Wednesday, July 18, 2012


The panel discussion at the Stateside Theater last night was terrific. There was a very good crowd on hand to hear stories about the history of Austin movie theaters. The Austin History Center is to be commended for their terrific exhibit, The First Picture Shows, which is still on display through mid-August at the center. They put together a nice little introductory film to start the evening and then the panelists got to speak and share their memories and stories of working in the movie theater business.

The four men on stage were Jay Podolnick, Jim Malloy, Steve Wilson and John Stewart. They have worked as projectionists, ushers, theater managers and in other capacities in the business over the last 50+ years, mostly all here in Austin. Stewart is the current projectionist at the Paramount, Malloy (91-years-young!) worked for years at practically every theater in town but did his longest stint at the old Austin Theater on South Congress, Wilson managed the late and much missed Varsity Theater on The Drag and Podolnick's parents owned the Trans-Texas theater chain which included the crown jewel of Austin's mid-century movie palaces, The Americana Theater. At one point, the esteemed Paul Beutel, whom I've had the pleasure of knowing and working with for a number of years, came up on stage to share an especially great story about the Paramount Theatre.

The bottom line is that if you were a baby boomer in Austin and ever went to the movies (and who didn't?), you probably sat in a theater and enjoyed a movie while one of these men ran a projector, took your ticket, showed you to your seat or just made sure that you had a quality film going experience.

For that, and so much more, they have my undying gratitude and thanks. They are all honorable men who have done honorable work over many years, work that has gone uncredited and unacknowledged (except when something went wrong in the booth). Gentlemen, I thank each and every one of you from the bottom of my heart. You made growing up in Austin and going to the movies something special and unforgettable. I will always remember the theaters and the films I've seen over the years. Now, I can remember the men who showed me those treasures.

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