Saturday, December 17, 2011
The Magic of the Princess Theater
I am proud to present this guest post from Jerry Lemons. Not only does it give insight into what our Princess means to him and others in the area, it also gives us a little understanding of why Jerry loves acting. If you haven't caught him in a Roane State production, maybe you will get another opportunity to see him perform on the stage of this beloved Princess Theatre soon!
A note from the author (Jerry Lemons): The following article was written by me in 1993 while the Princess Theater was still in operation. Given that the Princess has been restored and will soon be opened, I thought it appropriate that the following article be posted...
There aren't many of them left: the old-time movie theaters, ornate and adorned, yet muted and intimate, with a stage and staircases leading up to a balcony.
Most movie theaters today are sleek, plastic, sterile affairs, totally lacking style, grace, atmosphere--and a stage and a balcony. They are completely contemporary, possessing no history, no past, no magic.
No, there aren't many of those cinema palaces remaining, and the day will probably come when there aren't any left. But until that time comes, there is the Princess Theater.
For as long as I can remember, I've had a love affair with the Princess. That love affair began in the 1950s, when I was just a little kid. Once a week, on Saturdays, I would make a trip to Harriman and go to the Princess. I would enter that majestic building, and it was as if I had entered another world, a world of fantasies and dreams. I would sit in a soft-cushioned seat with a bag of popcorn tucked between my knees and a Coke in my hand, look up at the big wide screen, and for a few hours I would be transported; I would look through a window upon a magical world.
It has changed but little.
Although I no longer make weekly trips to the movies, when I do go to the Princess I have just about the same feeling I had as a kid.
That's because the Princess Theater is a place of magic, a "field of dreams," a very special, wonderful and unique place. In the whole of Roane County there is only one real magical place--and that is the Princess.
As it is, the Princess Theater is registered with the state as a historical place, and well it should be, for it is one of the few old-time movie theaters still operating.
The origin of the first Princess is shrouded in a kind of mystery. There are different accounts of when a movie theater first opened on the site of the present day Princess Theater.
According to Cecil Johnson, present manager of the Princess, "The first Princess Theater burned in 1938 or '39, and it was rebuilt on the same location. I don't know how long the theater was there before it burned."
According to Mr. Johnson, "There haven't been any major changes in the Princess Theater itself; the changes have been in the movies made and in the number of movie theaters in Roane County. The Princess is the only one left, and even though it's the only movie theater left in the county, we haven't raised our ticket prices in ten years."
When I asked Mr. Johnson if he could foresee a time when there wouldn't be any movie theaters, he answered "No. People will always want to get out, go to a theater and watch a film."
That's probably true, and movie theaters will most likely continue to operate. But I wonder...
Will all those theaters be sleek, sterile, lacking in style, grace, atmosphere, possessing no history, no past, no magic? Will the day come when there aren't any old-time movie theaters--the kind that are ornate and adorned, yet muted and intimate, with a stage and staircases leading up to a balcony?
But until that time comes, there is a place of magic in Roane County, a field of dreams. There is the Princess Theater.