movie theater marquee


Found on a roll of Kodak Verichrome 620. Presumably from 1939, as one image shows on Gone with the Wind on the movie theater marquee, which came out in 1939. Most of the other images show what seems to be the opening of a large department store called The Famous Dept Store in downtown Los Angeles. This building still stands today, and is being used as mixed-income housing with ground-floor retail space and a basement parking garage.

imagine a freeway—no, a highway. we call them highways here. imagine a highway, the concrete baking in the sun and a rickety station wagon held together by chewed up bubblegum and a prayer. this could be your car except for the jesus bumper stickers and american flag window decals. this could be your car, but it’s not. you’re renting it for the day. let’s hope you remember how to drive.

imagine a beat up station wagon barreling west at barely legal speeds. that’s you in the driver’s seat. you called shotgun, too. driver-you asks shotgun-you for directions but shotgun-you can’t find the map and thinks that you may have thrown it out when you last emptied the backseat of empty energy drink cans and gluten-free candy bar wrappers. driver-you is mad, real mad, and shotgun-you doesn’t like fighting but driver-you is the poster child of internalized road rage and neither of you can remember how you got here.

imagine you and yourself are speeding down the interstate and neither of you are looking where you’re going. the sun fries your forearms through the windshield. feel-good pop music comes from the stereo. you stopped looking at the road signs weeks ago and now you’re driving yourselves straight off a cliff. where does it lead? neither of you know, but there’s an anchor tied to your ankle and you can’t help but feel that you tied it there yourself.

driver-you and shotgun-you are at the bottom of a ravine. an optimist might call it runner’s up grand canyon but there are no souvenir snow globes here. the car and seating arrangements are gone so your authoritative titles are no longer important. your new name tags are manic and depressive. manic-you tells depressive-you that you should have turned back miles ago and depressive-you sits there staring at the wall. neither of you did this, but both of you did this. you wander through the gorge and pass a billboard that says jesus loves you! (but you don’t love yourself) and you laugh.

church bells ring in the distance and you hear footsteps behind you. you turn to face a bright-eyed missionary with a chickadee glow that even two lonesome strangers can trust. just look at him—his posture makes you want to invite him home and cook him dinner; tell him all your dirty secrets by the fire.

the missionary sets up a makeshift papier-maché confessional and you shuffle into either side as he sits in the middle to mediate between manic-you and depressive-you. there’s a little tussle and only one of you comes out in the end. which one is it?

you realize that you forgot to pack your sunday clothes. that’s okay, he says, you’re home now.

it’s lunchtime and the missionary invites you to a diner in the city just north of the church. you order pancakes with molasses and a tall glass of relief. while you wait for your food, you make a few observations: his eyes remind you of your favorite piece of amber from when you were six years old and you have to be careful, or else you’ll be fossilized; there has been a subtle hum of billie holiday in the air ever since you left the confessional; his neck is smattered by freckle after freckle after freckle, as if michelangelo flicked his brush at the canvas and whispered voilà. your food comes and you try to focus on the clanking of silverware against porcelain and the syrup dripping, dripping, dripping. don’t forget to say grace.

he reaches across the table and touches his hand—trembling, always trembling—to yours without words, without grandeur; with reverence in every fingertip. you want to ask why he’s shaking, but that would make you a hypocrite.

a surprise nor’easter clears the streets while you’re having a night out on the town with the missionary. he is softer with you and the rain melts your nerves like the wicked witch of the west, like holy water by the gallon.

your umbrellas blow away in the wind to god-knows-where so you find shelter under a movie theater marquee. now playing: confession unrefined. he sings to you in a minor and you pass the time by making a show-and-tell game of pandora’s box secrets, cracking open each other’s fortunes and reading them out loud. you are houses of cards built with shaking hands; you walk on quicksand in the soles of your shoes.

you take your coffee indecisive with a shot of ambiguity. flip a coin, pray that plato knew what he was talking about—cross your heart and hope to die, because all are not equal before the eyes of god.

but god forgives, he tells you, so follow the leader.

angels and demons and everything in-between go at it in the pit of your stomach. this is armageddon, in the palm of your hand. you are far from an upright man, but god, are you trying.

square your shoulders, he says, and prepare for winter. square your shoulders—melt the snow before it falls.

every flap of the butterfly’s wings has led up to this: you and the missionary side by side in your allotted spaces with no questions asked. hands do not sing to hands. you clutch at your chest to try and say quiet, do not disturb, but the lights dim and the violins swell and the chorus catches like a cherry pit stuck in your throat (to love another person is to see the face of god), and it’s oceanside cliffs at dawn, and it’s starlight with no light pollution—and it’s enough to make you believe in intelligent design.

—  teleologically speaking // d.p.

Last one before I park it for the night:  this mid-1950s Pontiac is apparently a police car in Pontiac, Michigan.  This photo is definitely from the Jalopy Journal, where reader-submitted photos are often totally devoid of descriptions or sources.  Unfortunately this image isn’t quite sharp enough to be able to read the movie theater marquee on the far left either, but it’s still a kinda fun photo.

Why does it take so long for movies to be released on DVD/Blu Ray after their theatrical run?

It’s economics. I’ll try to keep it very simple.

When a movie comes out, it shares the ticket price money with every theater it is in. That percentage changes every week, but that’s really another topic entirely.

The point is, every week the movie is in theaters, it’s bringing in money. So you want to stay in theaters as long as it’s profitable. While you might only see movies in marquee theaters for a couple weeks, movies will stay in theaters for months at a time. They will just be put on less and less screens, then over to the dollar movie theaters that have to wait until it’s affordable to get a print.

So let’s say a movie is in theaters for 4 months. After that, it’s made all the money it can from theaters, and needs to move on to other mediums. That’s when it gets released on pay per view, home media (BR, DVD), television plays, on demand, digital download, Netflix, amazon…. whatever.

The politics of what format it comes out on first can also influence when you see it in stores.

TL;DR Once a movie is done making money in theaters (can be many months), it gets released to the home market since that is now the only way to continue making money. Studios don’t want you to spend money buying it until you’ve already spent money going to the theater.