Humans gravitate toward benchmarks. Anniversaries and events that end in zero, like 50th anniversaries. Turning 20. They like superlatives. The biggest. The best. The fastest. The youngest. The oldest. It’s human nature.
You never know what’s going to happen to you in a given day. Maybe you meet someone new. Maybe you work on a new project you hadn’t contemplated before. Or, if you’re lucky, you wander into a new town and stumble upon something new. Or something old.
It could be in any town in any city, but it just happens to be in a town you hadn’t planned on visiting, on a side jaunt along the way to someplace unrelated to where you now find yourself, staring up at an old building with a marquee. A movie theater like any other old movie theater on any other main street across the Midwestern United States, that dot towns here and there. Yet this one makes a surprising assertion. This one claims to be the oldest. If you find yourself in front of a theater like that, then you must be in Ottawa, Kansas, a quaint town about a half an hour’s drive south of Kansas City.
And like a trip to The Twilight Zone, the next thing you know you’ve paid the price of your ticket and you’re sitting alone in a movie theater, soaking up that old familiar place that smells like popcorn and feels like home. You marvel at the gray metal 1930s art deco ceiling lights, the tall vintage curtains, and find yourself watching a film from 1903 that played in this very town in its opening months 109 years ago, then viewed by a crowd of turn of the century townsfolk from a very different turn of the century. Like you, they were watching this movie for the first time, only they were watching it as the first movie they’d ever seen.