The movies figure prominently in my personal history – or at least, movie theatres do. For decades, family members ran two of the three local drive-ins. I’m just one of many cousins that count working the concession stand as one of my earliest jobs (my first, in fact!) Later, I’d work at the sole movie theatre at the time in Elliot Lake ON. (it appears the current version has two screens – I’d love to know when that happened!)
Because of this, and as a member of the last generation to meet the movies in a theatre – proscenium, curtain, balcony – as opposed to the multi-plex, I was pleasantly surprised to be introduced to this little gem during my trip to Ottawa last month.
According to its website, the Mayfair Theatre opened in 1932 and has never been owned by, or affiliated with, a major chain. My daughter and I visited on a Saturday evening – J. Edgar, starring Leonardo Dicaprio was playing. We were the first customers of the evening; all told, there might have been 20 in the audience by showtime. I didn’t really take any pictures as we weren’t sure of the policy on that, and I’d already been admonished by a security guard in the Glebe for taking a picture inside the Fifth Avenue Court.
But oh! Did it take me back! The decor is classic movie house; glamourous and comfortable at the same time. It leaves you with the feeling that going to the movies is an “event.” So often now, between multiplexes and Netflix, there seems to be nothing special or unique about the act of watching a movie. But there should be.
And the best thing was the conversations it sparked between my daughter and I about what going to the movies used to be like. In addition to working tales and drive-in memories, I reminisced about the theatres my own hometown used to have – the Centre, the Park, the Palace.
I like the set-up at the Mayfair; if I were an Ottawa citizen, I’d definitely be buying a membership. On Oscar night, the theatre featured a live telecast for members, complete with liquor licence. What a night that must have been!
For anyone visiting Ottawa, if you’re looking for a break from the museums and parks, the Mayfair is a nice “something different” and the cost is reasonable. You can see what’s playing and when on their website. Go check it out!
P.S. Sadly, I can’t wax poetic about the movie itself. J. Edgar was not well written, nor was it well acted. And the makeup was awful. Two thumbs down.