I’m glad the place is back in use, but honestly? When the UC Theatre closed its doors in 2001 (for what would be a decade and a half), it felt like a part of my life was over. Sure, now you can go there and see bands and everything, but … dude, if you’re standing in line to get in there at 11:30 on a Saturday night, it’s supposed to be because you’re seeing The Rocky Horror Picture Show (complete with freaky-deaky floor show folks). Not Green Day.
But I feel so displaced every time I drive past the thing.
How many nights did I spend in front of that massive screen? That was where I first saw Apocalypse Now. It was where I first saw Gallipoli and The Last Wave and Les Parapluies de Cherbourg and Repo Man. It was where I saw Tim Curry in fishnets and pearls more times than I can count—the UC played The Rocky Horror Picture Show for a record-setting 22 years. The theater had (has) an unusual U-shaped footprint so that the main auditorium is kind of tucked away in the back—it gave you the sense of something that was much bigger on the inside than it was on the outside.
And it was. That’s where I first saw the films of Ingmar Bergman, Luis Buñuel and Pedro Almodovar, of Roman Polanski and John Waters. With the theater’s dedication to exuberant eclecticism, you might find anything on their calendar. You might end up in front of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Arabian Nights. Or perhaps, Pink Flamingos. Yeah, I’d go on to take some film studies classes in college, but no one had to explain to me what “auteur theory” meant because I learned it in my teens at the UC Theatre. That place was my classroom, as much as any room in my high school. It taught me was “transgressive” really looked like; it taught me about subjectivity and taste and high and low culture and to question whether the distinction had any real meaning. It taught me to value the eclectic—and the eccentric.
That is where I first saw A Clockwork Orange. Where I first saw Picnic at Hanging Rock. Where I first saw Blue Velvet and Eraserhead. It was where I first saw Antonioni and Rossolini, Truffaut and Cocteau.
And it was where I last saw you—you know who you are.
We hadn’t spoken since New Year’s Eve, when you blindside-broke up with me. It was early September, and I still hadn’t gotten through a day where I spent a significant portion of my time thinking about something that wasn’t you. I was with a friend—a friend of yours as well—in the queue for the midnight show. I’m pretty sure it was Frankenhooker. Anyway, I turned around to check out the crowd, and even from halfway down the block that stare of yours was piercing. I asked our friend if I should pretend I hadn’t seen you or go ask you to join us. I’m glad we chose “ask.” You’d changed. I mean, in a good way. You were calm, you smiled a lot. You sat next to me in the back of the UC Theatre and you held my hand. The three of us talked for an hour in the old Firestone lot across the street and by the time I got into my car I had this buoyant feeling I’d forgotten I was capable of. You seemed so happy. I started to hope maybe there was even still a chance for us. Maybe we’d get back together, and things would be better and we’d stay together. I wanted to stay together. I pulled away from the curb and drove home lit up with hope.
I mean, we had no way of knowing what was going to happen. What you were going to do. That you’d already planned it all out. It’s not like you said goodbye or anything. It wasn’t like a movie where there are ending credits to let you know the show’s over.
Amy Glynn is interested in minimalism.