Mourning the Birdcage

Waiting in line at the Birdcage Cinema on the rainy Saturday afternoon of Feb. 10, I tried to decide which movie to see. When spending just a dollar or two, my criteria for a worthy film is pretty loose. But obscuring my view to the movie list was a small sign that I was not prepared to read.

“Birdcage is Closing Forever.”

My mind raced. How many more weekends were there? How many times can we look at our stretched budgets and opt for a cheap movie and a few levels of the Gauntlet Legend video game? I read the sign again.

“Birdcage is Closing Forever. Tomorrow.”

Why?!?! Why was this happening to Sacramento’s discount movie theater? Eager to learn more about the closure, I made a snap decision—Men of Honor, 12:20 p.m. showing—and paid my dollar.

The theater was packed full of people: Families, couples, lonely souls like myself, all looking for some good-old American escapism. The arcade games stood stoically along the wall. Where will they go? Who will play them? Where will the Rocky Horror Picture Show crowd hold their weekly showings? Where will people go to see all those movies they missed when they first came out?

The manager said the theater is closing because the Rite-Aid that is going to be built needs more parking spots. Righteous anger wells deep inside as I contemplate losing my favorite theater to a parking lot.

Yet the real story, revealed by subsequent research, is no less disturbing. General Cinemas, the company that owns Birdcage Cinemas, is filing bankruptcy, reorganizing under Chapter 11 and selling off some assets.

In a press release issued last fall, representatives of General Cinemas say the theater business is moving more and more toward the megaplex and they have to restructure to be competitive. There may not be a place for theaters like Birdcage anymore.

Regardless of the reasons, the closing of the Birdcage is a great loss for many of us. In the days when a regular movie ticket can cost you between $7-$9, we relished each and every one of our $1 movies.

Many of us live on a tight budget, stretching each dollar from paycheck to paycheck. It is a hard way to live, creating stress and the desire for escapism. Television is one escape, but it’s sometimes nice to get out of the house and go to a movie.

With the closing of the only discount theater in the area, most of us will have to be a bit more picky about which movies we see on the big screen. By the way, Men of Honor, my last $1 movie, was pretty good. It was definitely worth the price.