|Photo by Martinsville Police Dept.
|I didn't see Tom Jones or Irma La Douce at the Rives, but
I did see The Ghost and Mr. Chicken there in 1966.
It's so disheartening to see another of the town's landmarks fade into the past. Martinsville had its share of nice movie houses when I was a kid — the Rives, the Martin, the Town & Country — as well as several drive-in theaters — the 220, the Castle, the Family, and The Martinsville. Every one of them, now gone.
Of all these, the Rives was where I spent the most time as a lad. Rarely did a weekend go by that I didn't attend one of the Saturday or Sunday matinees — always either at 1:00 p.m. or 3:00 p.m. — and I'd occasionally go to the regular evening shows as well, especially once I got my driver's license and could transport myself and whatever company I might be keeping at the time. A pudgy, white-haired gentleman named Tommy managed the theater, and he was a fixture there for more years than I can recount. I saw so many classics and personal favorites from the 1960s and early 1970s in that dark, familiar auditorium: The Wizard of Oz, The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, Swiss Family Robinson, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Bigfoot, When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Planet of the Apes, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, War of the Gargantuas/Monster Zero, Yog - Monster From Space, Skyjacked, Cougar Country, Munster Go Home, House of Dark Shadows/Night of Dark Shadows, Return of Count Yorga, The Legend of Boggy Creek, Frogs, The Poseidon Adventure, Earthquake, The Towering Inferno, The Legend of Hillbilly John, Diamonds Are Forever, Jaws, Godzilla vs. the Bionic Monster, even Star Wars in later years... the list goes on and on and on.
I believe it was in the 1980s that the theater was remodeled and divided into two auditoriums. At that point, it never seemed quite the same, yet it was still undeniably the Rives. A damn fun place to be.
I'm pretty certain that the last first-run film I saw at the Rives was Mel Gibson's The Passion of Christ in 2004. In 2009, I did go to a special midnight showing of Night of the Living Dead there. And it was in September 2012 that I set foot in the Rives Theater for the last time, when Mat & Myron Smith's Young Blood: Evil Intentions premiered. (Some of you may recall I appeared in the movie and in 2015 wrote the novelization of the film.) I have missed seeing movies at that place above all others — well, except for maybe those old drive-in theaters — and I can't say it doesn't break my heart a little that I'll likely never have the opportunity to revisit that favorite old haunt.
Well, time and the world do move on, but history is history, and the Rives Theater played an awfully big part in mine. The Rives, for all intents and purposes, was an old friend, and I will miss it so.
|The Rives Theater in its heyday
|The Rives' remodeled facade
|Special showings of the 1940s Batman serial at the Rives, which I attended in the mid-1960s