In the sleepy little town where I grew up, it was just the Princess Theater. We didn't have the word cinema back then. I think that word was invented sometime in 1973.
There were two places to see a movie in that quiet All-American village. The Bowline Drive-In and the Princess. Since the concept of drive-in would require a vehicle, those of us who had to be hauled around by our parents usually wound up at the Princess.
We would get around to discovering the Bowline later on. In fact, the transition from the Princess to the Bowline could be looked at as the transition from childhood to teenage devil from hell.
I had my first date at the Princess. We saw It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, and my arm went to sleep when I put it on the back of her chair, in hopes of going on down for the shoulder. I never made it, and yet was too self-consious to retrieve it. What a numb pain that was. Jonathan Winters was up there on the screen laughing at my stupidity.
One night, my parents were going to some party and they dropped me off at the Princess all by myself. I would have usually thought this was a great idea, but it was a dark and rainy night, and the movie was some horror movie about an eyeball that was alive. ("The Hypnotic Eye?") As I sat there in an almost empty theater and shivered in fright from this giant eyeball rolling around and harming people in the most evil of ways, it seemed as if my world would never be the same. And it wasn't.
One night my best friend and I went to see some cowboy movie at the Princess, and when my mom picked us up, the first thing she said to us as we got into the car was, "Well, the world may blow up pretty soon." It turns out, that was the day of the Cuban Missile Crisis. (Thanks, Mom, for those reassuring words.)
I still dream about the place to this day. It's always different: There might be balconies or several screens or clowns in the lobby. But the name on the outside always says, "The Princess."