Saturday, May 06, 2006

Popcorn Riot at the Capri, circa 1971

Story time: I think it was around the beginning of Christmas break in 1971 when an ad went out that Place's (the dime store next to Safeway at 42nd and University) was giving away free tickets to kids for a movie to be shown at the Capri, right across the street, as a holiday treat. Free popcorn and pop came with the deal. All you had to do was go to Place's, get your ticket, and go.

I did--to see something called "Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows", which was the 1968 sequel to a Hayley Mills film, "The Trouble With Angels". The plot involved teenage nuns running amok at the St. Francis convent--why someone thought this might appeal to a pre-teen, not-necessarily-Catholic crowds, I'm not sure. (But hey--it hadn't been too long since someone else had thought "The Flying Nun" was a good idea.)

The place was packed. Nuns or no, a free movie was a free movie. And trouble followed: the kids (except me and my friend John) were going berserk, screaming, jumping up and down on the seats, chasing each other up and down the aisles and stairs. A kid from my third grade class, who always played the part of the tough guy, was making full use of his free popcorn--initiating a full-on popcorn-throwing battle with a friend of his I'd never seen before. I don't remember any attempt by the management to try and calm things down--not that they really could have. The mania was too widespread.

Then: the movie. Old nuns, teen nuns, and a school bus paraded across the screen--the only thing I remember was that they mounted a pair of steer horns on the bus' hood at one point. (Such unbridled nunnity!) Strangely, the crowd actually settled down and watched the show without further melee. And two hours later, we left, blinking in Saturday afternoon light--leaving the poor Capri the dirtiest I'd ever seen it. None of us ever talked about it again. And--if I recall rightly--Place's and the Capri never held another free movie there again.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Meanwhile, Further Down 8th Street

Just down a couple blocks from the Empress, the Orpheum was not only running its own slate of vaudeville, but also (according to the small print) offering up the news of the world in that newfangled techonological wonder, the Kinogram.

Live at the Empress

An ad from the Des Moines Capitol newspaper, from when the Empress was predominantly running live vaudeville before becoming a movie house for the rest of its run. (You'll recall it ended up as the Galaxy.)

Note that the meager prices "include war tax"--World War I, that is.