When I was about six years old or so, I went with my sister and my closest friend’s dad to see a movie in what we called “uptown” Paxton. The Paxton Majestic Theatre was on the main strip, Market Street. It was the sort of place that very obviously had a lot of history. It was nothing like the upscale “Wings Cinema” down the road in the big town of Rantoul, which was big enough to run two movies at the same time. No, this theater only had room for one screening at a time. Before heading to the theatre, we went to a “Fun Fair” at the high school where I won a little yellow pencil bag with my name on it for tossing rings around bottles in a booth manned (or teenage-girled) by the high-school babysitter I had a crush on.
At the theater, my friend’s dad bought me some mint gum from the concession stand that left my pencil bag smelling great for weeks to come. We took our seats and watched The All-American Rabbit (which was, ironically, co-directed by a Japanese director). I don’t recall why we went to see that movie, or why it was just the three of us, or even if it was, in fact, just the three of us. As far as I can remember, though, it was the first movie I ever saw on the big screen, and the only movie I would ever see at the Paxton Majestic Theatre.
They soon stopped showing movies at that theater, as it probably wasn’t profitable enough, what with all the business being lost to Wings Cinema which had all the latest films and a $1.50 ticket price. We lined up around the building to see the original Batman when I was nearly ten years old. It was probably around that time that I saw the first and only play that I would ever see at the Paxton Majestic Theatre, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. Then again, maybe I saw that play when I was a bit younger, as I recall being somewhat surprised when firefighters came storming in from the back of the theater as part of the play’s fire scare scene (young Imogene Herdman was just smoking a cigarette in the church bathroom, if I remember correctly).
Today, six fire departments responded to a call that the Paxton Majestic Theatre was burning. No word yet on whether it has anything to do with the rash of arson taking place down the road in Loda, Illinois. I was sad to hear about the theater/theatre going. Hopefully my little brother can get some pictures of the scene sometime soon. If not, it’ll just have to wait until I make it back to Illinois this weekend for Thanksgiving break.