Forty-six years after attending the opening of Columbia City Cinemas, Tom Brzezinski remembers it well — though not for the spiffy lobby or gum-free seats. It was the theme of that first film in 1973 that stuck with Brzezinski, 78.
“Here we were in this beautiful, bohemian, multi-ethnic community, and what does the theater’s owner [General Cinema] give us but ‘Hitler: The Last Ten Days,’ " said Brzezinski, a board member of the Columbia Film Society. "Beforehand, the manager stood up and apologized for what they were about to show.”
Still, Columbia had its first theater, and a twin movie house, to boot — a big deal for film buffs who’d had to drive to Catonsville or beyond to see first-run shows. For 27 years, the cinemas on Wincopin Circle engaged viewers with classics like “The Sound of Music,” “The Graduate,” “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Good Morning, Vietnam.”
Next door was the Columbia Inn (now Sheraton), which lodged many performers who appeared at Merriweather Post Pavilion and who’d take in afternoon movies to pass the time. In 1980, John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd showed up to see their own film, “The Blues Brothers.”
Most nights, the place was a haven for Mary Weeks, whose mother dropped the youngster off at 5 o’clock before going to work nearby.
“I’d sit there for hours, scrunched down in the seat, watching the same movie over and over until mom came to get me,” said Weeks, 55. “I saw ‘Benji,’ ‘Pippi Longstocking’ and ‘Mary Poppins.’ That theater was my second home; it affected my life.”
After college, Weeks went into the business, produced a cable TV show (“Columbia Matters”) and now does video work for the Columbia Association.
Eventually, other theaters siphoned off its patrons and the Columbia City Cinemas closed in 2001. Condominiums now stand on the site where “Saturday Night Fever” once played.