JoEllen Collins—a longtime resident of the Wood River Valley—is a teacher, writer, fabric artist, choir member and unabashedly proud grandma known as “Bibi Jo.”

I love movies, ever since this little girl saw Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” The evil witch scared me, but I was used to Grimm’s fairy tales, so that did not spoil the thrill of that color, music and animation so large before me. I recognized a new world of imagination.

As I grew older, I learned a lot about life by taking the bus to the Leimert Theater in Burbank as often as possible, even when I had to put up with my little brother crawling under the plush seats. However, that place was also where I had my first date with my high school boyfriend. There we sang along to the bouncing ball on the screen preceding the feature and then thrilled to holding hands for the first time.

I committed one of my first transgressions at the nearby Pickwick Drive-In. Because I was so skinny, I hid under a rug in the back seat of our roomy sedan so four of us looked like three to the attendant collecting money. Later, I told my uncle about my actions, and he didn’t just giggle — he drove back to the Pickwick where I confessed to my bad behavior and paid for my ticket out of babysitting savings. I am now penny-honest.

I became a fervent moviegoer. My best friend and I would get into my old car “Denton” and head into Hollywood to see foreign films. During our first experience at the Beverly Theater, we were stunned by the force of Japan’s “Seven Samurai” and France’s “The Crucible,” starring Simone Signoret as the doomed Puritan.

We have continued our mutual love of film even though living far away from each other, and often suggest fine films via phone or email. When my husband and I visited her and her husband in San Francisco for several New Year’s weekends, we would spend New Year’s Eve laughing at the latest Woody Allen movie (when he was highly respected) and going to a late dinner at the Boulangerie.

Well, I miss those times. COVID-19 changed our viewing habits. While I welcome the proliferation of cable-fed features at home, it just isn’t the same as going to a theater.

Now, post-pandemic, I am enjoying the Fall Film Festival at the Magic Lantern and loving the way I can see movies in the dark with an audience experiencing emotions like mine and perhaps laughing together at the humor on the big screen. Even sitting in front of the TV with my dog as my company can’t match the shared sensations of being with others to partake in the magic of film. So, give me a safe and comfortable place in a movie house and I’ll be there.

We have lost one movie theater in the Valley, and now the Magic Lantern is for sale. I hope that any buyer keeps that corner for movie projectors and stimulated audiences. Otherwise, I will miss my special place to enjoy a couple of hours of delight.

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