That was cool.
But the real magic for me was at the ticket window, where a woman sat in front of an antique cash register. Now I know she was Audrey Jacobs, whose parents opened the theater in 1948, but when I was a kid she was the slightly scary lady with one big front tooth sticking out and a huge bun of silver hair piled on top of her head.
"Dollar fifty," Jacobs would sing out, and I always gave her $2 so she would give me 50-cent piece, which came sliding down a metal ramp on the side of the cash register to a bowl I could reach into. To me, Jacobs was a living fortune-teller machine, and the closest thing I had to a carnival.
Once inside the theater, you could buy candy for a quarter and popcorn for 50-cents. My mother liked their popcorn because it had real butter, but I found it boring because it was just like the stuff she made at home. You could also bring in outside food, such as the delicious, greasy pies from nearby Pizza My Heart, or a delicious, fluffy cheesecake from Gayle's Bakery up the hill.
And while Jacobs was very strict about not allowing under-age kids to see R-rated movies, her theater was still a haven for teens because you could smoke inside, as long as you sat on the left. You couldn't bring in alcohol, but you could bring in sodas, as long as they weren't in glass bottles.
When it was time to watch the movie, you sat in old seats above a floor that was usually sticky, watching stale films shown with weak speakers on projectors that crackled and skipped. But we loved every minute, and as soon as were were back outside we gazed longingly at the posters for what we could see next week, always hoping it would be the next Star Wars movie.
But the Capitola Theater was not where you could see Return of the Jedi, or even War Games. It showed movies we had never heard of, like Educating Rita, and movies we probably shouldn't have been seeing, like Deathtrap. But we didn't care; we were kids who spent Saturday nights waiting anxiously for a San Francisco radio station to broadcast old programs like Dragnet and Suspense, and kept books on cassette tape from the Aptos library like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Invisible Man so long that the librarians refused to check them out to us anymore. So we watched absolutely anything shown at the theater.
I continued going to the Capitola Theater long after I could afford much fancier theaters with recliner seats and 180-degree screens. And while I admit my most exciting movie experience has been the trip into outer space that watching Gravity in an IMAX theater gave me, I have never felt more excited anticipation for a movie than while looking at the posters for what was coming next to the Capitola Theater. The only time I felt anything close was while waiting to see the first Harry Potter movie with a long line of super excited kids.
Unfortunately, the Capitola theater closed many years ago and the building is now gone, but you can still see Jacobs and her cash register in this local news clip from 1988 marking the theater's 40th birthday: