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I can’t believe that yesterday brought news that Union Station‘s infamous movie theater will be closing and we didn’t write about it! This is significant for several reasons:
1) It’s the only District movie theater east of North Cap Street.
2) It was hated.
3) It was one of the major hangout spots for D.C. kids.
4) It will be replaced by more shops.
5) It was loved.
Let’s talk about point No. 2. Yesterday, Fisher fleshed out the issue perfectly:
Opened in 1988 as part of the renovation of the train station into a shopping mall, the Union Station 9’s theaters are named after classic movie palaces that once dotted the District: the Roxy, Palace, Orpheum, Penn and so on. But there was nothing classic about the look or experience of the Union Station multiplex, which, because of its location at the crossroads between affluent and impoverished parts of town, became a symbol of the very different moviegoing cultures in this country.
Some patrons were appalled at how Union Station audiences cheered, jeered and otherwise made noise during the movies, while other patrons felt they were singled out for undue attention from security guards. The divide sometimes turned into a debate about race and class, not exactly what a movie theater operator is hoping for.
I just have one minor problem with his assessment. Union Station always showed really crummy movies. Last year, while on some particularly humbling assignment, I killed time in that theater. I sat through what I thought were my best options: Balls of Fury and a Jet Li action flick, War. Both were bad, inventively bad. They were so bad they were boring. I actually nodded off during War. There were hardly any folks sharing the miserable experience with me. I remember wishing someone would start heckling. Some movies need heckling.