For some reason I feel the need to talk about the movie theater I grew up with. This picture of Clayton Post Theater was taken in 1933 but it hasn’t aged a day. This is where I hung around, checking out posters, watching all the crap they put out in the 80s. The staff was lazy so it was very easy to sneak in, or hide in the bathroom for a second showing of Rumble in the Bronx. There were always massive crowds since it was the only theater around. Son, I remember when the line for Teen Wolf went halfway down the block. The screams of preteen rapture as Michael J Fox lifts his head into that first frame. I saw Roger Rabbit seven times in this place. The projectionist had to walk up that exterior staircase to run the films. When I was young I used to idolize him, wondering what sort of magic went on up there (I should mention that I was an only child with an insatiable imagination). As I grew older, whenever I saw the projectionist , that was my cue to hop over the staircase and into the theater. I saw damn near every film they screened.
We usually got the films long after they had their run in the US, and at that point I had no idea what was coming. Before the internet could tell me everything, I had to rely on the posters to see what was coming the following week. Single screen theater that alternated 2 films a week, 2 to 3 screenings a day, and a matinee on the weekends. We had very little exposure to current affairs outside Panama, let alone movie magazines. To describe the general atmosphere of Panama in the late 70s, I can only compare it to America in the 1950s. A little settlement of Americana, nestled in a jungle of poverty and corruption. The Canal Zone, the end result of a century of silent occupation. The Zonians, generations old, had made it their own Norman Rockwell tropical paradise. Jimmy Carter had secured the country back to its people in 1979, ending the Canal Zone Treaty, gradually decreasing occupational forces and redistributing the land back to Panama. That process took over 20 years, long after I had left the country to go the Uni. But I digress.
My earliest memory of the Post theater is possibly Return of the Jedi. But I can clearly remember every Freddy Kruger flick, Alien sequel, Coens’ Raising Arizona (which my father took me to thinking it was about the raising of a ship). There was a ritual at the theater to talk back to the dated intro they ran before every film. Like a mild-mannered Rocky Horror. Just as the neon font would flash “Shhhhhh,” they whole theater would exhale in unison. I later discovered that yelling out an appropriately timed “it” would have humorous effects. Whenever there was film that name-dropped “Panama” the entire theater would explode in approval, regardless that it came from the villain in his final monologue. I remember Witness being my first R rated movie, and that it bored the hell out of me. Usually after I saw a film I would go home and immediately try to build whatever I saw from the flick. Living next to a jungle was the perfect place to play after seeing Goonies and Indiana Jones for the first time. Once more theaters were built it was easy to see a film multiple times as it went around the circuit. I managed to see Pulp Fiction a dozen times the month it came out. It’s been 15 years since I left Panama and the few times I’ve visited it was unrecognizable. Now there are malls and multiplexes, and internet streaming just like everywhere else in the world. But the theater remains. There’s just more crap around it.