Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The Breakfast Club at the Tivoli

The Tivoli Theater opened in Downers Grove, Illinois in 1928, three days before my grandmother was born. Downers Grove would later give the world the band Styx and Denise Richards, but I always think of the Tivoli as being the real treasure of the city (close on its heels are a certain used bookstore and a record store where I bought quite a few Beatles albums).

We started going to the Tivoli in the early 80s, after moving north to Naperville. There were plenty of closer places to see a movie, but I tend to think that the classic atmosphere and decor were why my mother drove the extra miles to sometimes catch a flick at the Tivoli. It seemed like more of an event than just popping into the nearest darkened room to watch the releases of the day.

Which is not to say that the films were always worthy of the architecture. I can recall seeing Splash there, and Footloose, among others. I also saw The Return of the Jedi there.

Later, we moved to Woodridge, much closer to the Tivoli, and it became our primary film venue. During this time, it was the second Indiana Jones flick, Beverly Hills Cop and The Breakfast Club that I watched here for the first time.

It was The Breakfast Club that got me thinking about the Tivoli this morning. I woke up with David Bowie's "Changes" stuck in my head for some reason, and somehow followed the song into its usage in that movie, where they display the quote about how the children are quite aware of what they're going through.

Watching it in the theater, it struck me as the first time a film seemed to be speaking directly to me, to people my age who were not necessarily cool or popular. And the quotation burned itself into me.

At the time, as a sixth-grader, the lyrics and the song were much the same as the Tivoli to me: something from before I had consciousness. Things of any vintage at all were somehow either timeless (if they had any relevance to me) or merely old (if they did not). The Tivoli and the song were timeless to me. David Bowie, in that moment, may as well have been Shakespeare or Poe.

Now that I am older I can place things in context. The theater, with its art deco stylings and its 1400 fairly comfortable seats, truly was timeless. The song was, at the time the film came out, less than 15 years old. While it would perhaps prove itself timeless in due course, in 1985 it was merely a hit from the previous decade.

I imagine that somewhere in a darkened theater right now, and 11-year-old is watching a film which uses some song from the mid-90s and having the same response. And then I realize that there really aren't any movies out there which are trying to speak to this younger generation in the way that The Breakfast Club tried to speak to mine. Certainly, no one seems to be making any money doing so. All the 11-year-olds are undoubtedly out seeing Transformers, if they're in a cinema at all.


Liz Dwyer said...

Those old-style theaters gave such a feeling of grandness. They give a distinct feeling of place and time to the movies that were playing. I'm glad there are two theaters like this in my neighborhood here in LA. It's more memorable than seeing a film at the local mall. And you're right. There are only blockbusters for this generation. Perhaps you need to give screenwriting a try as well?

hesitant scribe said...

i love the breakfast club!!! It was the film of our generation! Fabulous!

Unknown said...

I think there was something about The Breakfast Club that even some people who are (slightly) older than you could identify with!I also adored Pretty in Pink which featured my band of the times - The Psychedelic Furs. Strangely enough The Furs leak out of Big Feckers room quite often.

The Moon Topples said...

Liz: I agree with the sentiments about old theaters, but not so much with the notion that I should consider screenwriting. You LA folks think everyone should be "in the biz."

HS: It may very well have been, for better or for worse.

Minx: I'm sure that anyone over the age of 18 was just sitting there rooting for the principal. Got nothing against the Furs, but am not a fan of Pretty in Pink.

Liz Dwyer said...

LOL. I think this is the first year that I've started thinking of myself as an "LA" person. I'll admit the screenwriting thing is on my brain lately because one of my writing mentors has suggested to me that I take a screenwriting class as a way to beef up my ability to give my characters movement and build a sense of place. You're good at those things already. And you clearly have a gift for the visual as well as the written word.

Unknown said...

11 year olds? Transformers? Possibly Shrek or Harry Potter for an 11 year old, Transformers would be lucky to be watched by the 8 year old!

I detect a 'things ain't what they were, when I was young' tone... are you turning old on us, Maht?

Wanderlust Scarlett said...


You may already know this, having been to Denver before (twice, yes?)... but there is a Tivloi here as well... on the Auraria Campus, it used to be a brewery that was renovated and is now part of a college campus.

LOTS of fun, and they show really good movies as well.


Scarlett & Viaggiatore

The Moon Topples said...

Liz: Well, I know a guy who knows Jim Carrey's trainer, if you need me to put in a word...

Cailleach: Oddly, I don't think this is a "things were better when I was young." I have trouble thinking of a movie that holds a similar place for other generations, that came out at the right time and captured some of the joy and suckiness of being a teenager simultaneously. But I could be wrong. I do consider myself a grumpy old man in waiting, so one of these days I'm sure I'll start talking about such things.

Scarlett: Yup. Been there, although it didn't feel as special as the Tivoli in Downers Grove did to me. Didn't get there at the right age, I guess.