The building had its own unique smell. The first thing you would smell upon entering the front door was freshly popped popcorn. The smell of popcorn combined with that of the interior of the old building cannot be found anywhere else.
The place I refer to is the old Royal Theater, that was once located in downtown Opp, Alabama. The building is still there, currently occupied by a florist shop, but the theater is but a memory.
The Royal was owned and operated by my great-uncle George Owen and his wife, my great-aunt Ida. Aunt Ida was my grand paw’s sister. The Royal was not the only theater they owned. At one time they owned three drive-in theaters: the Opp Drive-In was located on U.S. Highway 331 South on property now occupied by the Pizza Hut and Norris Used Cars; the Dixieland Drive-In on U.S. Highway 84 East on the current site of the Country Cathedral Church; and the Midway Drive-In, which was so named because it was midway between Opp and Andalusia on U.S.Highway 84 West, now a site mostly owned by nature.
I can recall going to the movies with my mom and dad at all three drive-ins and falling asleep about half way through the movie. But the Royal holds the biggest part of my movie going memories, because I got to go by myself.
It only cost twenty-five cents for a ticket until I turned twelve, then it went up to fifty cents. Of course, there were a few times I got in for twenty-five cents after turning twelve, Aunt Ida sold the tickets.
I can remember watching Godzilla fight numerous monsters and Frankie and Annette romping on the beach. There was also the time my brothers, Carl and Terrie, went with me. A monster movie was playing and Terrie spent most of the time sitting in the lobby.
Television eventually brought an end to the drive-in theaters, but the old Royal struggled on into the mid-sixties. After the Royal closed Aunt Ida and Uncle George retired. Uncle George kept himself busy by opening a small gun repair shop.
I still attend an occasional movie, but the fancy new theaters with their high backed seats, surround sound audio and 3D projectors, can’t hold a candle to my memories of the old Royal Theater.