I came to San Diego, courtesy of the United States Navy, late in 1981. The west coast had been a choice of mine and I do not regret that, but when I arrived I knew no one in this town. First the first few months my only recreation were movies and one of my favorite places to visit, though the bus ride was tedious, was the revival house, the Ken Theater.
I have always loved films, and some of my earliest memories are of movies, so it was natural that I sough out the theaters of my new home town, the Ken however was unlike anything I had ever experienced of even heard of in my naively limited knowledge.
Check out this image from one of our local weekly papers, The San Diego Reader.
That is the Ken Guide as it appeared when I first arrived at this city, double features that changed daily, except for when the theater would run a festival of some sort, which might block out a week or two. I did not get to th Ken as often as I would have like to during this period, but I made enough time to have forged some rosey cinematic memories.
The Maltese Falcon, M, Little Shop of Horrors (the original non-musical), The Seven Samurai, Creature from the Black Lagoon (in 3D!), this is a small sample of the wonderful film experiences I have had at the Ken. Truly classic films on the big screen.
The Ken is also where I met and made friendships during the mid 80’s as I attended the midnight showings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I have written in another essay the importance that period played if helping me come out of a very tight introverted shell, and I will not belabor the point again, but the Ken was there for me during that time. Many fond and funny memories were forged on that sidewalk as we waited for the film.
Home video killed the revival theater. When you could own or rent the movies, fewer people would take the time and trouble to see them as they should be seen. By the 90s The Ken turned from revivals to art house films and I remained a true fan of the theater. So many smaller and independent films that never played in mainstream house played here, Cube, Raise The Red Lantern, The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra are just three that I had the good fortune to see there. I missed the revival days, but the art house experience remained fulfilling.
All that is ending. The business owners and the landlord can not come to an agreement on a new lease and the announce has been made that the theater is closing down at month’s end. This was not part of my childhood, but this feels like childhood’s end. The last single screen theater in San Diego, a place that has shown movies for over 100 years, will so be no more.
The dreams will stop flickering, but my memories are eternal.