By CHRIS RIDEOUT
When I was a kid growing up in the east end of Toronto, movies were a part of my life more than school, sports or family.
In those days, it seemed like there were movie theatres everywhere, from the plain suburban ones near my house to the splendid opera-style grand palaces downtown. I used to wonder at them as I rode the streetcars to the YMCA on Saturday mornings — an excursion planned by my parents to get me out of the house.
It also seemed that the neon-encrusted movie halls were beckoning me with the huge signs outside promising air–conditioning: “It’s COOL inside!” This would have been a treat in the Toronto summers. These grand theatres looked like real theatres inside, with proscenium arches, opera-style boxes and golden glittering fixtures.
I had a small allowance from my Dad and I was able to save some quarters from my part-time job as a pin-boy at the local bowling alley. I wonder how many of your readers remember pin-boys? I gladly spent my 25 cents on an afternoon in the Birchmount theatre on Kingston Road. I drove by there during a recent visit to Toronto; it’s all condos now.
For young boys, and a little later, boys and girls, the Saturday movies were a feast. Cowboy movies, cliff-hanging serials, romantic movies with too much kissing and movies with lots of shooting. And popcorn everywhere. When we had had enough on-screen kissing we threw our flattened popcorn boxes at the screen to the frantic shouts of the manager to stop.
Many changes were there: first time I laughed out loud, first time I was really scared and the first time I dared to put my arm around the girl I had asked to the movies. Since the bowling-alley had gone electronic, I paid both our ways with my paper-route money. My arm locked up painfully and sometimes it still hurts . . . in more ways than one.
It turned out that my professional career involved the critical investigation into literature and the forms of narrative, so it was only a small jump from books to movies. After all, they are really the same thing; both dealing with stories. Some books and some movies don’t have stories but often that is the story.
So it was with sadness that I feared that moving to Salt Spring would surely mean no more digital first-run movies. I thought perhaps there might be a 16mm projector or an old 35mm, but since there were no more new big-budget 35mm films being shot, I just resigned myself to leaving digital behind forever.
Then I heard, or read, about The Fritz. It seemed that a digital projector had been purchased in 2013 and first-run movies were shown. Too good to be true, I thought, but no, it was true. Joy unlimited!
The whole point of this nostalgic ramble is to say thank you to The Fritz owner Dave Paul and applaud his courage and patience in keeping The Fritz going in these perilous times.
I urge everyone to help him out in any way: buy some popcorn, drinks or just send him a couple of bucks. Everyone needs a new movie now and then.
I hope The Fritz never goes on the fritz.
Editor’s note: Fritz fan Rachel Jacobson and others are inviting people to support The Fritz directly by sending an etransfer to: email@example.com or a cheque to: SSI Movie Theatre, c/o 190 Quarry Drive, Salt Spring Island, B.C., V8K 1J2. She notes that this is an initiative of herself and other islanders. Fritz owner Dave Paul has not asked anyone to do this. The theatre is also offering concession nights with popcorn, pop and more available for purchase on Friday and Saturday nights from 6 to 8 p.m.