It was inevitable, I suppose, that the Circle Cinemas in Cleveland Circle would be put out of its misery. The theater never seemed not to be on its last leg. But the remarkable thing was how no one employee there seemed to mind or notice. The incongruity always broke my heart: The nicest, most efficient men and women worked at one of the worst places to watch a movie. Most of the houses at the Cleveland were like airless caves colored in sea foam, and the movie was the literal light at the end of a tunnel.
I remember a lot of what I watched there -- "Eurotrip" a few years ago, "Fred Claus" last winter, "Frontière(s)" this spring -- half because what I saw was indelible in its way (the two other people at my Saturday afternoon showing of "Frontière(s)" and I left feeling like survivors of something powerfully awful), half because the theater kept insinuating itself.
Not only did the chairs squeak, they put you absurdly low to the ground; or at least that's how it seemed. The sound of shoes unsticking themselves from the floor always made me want to see who was headed across the row and up the aisle. And if we're being honest, the average Cleveland Circle client came in two flavors: college kid and crazy. Which, of course, raises a serious concern regarding homeless moviegoers. As far as I could tell, bustling attendance was never the theater's strong suit. But the clientele seemed loyal, even if only as a consequence of proximity. "Superbad" was always playing across the screen. Now where will the kids go to watch its not-so-secret sequel, "Pineapple Express"? Where, when something ends as bananas yet banal as "300," will they stand to contemplate the bananality of it all? Certainly not that expanse of windows that overlooks Brookline. Not anymore.
On several late afternoons, I've stood there on the second level, just before that long, long ramp brings you back to the lobby, and squinted out of one of those windows, past the blinding sun, to contemplate the meaning of whatever it was I just saw. The last time I was there I turned around and notice the upstairs lobby and how the sunlight managed to liberate it from that dumpy place in my brain. The last time I saw it looked like a palace.
(The excellent photo is by Joe Laskowski.)