My First Step Into A Larger World

Facade of the Norwood Theater.

This was our neighborhood theater when I was a slip of a lad. I saw “Star Wars” here during its first run. This fact alone designates the Norwood Theater as a site of extreme reverence for me.

But the theater didn’t look even half this grand in 1977. At that point, it was 50 years old and had suffered through several renovations. The movie industry clobbered live stage performances, and then TV clobbered movies, and then multiplex chains and home video clobbered independently-owned second-run movie houses. At each turn, the theater’s owners needed to change the house to respond to the market and every time that happened, they had less and less money to put into the business.

Last year, its new owners finished an ambitious restoration that rewound the theater back to its roots. They tore down the tacky metal facade that covered up those magnificent arched windows, and rebuilt the tiara-like NORWOOD sign that had been long-gone by the time I appeared on the planet. They turned the second movie screen back into a balcony and fully restored and rebuilt the interior. The theater once again is capable of presenting either movies or live stage performances.

Suffice to say that the Norwood Theater of 2013 in no way matches my cherished memories from 1977. This sort of thing sucks when you discover that corporate fiends have twisted your neighborhood playground into an Olive Garden. But when thoughtful caretakers go to great trouble and expense to restore a theater to a glory that you yourself never got to experience…you’re going to be okay with that.

It’s interesting to see the place like this. “Like this” meaning “Not shabby and tacky.” For most of my childhood, it was a theater that was forced to make a saleable product out of whatever scraps the multiplexes left behind: the lips, ears, and other unmentionables of the film industry. The 2013 incarnation of the Norwood Theater looks like the sort of class joint that won’t sell you a ticket if you’re only wearing a wet bathing suit. I can’t wait to attend an event there and check out the interior.

4 thoughts on “My First Step Into A Larger World”

  1. I have now seen two live performances there — Next To Normal and Beatlemania Again! and I must say, it is a wonderful neighborhood theater. THe care they took to restore the original feel of the theater really shows and I thoroughly enjoyed both shows. I am looking forward to seeing some films there as well.

  2. In Richmond, Virginia, we have a similar theater located in the Carytown shopping district called the Byrd Theater. It’s also a state and national landmark. Some of my best memories were made in that theater; meeting with friends and paying their never-changing $2 admittance fee to sit in a throwback to the golden age of cinema, replete with a mezzanine, balcony seats, and one of the only few remaining working Wurlitzer organs in existence. They may not play new-release movies, but at least it’s a cheap, good time.

  3. The Norwood Theatre is such a beautiful building,
    Coming from an Urban sprawl of a famous steel and cutlery city in the UK, many of our buildings like that have long since gone. Picture Houses converted into Mosques, retail outlets, or even, like in Grimsby, a Macdonalds on the lower floor, with the actual cinema above intact, equipped, but forgotten.

  4. This is wonderful — thanks for posting it! I first saw _The Princess Bride_ in that very theater. There’s a shortage of perfect movie theaters in this world, so it makes me very happy that this one has been brought back to life.

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