Headmaster’s Thoughts – February 2018

The news that the Lincoln Plaza Cinema is closing at the end of January, is depressing to those of us who live and work in the Lincoln Center area.  We, at York, take our cultural and entertainment opportunities somewhat for granted. Several months ago, we took the entire school to the aforesaid Lincoln Plaza to see “Wonderstruck”, and then were privileged to have Brian Selznick, the book’s author and the film’s screenplay writer, address us all.  About a month later, we took the Middle School to see “Wonder” at the Lincoln Square cinema on the corner of 68th and Broadway, and this month I take the entire Senior Class to a working rehearsal at the Metropolitan Opera. It is all so conveniently close.

Mr. Roper, our peerless New York tour guide, takes school trips to the New York Historical Society, at 77th Street and Central Park West, to downtown Manhattan on walking adventures, and to important graveyards where the famous are laid to rest.  We can walk students to the Natural History Museum, and just across Central Park (a spectacular resource in itself, just steps from the School) to the Metropolitan Museum, and the other museums on “Museum Mile.”

Because we use so many resources of this great City, we, as a school, mourn the loss of our near neighbor, the Lincoln Plaza. To those of you who have visited the rather dinghy 6 screen basement cinema, you will not easily forget the experience. It showed top class but comparatively uncommercial (in the sense that they were not “blockbusters”) movies. Typically, all of Woody Allen’s recent movies were shown here. They had superb foreign movies, the very best of the best. And they presented small, independently produced films that represented some of the most creative minds in the modern genre. I distinctly remember seeing “Dinner with Andre” (both funny and bizarre) there. Once inside, you (even at my age) were probably one of the younger people in a theater that seemed to attract the very old. The concession stand was a strange mix of organic food and cappuccino.  The screen was small, and the seats not very comfortable.  The bathrooms were mediocre. And there was a musty scent in the air of the entire cinema.

It was, however, all worth it because of the movies. They were movies for intelligent adults. They were chosen by Mr. and Mrs. Talbot, and I am sad to report that Mr. Talbot recently passed away. He, and his wife, brought a quintessential Westside spirit to their movie house.  Rarely was a children’s movie shown…the Loews does that better and their concession stand sells the type of sugary comestibles that children prefer. “Wonderstruck” was a touching story about the deaf culture, and certainly not a “children’s movie” within the usual definition. The advantage of movies at the Lincoln Plaza that appealed to its patrons’ cerebrum, was that you do not get the constant running in and out of the cinema by teenagers that you can get at the local Loews when it shows a “blockbuster”, nor the flashing light of iPhones being searched for messages. Yes, you may have had an elderly person asking their companion “What did he say?”, and you would hope that the escalator that took you down to the bowels of the building in which the movie house existed, would still be working when you emerged at the end of the film (it sometimes broke down). But I know of no other movie house within 20 blocks that I could be sure would show at least one great movie that I would like – and very often there was a great movie on every one of their 6 screens. This temple to great cinema will be missed by all of us in this community.

Ronald P. Stewart
York Prep