longexposure February 18th, 2013
Abandoned theatres pull at emotional strings on a few levels. As architectural glories of a past age, they’re up there with asylums and rusting industrial curiosities. While the likes of the asylums were deliberately created to exist outside Civilisation, though, theatres were built to be at its heart.
Once upon a time, this immense space was thronging with people, its grand style and lavish decor a point of pride. In a time before television and the internet (gah!), places like this were a vital social hub, and it’s this that particularly strikes a chord. It’s not like these are neglected and forgotten remote locales – these enormous old theatres, at least those that survive, all loom over inner-city landscapes, boarded up and locked away to moulder and decay, the old facades and fire escapes passed by untold people day by day and year by year.
It’s not hard to picture the bustling patronage when the theatre was at its height of popularity slowly dwindling as time passed and the world changed around it. However important a place it might once have been, it gradually lost its social relevance, and, naturally, the flood of money required to operate and maintain facilities.
This particular theatre will be gone inside a year, slated for demolition, and condos (it seems appropriate to use the American term, for an American city) will take its place. There just isn’t the money or interest in an economically-depressed city (which is most of them, these days) to sustain conservation, even when the place is in so remarkably good condition.
That said, there’d be a kind of hypocrisy in bemoaning the lack of preservation too far, when the whole point of seeking these out was to see the neglected social remnants of a past generation. I can’t, after all, say I’ve sought out any active theatres in my travels. I’ll just stay content with the fact that I had the good fortune to see this place while it lasted.