The NYT these days publishes laments for the loss of public venues providing opportunities for rude uncivilized behavior on the part of representatives of the barbarian underclass community.
On a recent morning, the Regal UA Court Street in Brooklyn was uncharacteristically quiet. Posters for “Jackass Forever” and “American Underdog” hung in its windows, but the curving marquee had been stripped of its letters, and its glass doors were locked. Peering inside, you could see a scattering of dead leaves on the floor of the darkened lobby, like tumbleweeds in a western.
A pair of teenage boys, Kimani Augustin and his friend Demarcus Cousins (yes, like the basketball player), stood outside and reminisced about the good times they’d had there. “It could get crazy,” Kimani said, “but was amazing nonetheless.”
The theater closed last Sunday, taking regulars by surprise. Right away, the Twitter tributes poured in, many of them written in a tone of ironic amusement. Dean Fleischer-Camp, a filmmaker, said that his favorite movie experience ever involved people “screaming, laughing, singing” and “throwing popcorn” during a 6 p.m. screening of “Drag Me to Hell.” Lincoln Restler, the newly elected councilman whose district includes Downtown Brooklyn, shared a picture of a moving van parked outside. “For the shouting-back-at-action-movie experience,” he wrote, “there was no place better!”
Cyrus McQueen, a stand-up comic and the author of “Tweeting Truth to Power,” a book of essays on race and politics in America, was as struck by what these commenters didn’t say as by what they did. “I’m an African-American man, so I speak plainly,” he said. “It was a Black theater. You yelled at the screen, and folks would talk.” A longtime resident of Crown Heights, Mr. McQueen regarded a sold-out showing of “Black Panther” at the Regal as one of the highlights of his life.
“A major component of Black existence is forced comportment in white spaces,” he said. “There is a comfort derived from taking off the disguise, if just for a few minutes in the cinema.”
In New Haven, back when I was at college, locals would “take off the disguise” all the time in the College Street Cinema, drinking beer and smoking pot in defiance of theater rules and the law, talking loudly to one another, shouting at the screen, starting fights, and threatening any normal people who objected.
They were a nuisance and a public hazard and their habitual presence soon led to the normal audience abandoning that theater and its closing. It only took attendance at one or two films to modify my views on Segregation in the pre-1960s South.
If we are going to have “Diversity and Inclusion,” it ought to be on terms of assimilation of the primitive, barbarous, unruly, and inconsiderate of others to normal civilized standards of decorum and behavior. It is an absolute disgrace for an elite establishment institution like the Times to legitimize these sorts of standards and behavior and to provide a forum to people who have adopted a group identity rejecting both self respect and consideration for others.