Ritz Theater, Clearfield
Finding unexpected treasure on the road
Back in September of 2016, I spent the last Saturday of the summer on the Everett Railroad, chasing their lovely 2-6-0 on a special train to Martinsburg and back. After supper at Claysburg Pizza with some of the other chasers I headed north, tuning from one public radio station to another as the two-lane roads wound around the hills and through the little towns in the dark. Passing through Clearfield after 11 o'clock, I happened to glance down a cross street at a most unlikely sight: a neon movie marquee, brightly lit, with incandescent bulbs chasing each other on the periphery. So I drove around the block and had a look.
Dating from 1928, now owned by a non-profit and now a duplex (divided down the middle some years ago), somehow the Ritz survives in the multiplex-and-streaming era, open every evening at 6:30 with first runs and art movies. The man at the concession stand let me look around; does your local theater have decor like this?
Given leave to peek into each theater, I opened a door to the one on the right, where a tiny handful of people watched "Don't Breathe", a movie about which I knew nothing, and after a second or two I didn't want to know anything -- plainly horror, and plainly not for me. So I looked in on the other side, where a single couple watched "Kubo and the Two Strings", a fantasy-adventure that Wikipedia describes thusly: "The film revolves around Kubo, who wields a magical shamisen [a three-stringed traditional Japanese musical instrument] and whose left eye was stolen. Accompanied by an anthropomorphic snow monkey and beetle, he must subdue his mother's corrupted Sisters and his power-hungry grandfather Raiden (aka, the Moon King), who stole his left eye."
You can certainly tell which wall dates from the Ritz's original construction and which got added after, not to mention that hung ceiling (and I would love to know what the ceiling used to look like). To make the photo, I put the camera down on the half-wall behind the last row of seats and set the ISO at 2000 and made the exposure at 3 seconds at f2.8 -- so the screen blew out but the rest of the room looks okay. In the corner out of the picture to the left, a decorative fireplace glowed home-ily; the exit doors do not look original either.
I've no idea how the Ritz manages to stay open, with such tiny crowds at such offbeat offerings (and on a Saturday night, no less), but man, what a place to watch a movie.
Before getting back on the road, I made a few more pictures outside, including of that lovely marquee:
After a day of mixed sun and overcast, and then rain as I had driven through the mountains south of here, the clouds began to part, revealing the just-past-full moon to the east while I stood in the street photographing the theater. I swear the image below has no software manipulation, at it appears here almost straight out of the camera:
A half hour after coming to town I had left it behind again, heading north to St. Mary's and another railroad but grateful that I had turned my head while passing through.