It looks as if the Silver theater in Silver Spring is going to be demolished to make way for a new "multi-use structure." The county attorney said no laws were being violated, so the wrecking crew has already done the preliminary work, smashing the oriental neon marquee, ripping apart the glass-lined lobby, and knocking down the '30s- moderne smokestack. I suppose all the tax depreciation in the old theater had been used up, and there is no tax advantage in fantasy, so the hell with it.
But I remember riding a bicycle along Colesville Road to get to the Silver. David Scull and I could go the whole route from Dale Drive to the Silver without passing a moving car, if we pedaled fast enough. We would leave our bikes outside, usually without locks, and glide into the world of Audie Murphy on Iwo Jima or Gary Cooper in "High Noon."
I remember walking through the snow on a bleak winter afternoon with my next-door neighbor, Carl Bernstein, to see "House of Wax" at the Silver in living, breathing 3-D, and to feel terror at the flying knives and axes. I remember dragooning Marvin Goldberg into seeing "Blackboard Jungle" and having to go alone to see "Baby Doll."
I remember how none of my male friends would go with me to see "Love Me Tender," Elvis Presley's first movie, at the Silver. I took Carl Bernstein's sister, Mary. We loved the movie and Elvis.
I had my first date at the Silver theater, with a girl named Marsha Macklin. We saw "Carmen Jones." We were both in sixth grade. I was far too scared to put my arm around her.
I remember coming out of the Silver after seeing "Hud," filled to overflowing with the idea that I too was a rodeo star, and after seeing "The Hustler" imagining that I, too, was a cool-as-ice pool hall hustler. Then there were the times that I, naively eating my popcorn, saw the girls of my dreams necking in the front row with the junior high school hard guys. They were watching a re-run of "From Here to Eternity," and anything was liable to happen.
Indeed, that was the essence of the Silver. Inside its Art Deco walls, anything could happen. The building itself was made with architecture that was the physical counterpart of the dream contours of a universal ideal of "movie."
There was the sinuous, floating neon sign, flashing mysteriously above a two-story skyline. It had a genuine overhanging marquee throwing its dreamy power out onto the street, sheltering you against rain or heat for another few moments after you left, just as the fantasy of the movie stayed in your head after the final credits. It had strangely colored dark, barely translucent glass inlaid about the entrance, as if mysteries like fortune telling in crystal lay inside.
The Silver theater managed in its corny way to offer itself as the entrance to a cave where anything could happen. Its weirdly Middle Eastern curves and slopes told you that you were leaving the daily world of the Hecht Company and J. C. Penney far behind. You were in a building devoted to the service of fantasy.
Now that I am an adult, I work in the world where fantasy is made. Every day I have meetings at Universal to pick writers for projects I am producing, talk story points with executives at Paramount in the commissary next to Henry Winkler, beg for a director to be assigned to a comedy at Warner Brothers. It is a fine life, and I feel grateful for the chance to work in the factories of fantasy. But they are still factories. They have strife and treachery and disappointment and malice just like any other work place. A partner can stab you in the back in the making of a children's comedy just as if you were making shoes.
The real locus of joy and escape for the movie lover is not the studio but the theater. In the theater is where movies really work their magic of escape, conception, restoration, and magic. The movie theater of childhood is where dreams commensurate with the child's ability to dream are dreamt while still awake.
For me and for others who love fantasy and still have dreams of childhood in Silver Spring, the Silver theater was a place that can never be replaced. But, there probably was no tax advantage left in the damn place, so the hell with it.