Walter Mencken 11 a.m., May 24
Take your best girl to dinner and Bad Kung-Fu Lee
This action-packed ad from Nov. 8, 1980, posted on Facebook by my old friend Ted Okuda, needed to be shared:
For less than 70¢ a feature, Chicago's Woods Theatre had Kensington Video and Red Box beat by a mile. It was the cheapest date night in town, but I wouldn't take my worst girl to the Woods.
Woods? It was a jungle! The stench of urine that hit your nostrils the moment you walked through the door overwhelmed the senses. Rats the size of polecats roamed the 1,126-seat auditorium.
You think today's texting and/or talking patrons are bad? Short of handing out bullhorns at the concession stand, audience participation was encouraged at the Woods. Audience members concerned for their favorite character's safety would scream "don't go in there" or "look out!" As if someone other than the poor schmuck seated three rows in front of them could hear.
Fans of martial arts triple-bills were known to show up fashionably late. Hence the vague showtimes. So long as you arrived after 9 a.m. and before midnight you were guaranteed a movie. It was 1980, right before cable television and home video had a chance to saturate American living rooms. Where else could one go at midnight on a cold November night to scratch their kung-fu itch?
Never one for kung-foolery, I do hold a screening at the Woods close to my heart. It wasn't at midnight, but all of the above-mentioned perks shared equal billing the afternoon I took in Super Stooges vs. the Wonder Women.
More like this:
- Before It Was the Gaslamp: Downtown's Grindhouse Row (updated 8-22-09) — July 23, 2008
- Balboa's Last Stand: Balboa Theater circa 70s/80s — June 11, 2008
- Before It Was The Gaslamp: Illustrated Sequel — May 1, 2008
- Before It Was The Gaslamp: Illustrated Sequel — March 23, 2008
- Before It Was The Gaslamp: PS — Sept. 4, 2007