The Little Theater

This scene is an inside joke for my family. Basically, anything we refer to as “little” winds up getting Tom Hanks’ high-pitched treatment.

This clip also reminds me of the Pleasant Street Theater in Northampton, Massachusetts, which is closing its doors today. The theater and its adjacent video store were some of my favorite and most frequented sites when I lived in Northampton 1999-2001. Almost every movie I saw during those two years was shown there. I loved the freedom of walking or biking to the theater, especially on a weekend night. It was a nice escape from my job at Smith College, which wasn’t making me very happy at the time. And it was an opportunity to get out into a community space, since I often felt isolated and alone on the campus.

The theater was pretty small. As the Executive Director of the theater states, “This is not about film. People love film in the (Pioneer) Valley. The question is, what is the best place to present independent film. And Pleasant Street is physically very limited.” For the first year I went there, I had no idea it had two screens. The main screen I knew was on the street-level entrance, and it was small compared to most theaters, with what seemed like 80 to 100 seats. But there was another screen downstairs for limited showings and audiences. The first time I heard about it, I was buying a ticket to go see THE FILTH AND THE FURY (Temple, 2000) when the clerk told me it was in the little theater downstairs. “The little theater?!” I croaked, unintentionally mirroring Hanks in my complete astonishment. “How much littler can it get?” I thought.

And little it truly was. It had less than twenty seats, something like six on one side, nine on the other, arranged in little rows with one aisle between, with the screen looking like a large-screen TV set in the wall in someone’s rec room. That said, the space was really nice and cozy, well-designed and well-constructed. I immediately loved it and from then on secretly hoped that every film I went to see there would be in the little theater.

That was about three years before I decided to go back to graduate school to complete my Ph.D. in Film and Media Studies, but my love for that kind of experience was part of what convinced me that this is what I needed to do. Thanks, Pleasant Street, and thanks, little theater. You’ll live on in my love for this work and in my family lore.

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