Before we present our eighth review of Ventura County theaters, we'd like to share an excerpt of a letter we received from an adoring reader. It begins:
"Perhaps it's time Leo Smith got his head out of the toilet and into the theater. What is this abnormal fetish Mr. Smith has with salty hot dogs and hanging out in the men's restroom? Were his parents strict evangelical hot dog vendors and washroom attendants, and this is his way of rebelling?
"If Mr. Smith is to gain any credibility, he must address the real problems that plague local theaters, as opposed to whether or not all the urinals flush or if their deodorant cakes smell springtime fresh!
"He seems to rate everything except the actual presentation, which is, after all, what people are paying for. He constantly complains about 'bogus' butter, when the option is his . . . but never addresses whether or not the film was in focus, or if the sound was too loud."
In response, we'd like to say this:
You're right, Mother Smith was indeed a hot dog vendor. But Dad dealt more in the porta-pottie arena. And yes, it's true, the two of them were very firm about never letting us bring our frankfurters into the bathroom.
Now, on to the show. This week we visited the Towne Theatre, 338 Central Ave., Fillmore. To summarize in advance, one goes to the 78-year-old, one-screen theater for the charm, not the frills.
Food: No hot dogs on the menu (Mom would be disappointed), but there were several sizes of popcorn. We didn't want butter so, as suggested, we didn't order any. The popcorn was very salty, but nonetheless, more enjoyable than usual.
On the beverage front, the theater offers a drink called the "suicide," sort of an "all of the above." It's a combination of root beer, Coke, Diet Coke and Sprite. And it's quite quenching.
Restroom: Sorry, it was a long drive. We had to check it out. This is the least frilly aspect of the place. The mirror is cracked, the paint is peeling and the toilet paper was missing. On the plus side, the restroom's proximity to the theater itself allows for uninterrupted listening to the soundtrack.
Sound quality: Very clear, all the way to the back of the theater (and beyond).
Film quality: A number of specks and some jumping, but always in focus.
Pre-movie entertainment: Wonderful old-time music.
Pre-movie ads: One.
Nostalgic atmosphere: It's like stepping back in time. A ticket kiosk, complete with an out-of-service antique cash register, stands outside and posters of old movies line the lobby walls. The theater is upholstered entirely in red (the seats and curtains) and the lighting is red too. There is wood flooring underneath the seats and a stage in front of the screen.
The theater manager adds to the coziness as he chats with the regulars and cheerfully welcomes the newcomers.