Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Once and Future Mission

Early days of The Mission Theatre, Dalhart, TX
I was intrigued recently to see my hometown of Dalhart, TX, mentioned frequently in ‘The Dust Bowl’ (2012), the PBS documentary about life on the ravaged American prairie of the 1930s. This topic and All Things Great Depression is one that I’ve generally avoided over the years because it’s, well, depressing.

I had greatly short-changed my education.

As with any Ken Burns production, there’s much to learn and admire. The film weaves a compelling story that makes a fitting companion to ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ (1940), and not just because narrator Peter Coyote sounds a lot like Henry Fonda.

One of the key things I learned while watching 'The Dust Bowl' was that The Mission Theater (spelled "Theatre" on its old sign) hosted the world premiere of ‘The Plow That Broke The Plains,’ (1936) a U.S. government-produced documentary created to enlighten the public about the effects of improper farming techniques.

This film was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry, and can be seen in its entirety several places on the web, including, below and also here.

It was interesting to discover this bit of history just a few months after I last stepped inside The Mission, to inspect the results of its conversion into the new home of the Dalhart congregation of Hillside Christian Church.

The building’s redesign was impressive. Though I was sad to see my old hometown lose its movie house, it was exciting to get a look at what its new mission would be.

After the tour, I had the opportunity to speak to the pastor, who made it clear that he, too, understood and appreciated the venue’s history in the community. I was ecstatic when he informed me that they planned to project family-friendly films for the public, on a screen even larger than the one the theater had previously used.

Below are some of the photos I took during the visit. But first, check out the following links that show what the theater looked like just prior to the building renovation.  

Final Google street view before renovation
A profile of the Mission Twins at

A view from across the street in its final months as a movie theater.

A last look at the projection booth.

Several awesome pre-renovation photos from an area photographer.

Inside-out views from

And has a before and after of the front of the building.

Here are my photos of the building after renovation (click to enlarge):

Entry of the church from the front

The kitchen area, looking toward the front of the building, where
young moviegoers used to call their parents to pick them up
Old film reels now gracing the walls along the staircase
A view of the kitchen and upstairs
from the center of the building

A view from the balcony, formerly the projection booth
An old door from back of building,
re-purposed for the upstairs balcony

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Rhinestone (1984)

Until a time-traveler approaches me at age 13 and teaches me the value of money, I'm going to continue revisiting a period when I must've taken my allowance and walked straight into the local theater without even looking at the marquee.

There's no telling what I was thinking here.

But at least, unlike some people, I don't have to look in the mirror and see a guy who turned down both Beverly Hills Cop and Romancing The Stone to make Rhinestone (1984).

Actually, I'm going to give myself a bit of a break on this one. Because below is exactly how I remember the trailer. Given this somewhat amusing premise, and the likability of both Sylvester Stallone and Dolly Parton, I can see why I would've been inclined to check it out.

And we all might need to give Mr. Stallone a break. Keep in mind that in the couple years prior to making this movie, he had taken considerable pummeling to the head in Rocky III, undergone physically grueling work with First Blood, and endured a merciless critical beating for directing Staying Alive.

There's no doubt this movie-making stuff can take its toll.

So out of sheer curiosity, for the sake of this post, and because I prepay on my Netflix subscription, I recently watched Rhinestone again. To my surprise, or through divine intervention, I couldn't remember much about it. It's possible that I had been goofing around with friends during the first viewing, or had made repeated visits to the concession stand with that money I didn't know how to manage.

For sure, the movie's suggestive banter had gone over my head. I had completely blocked out the romantic involvement between Sylvester Stallone and Dolly Parton—a scenario that seems as unlikely as, well, Sylvester Stallone dating Dolly Parton.

I also don't remember walking up the aisle as the credits rolled with an unwavering realization that Dolly had failed in her attempt to make Stallone a country singer. Because she failed alright. Maybe they should've at the least had his brother Frank dub the vocals.

So ... worth revisiting? Good gosh, no. And if you're even remotely tempted, please continue reading.


DO NOT be lured into watching Rhinestone by the fact that director Bob Clark had just come off of filming the delightful A Christmas Story.

Even though this movie was inspired by the song "Rhinestone Cowboy," that song was a hit, this movie was not.

If you watch the opening titles and think returning to the New York City of the 1980s might be fun (the place has definitely cleaned up) save your nostalgic trip for Splash.

You just gotta not watch this, friends.