One of the greatest things about Lake Placid is that it really isn’t just a real New York City, but it really is an authentic American city where the arts and going to the movies matter. Small-town movie theaters, performance halls and the arts are mainstays of towns like Lake Placid across America, and movie theaters across America have only recently reopened since the coronavirus pandemic.
According to Bloomberg News, nearly two years into the coronavirus pandemic, about 630 movie theaters remain closed across North America. And many may never reopen. Additionally, COVID-19 has accelerated trends that preceded the pandemic, with major films now available online much earlier than in the past and films already in decline. As Americans again block football stadiums and theme parks, theater attendance has only slowly recovered since the industry-wide shutdown last year.
Morning Consult’s Return to Normal tracker and a recent survey have both good and bad news for the theater sector. The good news is that American consumers say they are increasingly comfortable returning to the movies after the pandemic. The bad news is that much of the remaining hesitation to return to theaters has little to do with COVID-19. That said, movie theaters are a critical contributor to economic recovery. The National Independent Venue Association estimates that for every dollar spent on tickets, a total of $12 in economic activity is generated. Moreover, going to the cinema is an unparalleled experience while sitting at home to watch a movie.
Serving as the center of entertainment in this small town nestled in the majestic Adirondack Mountains, the Palace Theater in Lake Placid is a historic theater whose doors happily remain open, welcoming spectators day and night. In 1926, Lake Placid business leaders decided the town needed a top-notch theater to attract visitors. According to the Smithsonian Magazine, “The Clark family spared no expense, outfitting the hall with a stage and proscenium, and installing a Robert Morton pipe organ that still attracts aficionados. But the Clarks made sure to retain the details that made the palace so distinctive when it opened. A large fireplace sits behind the concession stand, and the lobby features hand-drawn designs reminiscent of 1920s designs.” Films are shown twice a night year-round, with weekend matinees in the winter and daily matinees in the summer. Tickets are a bargain by everyone’s standards: $10 for adults a night and $8 for kids. Who can beat that!?
The Palace is a cornerstone of Lake Placid’s main street and a symbol of main streets and towns like Lake Placid across America. Throughout my life visiting and living in Lake Placid I have seen great motion pictures in this very special place including “Superman,” “Presumed Innocent,” “A hard worker,” “Jaws,” ” AND “ “Titanic,” and yes, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” I also had the privilege of working with our family friend Kathleen Carroll, who is the former New York Daily News film critic and founder of the Adirondack Film Society and the Lake Placid Film Forum (now the Lake Placid Film Festival) — a much smaller version of what happens at Sundance, Cannes and Toronto each year. One year I was fortunate enough to be the Forum’s resource person to work with Hollywood notables Kyra Sedgwick, Campbell Scott, Patricia Clarkson, and my old friend’s father, Cliff Robertson. I also had the honor of speaking several times at the Palais following the screenings of Steven Spielberg “Bridge of Spies” where Tom Hanks plays my grandfather, Cold War lawyer James B. Donovan, a longtime seasonal resident of Lake Placid.
Anyone visiting Lake Placid now might not be aware of a second movie theater that was an integral part of this town, even though it’s been closed for years: Marina Vacation Port. The “Port” it was at the theater that I saw my very first film about everyone’s ideal nanny, Mary Poppins, with the cinema’s ideal nanny, Julie Andrews. I also remember seeing “Urban Cowboy” “Fighting spirit,” and “St. Elmo’s Fire” at the port the summer before I go to the school the film is about: Georgetown University. Needless to say, it served as a fitting farewell and still serves as a symbolic reminder of the Georgetown friendships that continue to be my “St. Elmo’s Fire” – for life.
In 2014, I saw a landmark film for the Oscars at the Palace: “American sniper.” The experience of seeing this important film surrounded by history and community in a historic and beautiful theater made the overall experience and meaning of this film even more meaningful. But theaters like this all over the North Country and cities across America — as well as multiplexes in cities across America — are struggling to survive. It is so essential to communities in the North Country – and communities across America – that these places remain alive for many reasons, including keeping the film and theater community alive and vital, keeping the ‘living and vital history and the supply of a first-rate source at a reasonable price. -class animation for children, adults and families. Please support our small town theaters and movie experience: it’s not just about seeing the movie alone. It’s an authentic American experience certainly not found at home streaming on Netflix. While we know Netflix and its fellow streaming services aren’t going away, hopefully we’ll keep doing “go to the cinema” part of our dominant culture.
This summer, I booked my own return to the cinema for the Palace by going to see “Top Gun Maverick” — the cinematic experience of the season. And what an experience it was, not only because it’s a fantastic film, but also because I was able to watch it at the Palace, not stream it at home. There’s nothing quite like seeing a movie in the cinema on the big screen with an audience and no distractions. Go back to the cinema. It’s an authentic, one-of-a-kind experience that thrills and thrills the mind, body and soul, especially at the Palace Theater in Lake Placid.
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Beth Amorosi is a seasonal Lake Placid resident, writer, and president of AMO Communications.