Lines of eager theatergoers snake around the Fairfield Cinema I to see the debut of "Star Wars" in 1977. Click picture to view gallery

Lines of eager theatergoers snake around the Fairfield Cinema I to see the debut of "Star Wars" in 1977. Click picture to view gallery

Local lifestyle columnists

When Fairfield was a movie house mecca

By From page A2 | October 12, 2012

In July 1921, the downtown Fairfield theater opened on the corner of Jackson and North Texas streets where Pepperbellys is now located. The first movie locals chuckled at was Charlie Chaplin’s “The Kid.”

Later dubbed Solano Theater, the movie house was completely remodeled in 1945 and reopened to much local fanfare. In the Pre-Fandango.com 1950s, a schedule of what was playing for the month was delivered to each household in Fairfield.

In 1974, the theater changed from Solano Theater to Fairfield Cinema I and across the street was Fairfield Cinema II (which, unlike the original, did not have a balcony called the smoking loge).

Local residents recall:

Judy Leetham: “In the 1940s it cost 25 cents to get in. It was 5 cents for popcorn, candy or drinks. Serials every Saturday would end at an exciting part leaving us in suspense until the next Saturday. They had onstage talent shows and raffles. My big brother won a girls’ bicycle and gave it to me! Kids could go to the movies alone or with friends. Fairfield was a safe, friendly, small town where nobody was a stranger.”

Andy Cooper: “In 1966, I was 12 and went to the movies almost every weekend no matter what was playing. One Friday night, after the newsreel and cartoons had played, I wandered up to the snack bar for some popcorn. I asked the girl waiting on me what the name of the movie was. Her reply? ‘Khartoum.’ ‘No, the movie,’ I said. ‘What’s the name of the movie?’ Again she replied ‘Khartoum.’ I said ‘Not the cartoon, the movie!’ That’s when she explained that ‘Khartoum’ was the name of the movie! I was embarrassed enough to remember it to this day!”

Trish Jacobs Greene: “The first movie I ever watched there was ‘Jaws’ when I was 5. I don’t know what possessed my parents to take me to that movie at that age! People were jumping and spilling their popcorn and sodas all over the place every time that shark showed up on the screen!”

Lillian Miller: “My first date with my first boyfriend was at Fairfield Cinema I and he was not allowed into the movie because it was rated PG-13 or something and he had to have the theater call his mom to OK him seeing the movie. It really embarrassed him because he was two years older than me but I didn’t get carded.”

In 1970, the twin theaters on North Texas Street (where G&C Auto Body is now located) called the Americana opened and later became known for all-night horror movies, midnight rock ‘n’ roll flicks and even later, cheap movies.

Victor R. Hopkins, Jr.: “All-night horror movies at the Americana Theater; Vincent Price and Boris Karloff. Love those guys! I used to bring a blanket for me and my date to cover up. What happens in the Americana stays in the Americana!”

In October 1979, the Chief multiplex, near Chief Auto movies, opened. It featured . . . wait for it . . . three theaters. Heady stuff. The next year my brother Kelvin and I learned about truth in advertising (or the lack thereof) when we waited two hours outside the multiplex to see a movie called “Kill or Be Killed” breathlessly marketed as “The Greatest Hollywood Martial Arts Movie Ever Made!”

It was horrible.

At the theater on Travis Air Force Base where “The Pink Panther” was playing, some airman, apparently trying to pretend he didn’t come there alone, sat in the traditional/obligatory guy buffer seat between my brother Kelvin and me. The intruder then bellowed laughter like Robert DeNiro’s character Max Cady did in “Cape Fear.”

Dale Palmer had a better experience there.

Dale Palmer: “I went to see ‘Willy Wonka’ in 1971 at the Travis AFB Theater. During intermission, the theater manager announced a drawing for a personal chocolate factory which included bulk chocolate, different chocolate bar molds and wrappers, golden tickets to stuff in them and a few other shapes, which included Oompa Loompas. The manager called out the ticket number and I won! It would take a $10,000 lotto win to capture half that feeling today.”

Fairfield writer Tony Wade at [email protected]

Tony Wade

Tony Wade

Tony Wade is the slightly older yet infinitely more handsome brother of long-time DR columnist Kelvin Wade

Discussion | 1 comment

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  • CarolJanuary 25, 2013 - 11:57 pm

    The Solano Theater was my childhood hangout! I remember MANY Sat. afternoons in that place. Will they rebuild??

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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