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Not just a movie theater

  • Published
  • By Greg Hoffeditz
  • Base Theater
Sure, to some it was just a place you went to see a movie; to get some popcorn, candy, and a soda pop. For others, though, it was much more. The movie theater at Scott Air Force Base may have closed its doors for the last time, but it will forever be full of memories. There were the Saturday afternoon matinees of Walt Disney classics, swooning movies of Elvis Presley, escapades of Butch and Sundance, sci-fi battles of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, musicals such as Grease, and the shenanigans of the Apple Dumpling Gang. It was the place you went to for family time. Or quite possibly, it was where you took that special someone on your very first date.

For veterans and their families, especially those who served before the 21st Century, the closure represents yet another piece of military tradition gone by the wayside. I mean, where else can you go to watch a flick, but before you do, you proudly stand at attention as the National Anthem is played and scenes of what makes America great flash on the screen?

On Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012, 175 patrons entered the theater one final time to see "Wreck-It Ralph," and to stand at attention beforehand. The picture was the last reel-to-reel, 35mm film to be projected onto the 40-year-old facility's "big silver screen." Maybe people came for the extremely cheap, at least by today's standards, tickets that sold for only one dollar, or to see an awesome animated feature.

Many of the adults, however, came not merely to see images flicker across the screen--sometimes going out of focus, and sometimes losing sound due to the historical equipment still used for modern films--they came to remember. They came to be part of their own small piece of history and to reminisce about the good old days when you didn't have to leave the base to take your family to see a movie.

But, there has been a shift in the way in people watch movies today, forcing the Exchange to shut down this once revenue-producing facility. The digital age is here, and with the multitude of other entertainment options in the local area, the base theater could not bring in the revenues needed to make the transition to a 21st century cinema logical and feasible.

For Mike Petrovich and his mom, the closing has greater meaning. It signifies the end of a special chapter in their lives; a chapter that began the day the facility held its grand opening in 1972. Skyjacked, starring Charlton Heston and James Brolin, was the movie they came to see on that day. The Petrovich's never dreamed forty years later they would also witness the last picture to be shown. As he recanted his memories of that day, Mike showed other patrons his personal piece of Scott AFB history, the carefully preserved copy of the theater's grand opening ceremony program he has kept for four decades.