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Spring Valley Theaters, Two Notch Road: 1980s   22 comments

Posted at 6:10 pm in Uncategorized

The Spring Valley Theaters were on Two Notch Road near I-20, where the Lowes now is. In order to build the place, they first tore down The Dreamland Motel, one of the stalwart US-1 motels, and where both my sister and I had swimming lessons once upon a time. I'm not sure why the place got the "Spring Valley" tag. Certainly it was closer to Spring Valley than, say, The Statehouse, was but "closer" isn't "close".

I know we saw a number of films at the theater, but one in particular stands out in my mind. It was 1977, and I was 16 years old. I finally had my unrestricted license, and I could drive by myself and at night. My pure unbridled freedom was marred only by my total lack of money, and my total lack of a car.

Earlier in the day, I had been listening to the radio. I'm not sure which station it was. I was still listening to WIS a good bit, but I had discovered rock & roll in 1976, so it could have been WNOK. Whichever it was, they were running a call-in contest. I used to try these quite often, and won several. (I won a ride on the first run of the Thunder Road roller coaster at Carowinds, a chance to meet Foreigner backstage, tickets to see The Beach Boys and a couple of free meals).

This particular contest was for tickets to a sneak-preview of a new science fiction movie, one I had never heard of. I had enjoyed written science fiction for years, and had seen my share of SF movies, both first run and on TV. I guess the "biggies" were 2001, which was visualy impressive, but ponderous and confusing, Silent Running, which was visually impressive but based on a silly concept and The Planet of the Apes movies which were less effect laden, but more fun. As it happened, I was caller number five, and I talked my parents into letting me drive myself to the show. So, I was out tooling around Two Notch in our 1972 Comet coupe and having a good time, actually getting to use the headlights as the sun went down.

I got over to the Spring Valley Theaters, showed my ID which was checked against a namelist (I think -- I'm a bit fuzzy on that), and went on in. I didn't have any money to buy popcorn or a drink, so I just went in and sat down. I also didn't have any great expectations and from what I could tell, the other winners didn't either, but I was quite prepared to have a good time, and to not be in any hurry driving home.

Of course the movie was Star Wars. I had never seen anything like it -- nobody there had. It's hard to remember what movies were like in the 70s, but "fun" was optional and present in a fairly small subset. Take a movie like The Great Waldo Pepper which should have been fun what with the chances for stunts and dogfights, but decided to go another way.

This film had the effects of 2001 -- heck it had better effects than 2001! -- and decided to be fun! I had never heard an audience applaud at the end of a film before, but they did, and I did too. Leaving the theater, I knew this film was going to be huge, and in fact after it opened, it was weeks before you could get a ticket. Not only was Star Wars a bright spot in the decade of stagflation, but it totally changed the way we see movies by paving the way for "the summer blockbuster". Now, that has had good effects and bad ones, but I sure wouldn't want to go back to "70s" films!

I forget exactly when the place was torn down. I believe it was the 80s, but it could have been the 90s, I suppose. At the time, Columbia was over-theatered, so it wasn't a painful loss, but I'll never forget that night!

Written by ted on August 21st, 2008

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