If you ever saw this screen (or one very much like it) when you went to the movies, you’re either close to my age or your hometown theater held onto some really old promotional clips. I grew up watching most of my theatrical releases at The Town Theater in Forest, Mississippi in the 70s. (The excellent memoir Mississippi Sissy by Kevin Sessums – who also grew up in Forest and was a few grades ahead of me – has a fair amount to say about that movie house.) At the theater, they had, of course, the “Now Showing” and “Coming Attractions” posters, but they also had cool flyers, pocket-sized colored 8 1/2 x 11 pieces of paper folded, creating a nifty little booklet promoting the next four upcoming features. In my small town, they only showed R-rated movies Sunday through Wednesday and PG (GP back in the day) or G movies Thursday through Saturday. So with each of these flyers, kids my age would see two ads for movies we could actually see and two for movies we could only dream about seeing one day.
All of this was well and good, but my small town showed one movie at a time on one screen, a concept that’s hard for many younger folks to grasp today. If that movie was a blockbuster, it might play the entire week or maybe even two weeks. Jackson, Mississippi – the state capital, about 40 miles west of Forest – had probably a dozen movie theaters, some of which I’d been to with my parents or friends, but that didn’t happen very often. And even then, I was limited to theaters like the Capri (pictured above, repainted for the movie The Help) or the Lamar. Yet in the Jackson newspapers, I saw ads for other, more salacious theaters and drive-ins showing sordid and/or horrific films I knew I’d never get to see until I was older.
Those theaters showed horror movies like The Corpse Grinders (which I never saw) and Brain of Blood (which, much to my regret, I did see). [By the way, if you’re wondering why a picture of a nurse appears at the bottom of the first ad, some theaters advertised that a registered nurse would be on hand at the theater in case anyone went into shock or cardiac arrest as a result of watching the movie.] These films promised the answers to life’s great mysteries, or at least those of a 10-12-year-old. Just looking at the ads, I was in absolute awe…
Of course I couldn’t see those films, but I clipped the ads for those suckers and glued them into a notebook. Some ads were small and some were enormous. It didn’t matter to me; as long as there was a picture or some type of illustration, I cut it out and pasted it into the notebook. And if the theater had some crazy promotion going on, even better. One theater in the mid-70s was showing some type of sex comedy/jungle girl movie (I can’t remember the title or the star) and the actress from the movie was going to be present at the theater. Not only that, but one lucky male ticket-holder was guaranteed to be chosen at random to be married to the star onstage by a legally ordained minister. It broke my heart not to be able to attend that one…
Other events looked slightly more doable, such as seeing all five Planet of the Apes movies on one night at a Jackson drive-in. (This isn’t the same ad, but it’s very much like the one I clipped out.) This was a high cultural event in the mind of a 12-year-old, the type of stuff adults no doubt discussed at length at Lions Club meetings or maybe sitting around the pool at the country club. High art indeed.
I really lucked out one day when my brother’s wife (she may have been his girlfriend at the time) worked in a Jackson clothing shop right next to a movie theater. She would often bring me stand-up displays or window posters of movies that had played next door. (The only one I can remember is from the Faye Dunaway film Doc. The actual poster it was taken from is pictured above.) I don’t remember getting too many of these, but they were prized possessions.
(The remaining pictures are from random movie posters I saw as a kid, all of them movies I eventually saw.)
My notebook began to fill quickly and I think I started a second one, but then two disasters happened. First, the Jackson paper stopped running promotional ads for any R-rated movies. “Call the theater for movies and showtimes” read most of the small blocks of text. The PG (GP) and G movie ads were still there, but huge sections of the movie pages were censored overnight. My movie clipping resources had been relegated to the PG and G movies and the flyers from the Town Theater, pretty tame stuff. When I’d go to visit my brother and his wife in Dallas, I’d devour the papers there and take the movie sections back, but it just wasn’t the same and I couldn’t get enough of them. (I always thought it was odd that the Dallas papers would list not only the movie titles and ratings, but also felt compelled to add “suitable” or “not suitable” labels to each film.)
At some point – long after I’d stopped clipping and pasting, but before I finished high school – the second disaster occurred: my notebook disappeared. I looked everywhere, turned the house upside down, but never found it. I figured the notebook must’ve gotten mixed up with other discarded school notebooks after that school year was over. I even held on to one last hope that I’d find it while cleaning out my mother’s house about 10 years ago preparing to sell it. But the notebook was gone.
Maybe one day I’ll put forth the effort to try and find those ads from The Clarion-Ledger where most of those clippings appeared. The Clarion-Ledger newspaper archives, unfortunately, do not carry ads or photos, so the only way I could possibly see those ads again would be on microfiche, and the chances of that happening are probably quite slim. But thanks to the wonders of the Internet, I can see other ads like those and sometimes even track down some of those films. Sometimes that’s not such a great idea; sometimes the newspaper ads and posters were the best things about those films. Maybe some memories are best left as memories. Still, there are times when I’m tempted to take a chance on finding a DVD of some of those films, just to see what I missed. I don’t really need to marry the jungle girl, but it might be fun to watch her movie.