Walter Mencken 9 a.m., May 23
4th row center: The 'movie hole'
The Parkway was the first movie theatre ever placed in my managerial care. It was a 700-seat single screen situated at the bustling intersection of Clark & Diversey on Chicago's near North side. Before Landmark took over the lease in 1979, The Parkway was a grindhouse in the truest sense of the term, churning out one picture after another, separated only by trailers.
Landmark put a few bucks into sprucing up the place, but even on opening day the Parkway was never more that a mundanely efficient neighborhood theatre. At least it had a balcony.
The manager's office was located at the right rear of the theatre; it shared a wall with the back row of seats. Not only was I able to look through the door to my right -- and watch my zoned-out staff dirtying the ashtrays instead of cleaning them -- located at eye-level just above the desk was my portal of ecstasy.
The 'movie hole,' as it lovingly came to be referred to by the staff, was a foot-wide hinged-peephole that opened to reveal a near-unobstructed view of the screen. (The edge of the balcony shaved a little off the top of flat presentations, but since the head-masking dropped for widescreen, the 'Scope looked great!)
The revival house changed double-bills daily. It would be impossible to tally the number of Paris Inn egg rolls -- the restaurant was located two doors north -- I devoured after closing. With my feet propped on the desk, I would lick the sticky duck sauce from off my fingers, crack open the 'hole,' and enjoy 35mm copies of everything from The Red Shoes (a blue-track Technicolor print, no less) and Advise and Consent to Emmanuel in Paris and a savaged print of Woody Allen's Take the Money and Run that had been run through more dirty gates than John Wayne's horse. Passing through an array of misfiled aperture plates and worn sprocket-teeth had taken its toll. By the time the print played the Parkway, 10 of the film's 85 minutes had been eaten away.
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