When it comes to a night out at the movies, Saint Joseph citizens have very few places to go. They can go to Hollywood 10 Theater where they’ll get to see the newest film for a hefty price or they can go to Plaza 8 Theater, where they can finally see that movie they never got around to seeing when it was first released or relive some old school movie memories from their pasts on the weekends. Joshua Hall, who has been Plaza 8’s general manager for the past two years, is ready for people to see this theatre for the gem that it really is and always has been.
“In 5 years, I want to own the Plaza outright and hold a ceremony for that name as we remodel the bathrooms and put a nice set of color coordinated paints all over the place,” Hall said. “And then when everyone drives past that spot on the middle of the Belt, they’ll see ‘The Theater’ and they’ll see teenagers hanging out. They’ll see college age folk getting a night out they can afford, they’ll see families sharing in a myriad of magical experiences together, they’ll see adults and children alike. They’ll see lights shining in the night, every single night.”
Luckily for Hall, there are people in Saint Joseph that share his dream. For Western alumni Jes Baltezor, Plaza 8 will always hold a special place in her heart.
“Plaza 8 has always been nostalgic for me because it was the place that I saw some of my first films on the big screen,” Baltezor said. “One of my first memories is going with my dad to see Beauty and the Beast, so every time I thought of my first relationship with cinema, the Plaza 8 was always the frame of reference.”
It is this love of cinema that Hall hopes to bring back to Plaza 8 with the direction he wants to take the theater in. He knows that it’s an uphill battle, but he’s not shying away from the elbow grease required to return Plaza 8 to its original glory. To get through college, Hall ran an arcade. Then he helped fix up a local dinner theatre. And it was in acts like these that Hall found what he was passionate about. After college, he spent a lot of time chasing after dreams that he thought he ought to have, based on his degree, instead of dreams that he actually had.
“Douglas Adams wrote ‘I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.’ Why do I love my job? Very few people get a second chance at first loves, it’s no more ‘running an arcade’ than it is ‘running a theater,'” Hall said. “I’m a curator, a historian, a party host, the keeper of precious things and a scientist that understands the magic of moments when time stops. I deal in the intangibles and nothing’s better than sending everyone home happy with something that lasts longer than physical things.”
The theater has become a sort of home for Hall, who has a plethora of ideas to freshen it up and make the movie-going experience at Plaza 8 more enjoyable. He wants to fix up the concession area in the back of the theatre, an area that hasn’t been utilized since the 90s. He wants to put an all-you-can-play retro arcade into one of the pre-existing theaters and rip out the seats in another to install couches and a DVD projector so he can run sporting events and television shows there. On the weekends, Hall is already showing classics like The Rocky Horror Picture Show, E.T., and The Goonies. And the locals can’t get enough of these decade-old favorites.
“With the economy the way it is, it is nice to be able to go see a movie on the big screen and not have to pay a ridiculous amount,” Baltezor said. “And when they show cult classics like Rocky Horror or Night of the Living Dead, there seems to be an unspoken sense of community that you normally don’t see in movie theaters.”
For Plaza 8, the future is bright, and Hall will see to it that the hope of restoring and preserving the theater comes into fruition. He has made this theater his life work and it’s a work he can be proud of. It’s amazing what can happen with a little movie magic.
“I’m excited for the future because the modern times have seen three business models always thrive, churches, bars and theaters,” Hall said. “People want to gather, people want to share. These things won’t change, even in the face of Netflix and online interaction. There will always be a market for spectacle because spectacle is one of the best parts of life.”