Mary Zielke: A Tribute to Christine Craig and Silver Screen Cinema
To the Editor:
She was returning to her job in Greece when she stopped to visit a college friend in a small mountain town. She was swept away by Grand County residents’ joie de vivre and welcoming attitude.
Christine Craig looked around to find herself a niche. She was young, energetic and ambitious. The new Park Place Center would be opening soon. There were no movie theaters in the area. She got a loan from Dennis Lightfoot at Winter Park Bank, designed and built the Silver Screen Cinema, joining Jack Gerstein, Delores Klancke, the Eichlers and others in the new shopping center.
Craig remembers three-quarters of the town showed up for opening night – maybe 70 to 80 people in all.
She says it was like inviting her Grand County neighbors into her home. Craig would get to know generations of families over the next 33 years. She says she is now selling popcorn to the children and grandchildren of the first tots she served.
All sales take place in 15 to 20 minutes, so credit card sales were just too time-consuming in those days. She had to telephone for approval for each paper copy. It made sense to limit sales to cash or checks. She still takes IOUs or other forms of payment from locals.
But time has changed the movie business. Films cost much more; distributors’ demands limit her freedom to show the movies she’d like on the dates she’d like. Many families now opt to rent a DVD rather than visiting a theater.
Craig says she misses the accessible, human, story-driven movies such as “Forrest Gump.” She says “that story touched everyone’s heart in so many ways.”
She brought in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” but had to cancel it after just two showings when “audience enthusiasm” trashed the theater. “Thank goodness they didn’t cause any serious damage,” she said.
A succession of dogs has joined her during her 12,000-plus nights at her theater. The first was Mocha, a chocolate lab. Semi-Sweet, Snicker, Tootsie and now Goose followed.
Craig remembers one night she came out of the projection room to find a friend’s young daughter sitting on the floor with Semi-Sweet, now a mellow old chocolate lab. The child was gently, but firmly, pushing a Dot onto each of the dog’s pointed teeth until each one stuck. “Semi smiled at me with a mouth full of dots,” she laughed.
On a recent hot evening a woman came out during the movie and told Craig she had to go out to the parking lot to check on her baby. She came back with a panting chinchilla in its travel case. Could she take it into the air-conditioned theater? Craig sent them in.
“That’s what I’ll miss,” Craig said.
Chris, we’ll all miss you. Thank you for entertaining us over the years.
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