Saturday, April 19, 2014

Where I Was Last Night

I've long been a fan of silent films in general and the works of Charlie Chaplin in particular, but I must confess that, if I had to choose any of his films to watch, The Kid wouldn't be my top choice. It was a sensation in its time--feature-length comedies were still a relative rarity in the early 1920s, and Chaplin's mix of slapstick and genuine drama was an innovation that revolutionized screen comedy. Today, though, it comes off as slight and manipulative. Chaplin could (and would) do better.

Still, when the Silent Film Society of Chicago announced they'd be screening The Kid, I was determined to go--partly because I miss the screenings the Society used to have regularly at the nearby Portage Theater (shuttered last year in a dispute between the new owner and the city) and partly out of love for the Patio itself.

Sadly, the Patio itself will be shuttered again soon.

After closing in 2001 for "renovation," the Patio reopened to much fanfare in 2011, but has struggled with various challenges over the past three years. It started out showing mainstream movies on a second-run basis, but found there just wasn't enough of an audience for that--not enough for a 1,000-seat theater, anyway. The owner switched to more of special event format, with screenings of classic and rarely seen films. That seemed to go well until the theater started breaking down--first the air conditioning, then the boiler, then water damage during our brutally cold winter.

Thus, last night's showing took on extra significance--It was likely the last time most of the folks who attended would see the glory of the Patio, at least for a while.

The film was accompanied by the Greensboro (N.C.) Youth Orchestra, and they did a wonderful job with the score that Chaplin wrote for his silent classic many years after the advent of sound. At the end of the showing, the audience stood up and delivered a prolonged, exceedingly loud ovation.

I had the feeling we weren't just cheering the orchestra, though they certainly deserved it, nor just the Silent Film Society, nor the Little Tramp, now 100 years old. We were giving a proper sendoff for the Patio itself.

Who knows? Maybe this will only be temporary. I fervently hope so. In the meantime, though...I'll miss you, Patio. There are so few theaters like you left anywhere anymore.

Come back soon. Please.

1 comment:

Dee Williams said...

Yes, Vanishing Chicago is right.

Thank you for this beautiful tribute.