It’s completely dark until that one sliver of light from upstairs illuminates the screen.
Your ears hear the whir of the projector and then the distinctive click-click-click-click as the film catches onto the reel. That familiar scenario has played out thousands of times at Cedartown’s Historic West Cinema and will continue to do so, much to the delight of Polk County residents. In fact, it’s never really stopped.
Owners Ken and Teresa Browning said rumors have been flying over the last month about the theater shutting down, but it never actually closed.
The confusion came after the theater’s previous owners put the business up for sale in mid-November.
“A lot of people thought it had closed down after that, but we bought it the next day,” Ken Browning said. “We’ve been up and running since.”
Of course, this isn’t the Browning’s first venture into the movie theater business. As most local residents know, the Browning name and the West Cinema have a long history together. It’s one that goes back all the way to 1977 in some form or fashion.
“I remember coming here as a kid, helping out with just about everything. Now, my daughter, Julieann, is up here running the candy counter. She runs it better than I can. Cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces — we’ve all worked here doing something. We were pretty much raised here.”
Though the Brownings have been a part of the West’s history for more than three decades, the history of the actual theater spans back to the 1940s.
On a hot August day in 1941, operator O.C. Lam, owner of Lam Amusement Co., opened the West Theater. The opening feature was titled “Three Sons O’ Guns” and admission ranged in price from 10 cents to 30 cents.
The air conditioning unit was also touted in a 1941 Cedartown Standard ad. The ad boasted: “Fully air-conditioned with a change of cool air every minute and a half.”
The theater was fully fireproof with the most current sprinkler system and was billed as the south’s most modern, attractive and comfortable theater.
Certainly, things have changed since then and will continue to do so.
According to Browning, plans are to purchase a new digital projector.
“We hate to have to do it and get rid of the old reels, but it’s very hard and expensive to get current movies released on 35mm film these days. It won’t be long before it’s impossible, so we have to in order to keep going,” he said.
And keep going they will.
Polk County residents that have a tradition of going to see a movie on Christmas day will be pleased to know that the cinema will be open on Dec. 25.
“Oh yes, we will be here,” Browning said. “We always have big crowds on Christmas. People like coming here for that.”
Browning said it’s the people of Polk County that keeps the family and the theater going.
“I really appreciate the people that come and see a movie here. I remember years ago when the county went through so many plant closings, people still supported us, they still wanted to come see a movie. They supported us then through the hard times, and I appreciate them supporting us now.”
The West Cinema is open Friday and Saturday with 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. showings, and on Sunday and Monday, with 7 p.m. showings only. Tickets are $6.50 per person and current movie showings can be heard by calling their information line at 770-748-3090.
And for those who are curious, Browning said he’s “thinking” about re-recording that locally famous information line greeting: Hello, we thank you for calling the West Cinema. Movies now showing are …
“People have been asking me if I was going to record that message again. I guess I probably should,” he said, laughing.