It’s time to see movies in person again

One of the greatest things about Lake Placid is that it is truly not only a real New York town, but it is truly an authentic American town where the arts and going to the movies matter. Small town movie theaters, playhouses, and the arts are the linchpins of towns like Lake Placid across America, and movie theaters across America have only recently reopened since the coronavirus pandemic.

According to Bloomberg News, almost two years into the coronavirus pandemic, about 630 movie theaters remain closed across North America. And many may never reopen. Further, COVID-19 has accelerated trends that preceded the pandemic, with major films today becoming available online far sooner than in the past and moviegoing already on the decline. While Americans are again jamming football stadiums and theme parks, theater attendance is recovering only slowly from last year’s industry-wide shutdown.

Morning Consult’s Return to Normal tracker and a recent survey have some good news and some bad news for the theatrical business. The good news is that U.S. consumers say they feel increasingly comfortable returning to theaters following the pandemic. The bad news is that much of the remaining hesitance to return to theaters has little to do with COVID-19. That said, movie theaters are a pivotal contributor to economic recovery. The National Independent Venue Association estimates that for every $1 spent on tickets, a total of $12 of economic activity is generated. Further, going to the movie theater is an experience unrivaled by sitting at home to watch a movie.

Serving as a hub of entertainment in this small town nestled in the majestic Adirondack Mountains, the Palace Theater in Lake Placid is a historic theater whose doors thankfully remain open, welcoming theatergoers daily and nightly. In 1926, Lake Placid business leaders decided that the town needed a first-run theater to attract visitors. According to Smithsonian Magazine, “the Clark family spared no expense, outfitting the venue with a stage and proscenium, and installing a Robert Morton pipe organ that still attracts aficionados. But the Clarks made sure to hold onto the details that made the Palace so distinctive when it opened. A large fireplace sits behind the concession stand, and the lobby boasts hand-stenciled designs that evoke patterns from the 1920s.” Films are screened twice a night year-round, with weekend matinees in the winter and daily matinees in the summer. Tickets are a bargain by anyone’s standards: $10 for adults at night, and $8 for children. Who can beat that!?

The Palace is a cornerstone of Lake Placid’s Main Street, and a symbol of Main Streets and towns like Lake Placid across America. Throughout my own life visiting and living in Lake Placid, I have seen major motion pictures at this very special venue including “Superman,” “Presumed Innocent,” “Working Girl,” “Jaws,” “E.T.,” “Titanic,” and yes, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” I have also been privileged to work with our family friend Kathleen Carroll, who is the former film critic of the New York Daily News, and the founder of the Adirondack Film Society and the Lake Placid Film Forum (now the Lake Placid Film Festival) — a much smaller version of what happens at Sundance, Cannes, and Toronto each year. One year, I was lucky enough to be the point person at the Forum to work with Hollywood notables Kyra Sedgwick, Campbell Scott, Patricia Clarkson, and my old friend’s dad — Cliff Robertson. I also had the honor of speaking at the Palace several times following the screenings of Steven Spielberg’s “Bridge of Spies” where Tom Hanks plays my grandfather, Cold War attorney James B. Donovan, a longtime seasonal resident of Lake Placid.

Anyone who visits Lake Placid now also may not be aware of a second movie theater that was a fixture in this town, though it has been closed now for years: the Holiday Harbor at the Marina. The “Harbor” theater was where I saw my very first movie about everyone’s ideal nanny Mary Poppins with everyone’s ideal nanny of the movies, Julie Andrews. I also remember seeing “Urban Cowboy,” “Poltergeist,” and “St. Elmo’s Fire” at the Harbor the summer before I went to the school of that film’s focus: Georgetown University. Needless to say, it served as a fitting send-off and still serves as a symbolic reminder of the friendships from Georgetown that continue to be my “St. Elmo’s Fire” — for life.

In 2014, I saw a front-running film for the Oscars at the Palace: “American Sniper.” The experience of seeing this important film surrounded by history and community in a historic and beautiful theater made the overall experience and the significance of this film that much more meaningful. But theaters like this throughout the North Country and towns across America — as well as multiplexes in cities across America — are struggling to survive. It is so critical to the North Country communities — and communities across America — that these venues stay alive for so many reasons including keeping the community of film and theater alive and vital, keeping history alive and vital, and providing a source of reasonably priced first-class entertainment for children, adults, and families. Please support our small town theaters and the movie-going experience: It’s about more than just seeing the movie alone. It’s an authentic American experience certainly not found at home streaming on Netflix. Though we know that Netflix and its streaming service companions are not going away, I hope that we continue to make “going to the movies” part of our mainstream culture.

This summer, I saved my own return to the movie theater for the Palace when I went to see “Top Gun Maverick” — the cinematic experience of the season. And what an experience it was, not only because it is a fantastic movie, but also because I got to watch it at the Palace, not streaming at home. There is nothing like seeing a movie in the theater on the big screen with an audience and no distractions. So go back to the movies. It’s an authentic, one-of-a-kind experience that moves and stirs the mind, body and soul, particularly at the Palace Theater in Lake Placid.

— — —

Beth Amorosi is a seasonal resident of Lake Placid, a writer and president of AMO Communications.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $4.75/week.

Subscribe Today