The Lobby Guys
Over the past month, I’ve been completing our movie room (eventually, that’ll get a post of its own, but there’s still some finishing touches in the offing). Pam and I like calling it the movie room more than just referring to it as a home theatre, but that’s basically what we’ve got going. It’s more for our nephews than for us, I think, but the ability to screen films in full surround sound 8 feet high by ten feet wide is pretty cool.
Recently, the kids have become interested in B-movies. When they first heard the term, they didn’t really understand what it meant. So, they got a bit of a history lesson, and I set up a double-feature so we could show ‘em one while also picking a film that wouldn’t drive my sister from the house screaming.
It doesn’t matter what we screened. The double-feature, especially for kids who’re 12 and going on 14, is all-but extinct. Sure, maybe once in a while a sequel will be released and a theatre will put it together with the first flick and charge an arm and a leg for the experience, but that’s rare. My Mom, though, remembers when the double-feature was the norm, and has been sharing memories with the kids of what it was like when every time you went to the movies, you got the double dip.
So, when putting together Movie Nite, I had Pam go online and look for a staple of double-feature screenings, and one I remember from the drive-in (yep, there were still drive-ins early on in my movie-going years). I knew the kids would get a kick out of it, because it was something they first saw as a Christmas gift I’d given Pam the year before.
Yep, those are the dancing concessions, now immortalized in sign form, which grace the spot over the entry doors to our movie room. The kids had never seen those guys in action, though ’til B-movie night over at the Cape Coral Argo.
I first saw the Let’s All Go to the Lobby concessions promo during a showing of The Shootist and Three Days of the Condor in 1976. I was six and sis was three, and she’d already fallen asleep by the time Dad drove us to the Sunrise Drive-In on Sunrise Highway in Valley Stream for a night out with Mom. I managed to hang in there through The Shootist, but was out cold about ten minutes into Three Days of the Condor, which I’m sure was much more than they expected me to see, but oh well, best laid plans and all.
During intermission, though. I know this promo was ancient even then, but it was the coolest animation I’d ever seen. Dancing hot dogs and popcorn? An anamorphic soda cup enticing people to go grab snacks while others made the mad rush to the rest rooms? That was as cool as the trailers, and before double-features gave up the ghost and became a thing of the past, I got to see that little piece of film history from the back seat of Dad’s Ford LTD, parked at the drive-in, live.
Flash forward 37 years. 2013 at my home and what did I make sure Pam could put onto a DVD for us? Yep, that same intermission staple. The kids had never experienced it. I don’t think my sister remembers a thing from the Sunrise Drive-in, but she’d probably seen it before somewhere else. Who knows, perhaps in a movie where a movie was being shown. Grease, maybe.
The dancing candy and popcorn, the singing concessions, that friendly honeyed voice encouraging you to take a trip to the lobby… there were a lot of those back in the ’50s and ’60s, and I’m sure every chain had their own. Helpful ushers (remember ushers?), pointing their flashlights toward the smiling girl behind the popcorn machine as steam rose and fresh kernels spilled into the glass cabinet? Heck yeah, there were lots of them.
Here are some we found, including the one that I’ll remember as long as I live. I feel great having been able to actually show my nephews something like this in a setting they’ll remember. And the signs? Well, my wife was practically jumping up and down when she first saw those guys. For her they’re history as much as home décor.
For me? They’re just cool. And always have been.
The original ad was animated in 1953, and featured four products: gum, soda, popcorn and candy.
Collection of Intermission Ads from the 1960s: