The box office in 1967 was topped by The Graduate, followed by The Jungle Book and Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner. The choice car to get to the movie house was the new Camaro that had debuted during the year to compete with the Mustangs at downtown red lights. Bowling Green’s population was somewhere around 36,000. Interstate 65 was still shiny and new. Scottsville Road was essentially farmland.
And it was the last year for first-run movies at the downtown Capitol Theatre.
At that point, the old theatre had been in use for over 75 years, first as a vaudeville stage, then as a movie house updated in the 1930s to much art deco and neon lighting.
But by the space age 1960s and with everybody desiring things to be crisp and new, it sold the last ticket and shut the doors. It would sit empty for ten years.
Thanks to some visionary folks in the late 1970s, the old place reopened as a performance arts center in 1981 and has hosted a variety of shows since.
But, with exception to a Rocky Horror Picture Show played now and then on the silver screen at Halloween, movies were missing from the movie house.
That changed in 2017.
While not first-run by any means, and most movies dating to the 1980s or later, there has been an overwhelming success at taking advantage of nostalgia and seeing an honest to God movie at the downtown movie theatre. Because it’s downtown, the way all cool things in a great city should be. Because it’s walking into the theatre under the rainbow of retro neon and a thousand blinking bulbs. Because the marquee only has room for one movie that you and your neighbors get to see together, instead of splitting off into separate little multiplex rooms.
You smell the popcorn as you come in. You sit down in a room that is bigger than any new fangled theatre in town. Here’s the best part. You glance over your left shoulder and see somebody you know. Maybe a business acquaintance. A church member. Friend of the family. You glance over your right shoulder. You know somebody there, too. The room has a feeling that you and the folks in attendance are in on a little secret, that this is the best thing in town tonight. A movie for a couple of dollars that you and everyone else have seen a hundred times, but that means the world to laugh at the familiar lines alongside your friends sitting around you. Great cities are made sharing the good times. The memories of those come in handy to get us through the bad times.
Here’s to more movies downtown under old neon, helping us all to have optimism towards a bright Bowling Green future.
Capitol Movie Night. A #bgcoolthing
For more info: https://www.theskypac.com/capitol-arts-center/