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Popcorn, jungles and squashy aliens...

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My memories of the State Theater

By Becca Owsley

 

By BECCA OWSLEY bowsley@thenewsenterprise.com When I was a little girl, my parents took me on a great adventure into my imagination. They took me to the movies. I saw my very first movie at the State Theatre, which we now call the Historic State Theater. The movie was “The Jungle Book." The lights flickered onto the screen and suddenly I was transported into a cartoon rendition of the jungles of India. It was from that classic Disney movie that my dog, Baloo, got his name. While my mother told me I spend most of the time running up and down the aisles, I still remember seeing the movie there, so I must have watched it at one point. There was another Disney flick, “The Unidentified Flying Oddball,” playing that night as well — back in the day of double features. I also remember seeing one of the Muppet movies there. Unfortunately I lost my little beaded purse I had purchased on a trip to Gatlinburg that night. It wasn’t one of my happier movie experiences. But then, in 1982, I saw a movie at the State that has captured my imagination ever since. It is the first movie I can remember getting to see twice at the theater. The first time I went with a bunch of kids from church. The second time, with my family. We stood in line outside the theater for tickets in a lightening storm. In fact, my brother’s memory of the night includes almost getting struck by lighting while waiting in line. That night, the church across the street, now housing Helping Hand, was struck by lighting. The movie was “E.T.” I was captivated by the story of a boy and his friendship with a squashy little alien. As a confession, I left a trail of Reese’s Pieces many times to see if E.T. would visit me. While “Star Wars” always will remain my all-time favorite movie, “E.T.” holds a very special place in my heart. It was the first movie that made me want to create a story of my own. It inspired me to take hold of my imagination and take a story further than what I saw on screen. It is an adventure I never stopped taking. I have remained a Steven Spielberg fan long after seeing “E.T.” Sadly, “E.T.” was also the last movie I was able to see at the State. “E.T.” was her last hurrah as a first run movie theater. It, along with many other old theaters, was replaced by several generations of multiplexes and tiny screens. The experience has never been the same …until now. With the reopening of the Historic State Theater, the old-time movie experience is alive once again. The theater will no longer sit empty and dark, home to only ghosts and memories. The fresh smell of popcorn and melted butter will fill the lobby as patrons fill the theater and once again are reminded of what it means not just to go to a movie, but to have a movie experience. I have enjoyed many films since the ones I saw at the State, but none match the memory of seeing a film in an old theater with neon signs bright on the marquee. It is an experience I can’t wait to enjoy again. Becca Owsley can be reached at (270) 505-1741.