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Yeah, Fountain Valley Drive-in had a BIG screen. I lived a mile away on Elm Street in Talbert Village, and I’d climb the big elm tree in our front yard and watch the movie, perched in the branches. No sound and pretty uncomfortable, but impressive nonetheless. The night it opened they had a big broohaha – the world premiere of John Wayne’s ‘The War Wagon’ – and the PR buzz was that “An Oscar-winning actor” would be there for the festivities. Imagine everyone’s disappointment when it turned out to be Ed Begley, Sr.! On the other hand, a lot of guys appreciated the appearance of a young up-and-coming starlet named Raquel Welch.
My name is Steve Uhler; I am a film critic for the Austin Chronicle and the author of the book ‘A Movie A Day’. I lived in Monterey from 1973 to 1983 – a magical decade in my life, much of it spent at the 812 and Dream Theater. The 812 used to show locally-produced newsreels before their main features, most of them spotlighting the rash of arson that plagued Cannery Row during that time (developers wanted to convert the dilapidated and abandoned old canneries into trendy gift shops and when they couldn’t buy them, they simply burned them down one by one.) I also remember watching the cartoon ‘Bambi Meets Godzilla’ at the 812 after smoking a joint and thinking it was the funniest thing I’d ever seen. And, of course, the midnight showings of ‘Rocky Horror’ that ran there forever – until forever ended. Contrary to beachbear’s posting, the tiny wood building that housed the 812 Cinema still stands, squeezed in between (you guessed it) a couple of trendy gift shops. It may be a neglected and abandoned piece of real estate now – but the friendly ghosts of long-ago patrons still lounge on the pillows and watch ‘King of Hearts’. (And, oh yeah, those pillows could get pretty skanky . . )