Joe’s Journal

If you build it, they will come

Ramblings from an old scribbler
Wed, 10/13/2021 - 7:30am

I know many of our neighbors have been vaccinated and many of us still wear masks when going to the post office or the store.

I get it. Stay safe. If Mr. COVID grabs you by the lungs, it won’t be a pretty sight.

But the state caseloads seem to be going down and Maine’s CDC director, Dr. Nirav D. Shah, no longer breaks out in a cold sweat when reporter Don Carrigan asks him for the latest numbers.

So, says Southport’s Ham Meserve, maybe it is time to go to the movies. On Oct. 1, after being dark for about 18 months, Ham and his bride Helen opened the Harbor Theater, fired up the popcorn machine and booked some real movies for us to enjoy. They expected to start slowly and were right. After all, we are still recovering from a pandemic that took the lives of more than 700,000 souls.

They opened with a family-friendly movie, “The Addams Family 2.” The first night they hosted nine patrons. The second and third brought a total of 38. But wait, there is more. The next attraction is, (drum roll), Bond. James Bond.

Called “No Time To Die,” it features the ultimate (now retired) secret agent battling the usual cast of bullets, babes and bad guys intent on blowing up the world, or at least kicking it off its axis.

Bond, James Bond, has been a blockbuster movie franchise since 1962 when Sean Connery blew out his eyeballs (and ours) watching Ursula Andress stepping out of the ocean and into the dreams of teenaged boys worldwide. Bond. James Bond, had “Goldfinger,” “Diamonds are Forever,” “Spectre,” and on for 27 episodes starring Connery, David Niven, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig.

It is a formula-driven product. Just add spectacular scenery to nonstop action. Then, stir in lots of hot babes, hunky guys and evil villains, cover it all in the familiar music theme, and – Voila. Bond, James Bond is back on the case.

Best of all, going to the Harbor Theater gives us a chance to be entertained outside of the family TV room.

Sure, we were fascinated by “Game of Thrones.” We loved the convoluted plot lines punctuated by swooping dragons, hot babes, hunky guys and evil villains. And we could watch the action in our PJs. But some paused these stay-at-home activities when we learned new words, like Pfizer, Moderna and J&J. They made it safer to venture outside the family compound.

When we went outside, we got to talk to real people again. Hopefully, Zoom meetings will soon be in the rearview mirror.

In the last several months, the Meserves worked hard to update the theater. The sound is better and the paint is fresh. Now, all they need is customers. They know their probable audience is in the 50- to 85-year range. You know, the grown-ups who fondly remember spending Saturday afternoons at the neighborhood theater. For a quarter, you got a double feature movie, an hour of cartoons, and a box of candy guaranteed to ruin your teeth.

So, to make sure their patrons, the most vulnerable to the disease, are safe, they insist all be vaccinated and wear a mask. “That is unless they are eating hot popcorn,” Ham said.

Opening a movie theater in a community of less than 10,000 is an act of faith. Ham has tons of faith in the movies. He got it honestly, as the son of one of the iconic actors of the 1930s and 40s, Margaret Hamilton, best known for portraying the Wicked Witch of the West in “The Wizard of Oz.”

But, as a retired international banker, he knows it is wise to cover all bases and do his best to keep his audience entertained and safe.

To lure them into the seats, he booked a pair of blockbusters, following the Bond epic with another epic, “Dune,” the movie version of Frank Herbert's futuristic sci-fi classic. Here is the short version of the story. A very evil usurper hunts a royal prince who is hiding out with a group of oppressed peasants on a wild desert planet ruled by giant worms. It can't miss.

We are fortunate to still have our own local entertainment venues, like the Harbor Theater and the Opera House. Many communities saw them leave years ago.

But, Ham is an astute businessman as well as a movie buff. He ran the numbers, consulted the tea leaves, and believes he can make it go, for us all. In the lingo of the movies, “If you build it, they will come.” Will it work? Ham hopes so.

So do I.