When Steven Spielberg accepted the Cecil B. DeMille award at the Golden Globes Sunday night, he told an anecdote about having seen his first DeMille film, "The Greatest Show on Earth," with his father at a theater in Philadelphia. He was, he said, awestruck by the film's train-crash sequence which he credits for inspiring him to direct movies. (He went straight home and recreated the crash with his Lionel train set and filmed it with Dad's 8mm camera.) I was hoping a reader might remember at which theater Spielberg may have seen the film. It was the historic Boyd theater at 1908 Chestnut, says Howard Haas, president of Friends of the Boyd, the group that has saved the rusting Art Deco gem from the wrecking ball and hopes that a developer will preserve it. As Haas says, preservation of the theater may well inspire the future Spielbergs living in the area.
Another Philadelphia landmark, more tenderly preserved, also inspired Spielberg, raised in nearby Haddon Heights and Haddonfield, NJ. A few years back he confessed that one of his "most primal" experiences was being parked under the Wanamaker's eagle (now the Macy's eagle), when his mother went shopping at the fabled department store. "I like to think that I captured that childhood terror of predatory creatures when I made 'Jurassic Park,' " he said.
Your thoughts on Spielberg? Do you prefer his popcorn to his prestige films? Favorites? I like both flavors of Spielberg, especially "E.T.," "Minority Report" and "Munich."
And if you're agnostic on Spielberg, share a Boyd memory. My favorite: At the 1993 premiere of Jonathan Demme's "Philadelphia," I collared Denzel Washington and Tom Hanks in the lobby for a quote, and Hanks looked around and poked me, "Hey! A real movie theater!"