My friend and associate Travis wrote a piece a few weeks ago about Wehrenberg Theatres and his memories about the chain. Although I am nowhere near the movie fanatic that he is, I too reflect fondly on the movie chain and days gone by. Although my patronage has nearly ceased as I moved out of the market over a decade ago the experiences I had there will live on in my mind’s eye for a lifetime.
One of the first movies I had ever seen at a theatre was at a Wehrenberg. It was 1990 and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had just hit the silver screen. As a six year old this was less of a film and more of a life altering experience. Fortunately my friend’s mom invited me to go along with their family and spend the night at their house afterwards; my first sleepover. We saw the movie at none other than our local Wehrenberg theatre. On a side note, I still contend that that movie was better than it had any right to be, and we were completely amped to see the well crafted costumes of the mean green machine. When we got back home his mom shuffled us all straight to bed; an egregious error since we had all drank large movie theatre sodas and neither my friend nor myself had an opportunity to empty our bladders before we were ushered to sleep. At some point during the night that issue took care of itself as we pissed all over the place and I woke up totally saturated. Neither of us acknowledged the incident.
Flash forward to 1992 and a friend and her family invited me to a drive in to see a double feature: Wanye’s World and The Addams Family. This was my first drive in and my first and last double feature. I barely remember the plots of either movie and the back of that SUV was filled with childish shenanigans but I do remember leaving having enjoyed Wayne’s World more. I haven’t seen either film in years so that’s either a credit to my tastes or a scathing indictment of the picture since I was only 8 at the time. The next day when my mom asked me where I saw the movie I answered quickly “Weberding”. I couldn’t understand the laughter that followed.
What stood out most about that trip was not the movie but the Wehrenberg theme. Before the picture began a catchy 1970’s sounding tune preceded the movie which stuck in my memory. The tune has become a cult classic in the St. Louis area as so many of us grew up hearing it and knowing that good times were ahead. Whether it was a night out with friends, a summer day, or a Friday night heading into a three day weekend, that song meant that for a couple of hours we were going to be absorbed into another world and could forget whatever petty troubles we had going on in our lives.
Speaking of that memorable jingle there was another time that the song soothed my frazzled disposition. The year was 1996 and my hockey team was in the finals of a tournament in nearby Creve Coeur. I had played for numerous tournament winning teams and fully expected to walk away from our championship game with another first place trophy. Although the game was closely contested throughout we were trailing by a goal midway through the third period and pressing hard to tie. Unfortunately a neutral zone turnover led to a Creve Coeur goal which completely shattered our team’s spirit. After the game our team was huddled in a conference room dejectedly posing for photos as we could hear the other team boisterously celebrating their championship on the other side of the accordion dividing partition. As we were being handed our individual second place trophies the Wehrenberg theatres jingle was suddenly being played over the PA speaker in the room. “Is that the Wehrenberg song?” one teammate asked. Several of us answered in the affirmative while a smile took over our previously somber faces.
When a friend and I went to see Batman Forever in 1995 we were extremely disappointed to find that the classic Wehrenberg Theatres jingle had been replaced with an updated more modern sounding tune. Although the gist of the song was the same it lost all of the heart and catchiness of the original that we had grown up with. The end of the new song concluded with voices whispering “Wehrenberg” repeatedly which gave birth to a new annoying routine. After the intro several people throughout the theatre would continue to whisper “Wehrenberg” for a few seconds; something that I hear still happens today.
As time wore on Wehrenberg continued to be my theatre of choice. In May of 1999 I saw Star Wars: The Phantom Menace with a friend of mine at a Wehrenberg location after school during the first week of it’s release. In 2002 we saw Attack of the Clones the day of the release after school. In 2005 we saw the midnight showing of Revenge of the Sith so our Star Wars prequel watching habits continued to move closer to the release as the quality of the movie improved. Revenge of the Sith is the last movie I ever saw at a Wehrenberg location as I moved away from St. Louis at the end of 2004 and only managed to get back in town to watch Episode III because I was still in college at the time.
Although the new ownership group claims that they don’t plan to change much I’m sure that is a promise that will continue to slip with the passage of time. The purpose of the acquisition was profit and they will make whatever changes they see fit to maximize that profit. No matter what happens from this point forward though the millions of memories that have been created over the decades will live on.