Forget Grauman’s Chinese Theater; give me the Liberty Theater in Seward, Alaska, any old time. It’s my favorite theater in the whole world, at least until the Spanish Riding School in Vienna starts showing flicks.
Even then, I think I’d prefer the Liberty.
When the muse yanked me out of my truck last Wednesday as I was leaving to go to the Liberty, it was more than just wanting to see a movie. A couple weeks before that, I’d received a well-circulated e-mail suggesting a variation on flash mobs, only called a “cash mob.” Let’s all go to the Liberty on February 20 and given Skip and Marie a shot of cash. Incidentally, we could see Steven Spielberg’s “War Horse.” Not a bad idea.
The challenging weather we’ve been having all winter has been keeping a lot of folks indoors, or outdoors shoveling snow. Perhaps business at the Liberty was off, suggested the e-mail. Well, as a former small business owner who tried to keep a restaurant and motel open all winter, I know exactly what that’s like.
I fell in love with the Liberty the first time I walked in the front glass door, and that must have been thirty years ago. No big glaring marquee, just a tasteful sign above the entrance. Outside the door, a vending machine and a movie poster. Inside somewhere, an automated machine that answers a phone number I've had memorized for thirty years, and when t clicks on, Skip tells you all about the movie that day, and what's coming up next week.
Once inside, you climb the carpeted stairs to the tiny ticket booth, usually manned by Skip, who with his wife Marie, is the owner, and also the projectionist. General admission, $7; kids and seniors, $5. For this night, I lopped twenty years off my real age, and paid as a “general admission.”
I continued through the small lobby, paneled all around with African ribbon stripe mahogany.
The line at the concession stand was long, so I went into the auditorium. The first time I was here, I was amazed that they were selling Green River.
Once inside I was struck again by the resemblance to a humongous Quonset hut, a building with which I am very familiar. I lived in one for several years after I first came to Alaska in 1948, and have a bit of a special affinity for them.
The choice of seats is another thing I love about the Liberty. No fancy-dancy stadium seating with cup holders and such. No, but the Liberty has several seats available for your selection:
There are the cushy plush seats:
The wooden back seats:
The Naugahyde seats:
More plush seats:
My favorites are the plush seats that lean back.
There are five or six different kinds of seats here, as if the original builder bought seats-on-sale wherever he could find them. What a kick. No false pretense here, but simple down to earth small business.
Plus, there’s a real stage that is used occasionally for special events.
Skip isn’t sure how many seats are in the auditorium. He thinks there are between 250 and 260. On this special night, almost all were filled.
Marie and her helper at the concession stand dispensed popcorn and sodas and candy bars long after the movie had started. “Great night,” I said to Marie. She started to reply, then teared up and clamped her mouth shut.
Skip, on the other hand, was smiling and quite talkative. He’s been in the movie business since the 1930s, beginning in Kodiak where his father owned a theater, and here at the Liberty since 1957. He met Marie in Kodiak, when she worked at the theater for his dad.
I can tell you this for sure: Skip and Marie are two of the most loved folks in Seward. Remember that popular TV show called “Cheers?” And the theme song with the words, “where everybody knows your name?”
Same thing at the Liberty.