I’ve been thinking a lot about movies lately. Well, not movies actually, but going to the movies. Big difference. With so many people opting out of theatres in favor of watching films at home, an important distinction needs to be made — while it may be cheaper and more convenient to watch films while reclining on a sofa, it doesn’t even begin to compare to actually going to the movies. Don’t even try to make a case for it; I’m not listening.

Okay, I’m biased. Many moons ago, Saturday was synonymous with 50-cent double features and an insane, mind-altering amount of candy. My whole neighborhood sat in that big dark room with me, transported by the likes of Abbott and Costello, The Blob, The Mummy (with or without the Three Stooges) and of course a large retinue of reptilian (cue the synthesizer music) space monsters. Our P.F. Flyers may have remained earthbound, glued to a floor lacquered with spilled soda, but the rest of us were always carried away by the images splashed on that big screen. At intermission we’d execute a mad dash to the candy counter to top up. You had to make sure you got to back to your seat before the dour manager had ceremoniously walked the length of the aisle to the front of the theatre to read the ticket number for the weekly silver dollar raffle prize I would never win.

We would spend the day watching movies and when the second show was finally over we’d stagger out of the theatre, hands over our eyes to staunch the blazing summer sunlight, raging sugar hangovers already kicking in. On the way home we’d argue about what would happen if the polar ice cap ever melted. Would the Blob defrost and come back to life? We had no clue just how legitimate those concerns were.

Eventually the days of Saturday matinees came to an abrupt end. I guess we had become teenagers the previous winter and going to the weekly double feature had suddenly become uncool. A few of us had even taken up smoking. Maybe a year later I got my first real job at that same theatre. I was required to wear a bright red blazer and a clip-on black bow tie and I tore tickets in half at the door, but not too many. Without the Saturday matinees, the movie house was doomed. Most evenings only a handful of lonely patrons scattered themselves loosely throughout the large empty theatre. Management tried to revitalize business by booking what were called art films; polite parlance for soft-core porn of foreign origin but even the tantalizing prospect of bare flesh failed to turn things around.

The projectionist was a diabetic Swede named Artie who muttered to himself. He stripped down to his boxers during the show since the old arc lamp projectors made the booth as hot as the Mojave Desert and he drank cans of Rheingold beer. I still remember his name after all these years because I’d have to shout it up to the booth to wake him every time he’d doze off and miss reel changes.

In the early 1990s I opened a restaurant across from the Capawock in downtown Vineyard Haven. In those days the massive sheltering boughs of the venerable old Linden tree shaded the entire town, and I swear you could feel the comforting embrace of those enormous boughs the moment you turned onto Main street even two blocks away. You rarely — okay, never — got through an entire film at the Capawock without some sort of mishap, but that seemed like part of the charm. Long before Tarantino came along, we were introduced to out-of-sequence narratives when the reels were shown out of order more than once. I also recall a time when the movie suddenly stopped in mid-frame and dramatically self-immolated right before our eyes while the sound of a reel of film clanging and caroming across the projection booth floor echoed throughout the theatre.

But despite its quirky shortfalls, the Capawock prevailed. The sound quality was poor and the focus made me wonder if it wasn’t time to schedule an appointment with the optometrist, but it remained my favorite theatre and going there was always carried with it more meaning than just the film itself could ever provide. I guess that’s the whole point.

It saddened me and I guess a lot of other people when the Capawock closed and showed no sign of reopening any time soon. A shuttered and forlorn theatre is the embodiment of sadness, if you ask me, and no reasonable explanation for why it was allowed to deteriorate was ever offered. It made no sense and the owners of the property deflected criticism with promises and excuses which only reinforced our belief that the theatre (actually all three) had breathed its last. In the ensuing years those feelings hardened into anger, and the town suffered. Civic pride or any sense of responsibility didn’t seem to be part of any sensible business equation.

Now both the Capawock and the Strand have been snatched from the brink of abandonment and poor stewardship. They look better than ever. I say bravo, hurrah and hats off to all the folks who supported this and worked to make it possible. What a reprieve!

I only hope that enough of us still feel that sitting together in a darkened room waiting to be transported together by a movie is an experience that still has meaning even in the face of DVDs, Netflix, streaming content and all the other things that make it more convenient to simply stay home and become a shut-in. Watching a movie at home just isn’t the same. Something special and often memorable happens when we all sit in that big room together, brimming with anticipation, waiting for the lights to go down. Let’s not forget that one missing piece, the true lifeblood of the cinema — us.

Gazette contributor Robert Skydell lives in Chilmark and owns Fiddlehead Farm in West Tisbury.