i see stars

Yesterday was hot and sunny as I stood on line outside to see a film at the Tinker Street Cinema in Woodstock, movie house of my youth. I haven’t seen a movie here since I left in 1984. It’s the same and it’s different. I don’t remember the walls being red pleated cloth, but the tin ceiling with its peeling paint is the same, although the layer coming off is unlikely one I ever sat under.

I helped upholster those seats in the 60s, when Sy Kattleson transformed a small church into a cinema. I didn’t know then that it was an indy theater. I’m not sure that label had even been invented yet. Theaters were theaters, and they played movies, and that was that. I remember the seats being black vinyl, each of us children helping an adult by providing an extra set of albeit small hands to hold the vinyl in place while staples were popped through. The seats are cloth now. More comfortable and better looking. Upscale, even.

My brother worked there as a projectionist when he was a teen. He was one of those A.V. kids who could repair a break in no time and get the movie back on the screen before the audience got restless.

I saw a lot of people I recognized from growing up in Woodstock, but no one I really knew. Just vague faces from an out-of-focus past. The movie we watched was a special advance screening of Taking Woodstock, a film by Ang Lee and James Schamus based on the memoirs of Elliot Tiber. Lee and Schamus were there for a post-film Q+A, along with Michael Lang, brainchild of the festival, his face still as mellow and cherubic as it was 40 years ago. It was a sweet film, made sweeter by this cinema and this town and these people who have come to embrace their village bearing the name of, according to Mr. Lee, “the most important cultural event of the past 1,500 years.” It opens on August 28th. Go see it. It’s the feelgood movie of the year, nothing illicit required.


  1. My mom worked as a cashier at The Tinker Street Cinema when I was growing up. I got to see all of the movies for free, but had to sweep the theater after each show in exchange. I saw The King of Hearts about 10 times but it so disturbed me that I still don't remember it. I saw A Clockwork Orange and it may have ruined me a bit. I saw the Woodstock Film Festival Screening of Little Miss Sunshine and that may have been my favorite movie there. The theater was completely packed and the audience laughed so hard it was difficult to hear the dialog. I had my first kiss at that theater (mighty uncomfortable with my mother around the corner). That was memorable. I remember when they changed those seats for new ones. Sy was giving the old seats away. They were lined up outside the theater and people would pull up and load as many as they could into their cars. One of my regrets is not getting part of a row.

  2. Thanks for sharing these memories. I saw the same movies as a kid and marvel at what my parents didn't know they were sending me to see.
    Try King of Hearts again. It deserves to be seen with older eyes.

  3. I also saw The King of Hearts 10 or so times. Every year Sy would play it and I L.O.V.E.D it! It is on the short list of my favorite films. I don't know what it was that made me love it, maybe it was Columbine. I loved her name and wanted to be just like her when I grew up. I suppose I missed the fact that she was crazy. I'll never forget Plumpick standing naked at the end with the crown on his head holding the bird age, Ah!

    Monique: I think about the movies we saw there as a kid like all the Hitchcock movies etc.. but have always been grateful that they said "NO!" to Caligula! Whew.