The Strand Twin is closing, and thus ends the most longstanding tradition of my life. Prestonsburg has seen a number of institutions of nostalgia close over the years. Earlier this year, the Jerry’s restaurant closed it’s doors to the public, following such mainstays as the Sundry Store and Fountain Corner into the realm of folksy tales of a by gone era.
So it goes with the the Strand Twin.
Two of the most memorable moments of my early childhood were set against the backdrop of the location. Riding up to the Strand Twin on the back of my brothers motorcycle, the neon lights ablaze with two gigantic words plastered upon the marquee. STAR WARS. A year or two later, I would be ushered out of that same theater to be notified of his untimely passing. A microcosm of life’s highs and lows.
The Strand was my second home. Growing up in Prestonsburg, my ticket to a far away world of excitement and adventure was punched every Tuesday on buck nite. My childhood home was roughly a block and a half from the movies. It was a place my parents knew I would be reasonably safe, and occupied for at least two hours. To say I went to the movies a lot as a youngster is putting it mildly.
I can legitimately boast that I saw “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” nine times at the Strand Twin. Before the video age you saw a good movie in a theater as many times as possible because there was no telling when or if you would ever get to see it again. No dolby surround sound, or digital projection; but still the grandness of it all in my recollections was something that can’t be matched in any of today’s IMAX cinemas. Double features, back when minimal costs allowed for such extravagance, were a regular occurrence. I often took in a Sunday matinee only to waltz back in for a seven o’clock showing. It was a time of innocence, when the ratings system was more of a guide that was often ignored by the friendly faces in the ticket window, at least for my benefit. I don’t recall ever being turned away from a R-rated movie.
On Friday nights, barring a football game, the Strand Twin was the gathering spot for the youth of Prestonsburg where popcorn fights, and stolen kisses in those shadowy back corner seats were the order of business; before we all tuned each other out to focus on text messaging and Facebook updates.
To me, the colossal achievements in cinema making that I witnessed in the Strand Twin are on even par with some of the most horrendous movies ever made. (Space Hunter 3D) In truth, I probably have more fond memories of the bad movies I saw there, as a testament of my loyalty to the business.
But in the spring of 2012 the business changed. The business model no longer worked. The theatre went dark throughout the week, only opening it’s doors on weekends. It was only a matter of time before the inevitable occurred. On January 6, the cinema will close for good, barring the intervention of some well intentioned wealthy do-gooder.
The Strand Twin Theatre will be missed by many in the community. Its darkened auditorium was as much a part of my childhood as riding a bicycle, playing video games at Billy Ray’s Playhouse, or Spooky the dog.
I hate to see it go. Not for any rational reasons of preserving downtown Prestonsburg’s economic stability, but merely the loss of another edifice of my youth, where the hum of a 35 mm projector is barely audible in a dimly lit auditorium, the richest memories of my life played out upon a silver screen.