It was March 1993 and the winter chill had yet to leave the air. We stood in the cold and waited for the long line of people to funnel into the small theater on the corner of Pearl and Monticello in Winamac. It was getting dark out and the warm glow from the concessions begged for attention.
Finally we reached the ticket booth, paid the man $1.75 each and entered the packed lobby.
The quiet sounds of the Winamac streets were overtaken by sounds of soda cups being filled, popcorn being scooped and the quiet whispers of people discussing their favorite movie snacks. We moved quickly through the concession line. I got a small red cream soda, popcorn and a box of Sour Patch Kids.
We found our seats — a good spot about a third of the way back from the screen and as close to the center as possible.
I was 5 years old and about to watch the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fight bad guys in their third live action film. The movie may have been the weakest in the franchise, but it kicked off a lifelong love for the movie-going experience and a devotion to the ISIS Theatre.
In May of 2002, I met the owner, Ernie Armstrong, who had purchased the theater in 1999. He was an intimidating figure that wasn’t afraid to kick out those who couldn’t keep quiet during the show and, quite honestly, he scared me. It was after the first showing of Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” that I met him. Ernie stopped 15-year-old me as I was leaving and asked what I thought of it. I expressed to him all of my geekdom and how they got so many things right.
This would almost become a tradition. Not after every movie, but most of them, Ernie would ask what I thought. This past April, “Avengers: End Game” released. It was the last movie that Ernie and I were able to discuss before his unexpected passing. It was after my third viewing of the film that Ernie stopped me. We talked for 2 hours about the movie, the history of theater, what happened with the closing of my comic book store, new ideas he wanted to implement and much more. We talked long enough for me to miss multiple calls from my girlfriend who was wondering why I hadn’t made it home yet.
I’ll miss talking with him and I’ll forever remember what he and ISIS Theatre have imprinted on me.
Tony Walters | Friday editor