Montauk Movie's Closing is End of an Era

Family is sad to see it go.

Well, it's out in the blogosphere and in the local papers - it's even on Facebook - the Montauk Movie may have closed for good when the 2012 season ended just a few weeks ago. With changes in the way movies are being distributed, it just doesn't make economic sense for the family to make the needed projector conversion. It's sad on so many levels for the community and the family (and yes, I am family).

First and foremost, our resort community is losing a movie theater (between the old movie house on Main Street in the 40s and 50s, the Montauk Playhouse in the 60s and 70s and the Montauk Movie from the 70s, Montauk has had its own movie theater for decades). Between April and October for at least the last 30 years, Montauk has not had to make the drive across the stretch to catch the latest flick. We've been able to watch it right here in Montauk. Yes, the theater is a little outdated, and doesn't have the more modern conveniences of the larger, corporate theaters, but to many, that's been its charm. Unfortunately, charm is only getting us so far in this instance. The movie industry and peoples' watching preferences have changed dramatically over the past decade and it's becoming less and less feasible for mom and pop theaters to make a go of it. There was a great article in the NY Times in August about the impact on many resort community theaters. The Rutkowski family has thought long and hard on their decision, and all sentiment aside, they just don't see a viable way for them to continue to run a movie theater.

Here's where I get all sappy - I'm allowed to do that on a blog, right? Last week, we held our last public screening, a fundraiser for the Montauk School. The second movie in the double-header was Back to the Future. I didn't think of it at the time we were trying to come up with movies that would appeal to pre-teens and teens, but later realized how apropos the choice really was. My earliest memory of the Montauk Theater was seeing Back to the Future when it came out in 1985. I remember clearly that it was a rainy night and the theater was packed. My friends and I arrived late and sopping wet from jumping in puddles beforehand and with only single seats available, we chose to sit together on  the floor. We were wet...uncomfortable...but we didn't care. We were out for the night without adults, ingesting as much sugar as we could, and it was a great movie.

Fast forward a season when I started working at the Movie. I was working at John's Drive In, but on rainy nights when the Movie was packed and the Drive In slow, the Rutkowskis would borrow Drive In staff to man the candy counter and rip tickets (with both businesses in the family, it was an easy trade). I spent many a rainy night working there. You always knew when I worked the popcorn butter dispenser - there would be a stripe or two of butter grease down the front of my shirt (which would never come out, by the way).

After several years at college and living overseas, I came back to Montauk and married into the Rutkowski family (Dave and I will celebrate 14 years next month.) Early in our marriage we sold John's Drive and Dave took over the management of the Movie from his parents. He's been running the theater for almost 10 years now. It's an understatement to say we've watched our kids grow up there. There have been countless birthday parties - the possible last will be held tomorrow night - and nights spent catching a flick with dad. My daughter started selling tickets at 8 years old, confidently handling the rainy day matinee crowds (it helped that she knew her multiples of 7 well - all matinee tickets cost $7). She quickly graduated up to evening shows, handling multiple ticket levels and sometimes ornery customers - she even got very comfortable asking seniors for ID to make sure they were eligible for senior pricing, something I was never comfortable with. This Fall, when my husband and son headed west for a family reunion, it was our 12-year old daughter who ran the show, while I sat back marvelling at her skills and knowledge. (After all these years, I still don't know how to make popcorn or operate the projector - I guess I should be embarrassed for myself, but I'm extremely proud of my daughter.)

Our son started working behind the snack counter before he could even see over it or reach the soda fountain. These days, at 9 years old, he's about a head taller than the counter and has become a whiz at handling orders and stocking up...and watch out if you're trying to sneak in while he's on ticket ripping duties. He will catch you!

Somehow, our kids are even willing to clean at the Movie. There, they'll sweep, vacuum, pick up garbage...there favorite is to see who can flip up the theater seats the fastest between movies. I'm not sure anyone ever wins, but it keeps them busy.

All sappy-ness aside, many of us have great memories of the Montauk Movie and would all love for it to continue to stay open. Perhaps someone will come along and do just that. I know for our family, it's been a great ride.

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K Maguire October 29, 2012 at 03:00 AM
I also saw many movies there both as a child and as an adult. I have very fond memories of going on rainy days from Pathfinder ( both as a camper and a counselor) to see many beloved movies over the years. I will be very sad to see it go.
Mark December 31, 2012 at 09:19 PM
So Sad, Montauk is certainly changing and not for the good. Perhaps it will be replaced by some hipster boutique selling fedoras
Sharon Tompkins January 01, 2013 at 08:37 PM
What does it cost to go digital? Aren't there any subsidies from the film industry to help? You'd think there would be - it's in the film industry's interest to keep theatres open.
Peter Sephton January 01, 2013 at 08:46 PM
Such a shame that Montauk Theater has closed - but there is an alternative. Gloucester, Mass, has a brilliant Community Theater in the main street that uses low-cost modern tech to download and project some delightful films in relaxed surroundings. There are settees, tables, a bar and you can bring in your own take-out. Perfect for the end of our island. See comments by cinema-goers at http://m.yelp.com/biz/cape-ann-community-cinema-gloucester
Peter Sephton January 01, 2013 at 09:06 PM
For more on the superb Cape Ann Community Theater in Gloucester, Mass, check out http://capeanncinema.wordpress.com or email their resourceful and energetic Creative Director Rob Newton at RobertNewton@MassBayFilmProject.org. This could work well in Montauk, so why not ask Rob to come down and help us?


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