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Going, going, gone... are the movies of old
Next time you shell out a $3 surcharge for 3-D glasses, think of it: movies once cost merely a quarter.
"That was around the ’50s," says Kenneth George Godwin, a film editor by trade with multiple National Film Board documentaries to his credit, including Unspeakable and The Gypsies of Svinia by Winnipeg’s John Paskievich.
Now Godwin has turned director with his own documentary, Going: Remembering Winnipeg Movie Theatres, which debuted in January on MTS digital on-demand. The film takes a historic look back at moviegoing in Winnipeg and runs on MTS until January 2015.
Going back farther to the ’30s, "kids could get in for a nickel or a dime," Godwin continues. Even in the 1970s, it was only $1.25.
The skyrocketing of movie ticket prices since is just one conspicuous way in which moviegoing has transformed.
To illustrate, Godwin interviewed two-dozen Winnipeggers from all over the city, including many whose families worked in the local movie exhibition business.
Take Jean Morton and Andrew Ostrander, for instance, whose father owned the former Uptown Theatre. The former movie palace is now Academy Lanes bowling alley, at 394 Academy Rd.
Going also features photos and film footage of the many theatres of Winnipeg’s bygone eras, many from provincial archives but also many rare, never-before-seen images from interview subjects’ private collections.
Among the movie theatres recalled are the Palace, the Deluxe, and the Tower in the North End, the Apollo in Transcona and the Kings in St. James.
When Godwin moved here from Newfoundland in the ’70s, "every neighbourhood had its own movie theatre, there were more theatres downtown than you could count on both hands," he says.
There were also far more available screens, showing far more movies.
Indeed, Godwin says, everyone in the doc talks about going to the movies – hence the title’s double meaning.
Some changes were simply inevitable: "Before home video, people just went to the movies more," Godwin says.
Indeed, says George Toles, chair of film studies at the University of Manitoba, people often went to movies two to three times a week in the ’30s.
"There’d be crowds of regulars."
Now, Godwin says, "it’s a totally different experience."
The venues themselves – Godwin’s favourite owas the now-demolished Capitol on Donald Street – were part of the experience until many freestanding theatres were closed down in the ’70s to be replaced by giant multiplexes — all showing the same features.
Now, theatres are "like big boxes where you go to consume something," Godwin laments.
"Speaking personally, something that’s been lost is that anticipation of crossing into that other world on the screen," Toles says. Even such a simple thing as opening a curtain to reveal the screen – a practise which survived until the end at the former Cineplex Garden City — helped foster this notion.
"Also, that feeling of, ‘I had no idea an experience could be like this!’ is gone," says Toles, who remembers reacting that very way to the likes of The Ten Commandments (1956).
"Those experiences are necessary to keep you returning to sit in the dark."
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