-going memories at single-screen theaters that offer beat-up prints, suspect sound, sticky floors and squeaky seats. I like to feel my movies.
You could do that at the Morris Theatre in Morris, Minn. (bottom).
If you know me, you've heard this story before.
As I recall, I was a freshman at the University of Minnesota Morris. Despite it being winter (or, at the very least, snowing and cold as all Fargo), the Morris Theatre was undergoing a bit of remodeling.
It had a huge auditorium with a closed balcony (on most nights). If you went to the lobby to score popcorn for your date, it was best to send out a search party to spot her on the trip back down the aisle. You wouldn't have been surprised to have been sucked into a black hole en route.
Playing late one night was "Alive" (1993), the drama about the Uruguayan rugby team. Their plane crashed in the Andes Mountains, and they had to resort to cannibalism to survive. (You remember Ethan Hawke's better days, don't you? Yummy.)
The theater owner must have had a wonderful sense of humor and a perverse taste for immersing moviegoers in a movie world.
The exit doors at the screen's edges were no longer there. In their place were clear plastic tarps, waving furiously in an angry wind. The furnace wasn't really working. My hands were cold. I wore a stocking cap.
Along with a handful of patrons, I watched scenes of human desperation get bleaker and bleaker as my breath turned frosty and snow blew in from the dark alley. It was as if the auditorium was the fuselage and the movie theater had crashed onto the snowy prairies of western Minnesota.
Smell-O-Vision be damned. Moviegoing doesn't get better than that.
What's your favorite single-screen theater? Please share a favorite memory.