Remembering The Buena Vista Theaterby Tyler Woods on Sep. 22, 2009, under Life
I was driving on Wilmot, near Broadway, the other day and saw a new, bland, beige-colored, generic hotel standing where my favorite theater once stood. I remember the lines that once surrounded the old Buena Vista like a people blanket, and it got me thinking (here we go yet again).
The Buena Vista Theater was what I called a landmark in my life. It was the place to go as a child and see great movies for cheap. The theater was large. You know the kind where you could run out of breath by the time you ran up and down the red carpet a few times. It was big inside. Not like the cram ‘em and jam ‘em theaters now.
In fact, the Buena Vista Theatre opened in 1967. What a year to open! Cool Hand Luke, The Graduate, Bonnie and Clyde, The Dirty Dozen were some of the top movies at the time. I recall going to see Jungle Book the first year it opened. Back then you got a bang for your buck because you normally got a double feature or at least a bit of cartoons in the beginning.
On Saturdays, my mother used to give me and my sister or my cousin a couple bucks, drop us off in the front of the theater with a bagful of candy and come and get us three hours later. Those Saturdays were what childhood memories were made of. Tummy aches, hyper on candy, and exhausted from running around all day in the theater, but gosh darn it we had fun.
Sometimes the lines wrapped around the building on Friday and Saturday nights. The expansion of the Buena Vista to a twin theater took place in 1972, when a second auditorium seating 554 was added. In those days that was a lot of people in a single theater. It also meant more lines. We didn’t mind; it was a convenient place to go grab a flick.
I went to the Buena Vista on many of my dates between the years 1976-1978. I remember seeing A Star is Born on a date and thought it was so cool that parts of this movie was filmed in Az. I had a mini-crush on Robby Benson after I saw Ode to Billy Joe and had to crap scared out of me watching the Omen. Of course, one of my first highs happened in that theater when I watched The Song Remains the Same, all in 1976.
Sadly, the Buena Vista closed in late 1997 or early 1998. Driving by it became a painful memory because it started looking so old and dingy. It still stood though and with that I always felt that my childhood memories were still stored in that old building.
Driving past it this week, I told my spouse, “That hotel is built on sacred grounds.” To me it is, but what I realized is you can put up all the ugly hotels you want, my memories are kept safe right here in my heart and in my mind.
What’s your favorite memory of this theater?