Elizabeth Taylor has died. But the moviegoing experience she embodied died long before her.
If you grew up with multiplexes it may be almost impossible for you to imagine the way a trip to the movie was once an American brush with affordable glamour. It started with their names. The Roxy. The Majestic. The Grand. The Rialto. Their exteriors were architecturally exotic starting with the early Beaux-Arts facades. Their marquees lit up the streets of American downtowns and their lobbies were intentionally plush and lavish. It was part of the American dream. If you could scrape up 25 or 50 cents, you could live like a swell for two hours. Inside the theater, as John Updike wrote, was that "instant when the orange side lights, Babylonian in design were still lit, the curtain was still closed" and one heard "that delicate promissory whir" of the projector. Today theaters are different. Leave your comments below, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or Tweet us @wnprcolin. (Note: this intro is heavily indebted to the book "The Show Starts on the Sidewalk" by Maggie Valentine, published by Yale Press.) ***This episode originally aired March 23, 2011***