MARK FIELDS, FILM CRITIC
Mark Fields may be the executive director of The Grand by day, but for 10 years, he’s been working his Delaware side hustle as movie critic for Out & About Magazine. We called him up to chat about where his love for movies came from, and discovered that even though he didn’t go into a career in film, he still somehow found himself working inside a movie theater:
"My folks liked to tell a story: I was born in 1959, and they of course took me to see 'Mary Poppins' in 1964. I adored Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins. A couple years later, when 'The Sound of Music' came out, they took me to that too. Even at that age, I understood the difference between characters and actors. So we were in this big movie theater - at least it seemed big to me - and I was just thrilled because I was going to see my friend, Julie Andrews. And there was that opening of ‘The Sounds of Music,' the camera sweeps over the Alps, there's the overture, and then the shot that we all know, that everybody knows, the camera swoops in on the meadow and Julie Andrews does a turn and opens her mouth and that glorious voice starts singing. And here in the middle of this packed movie theater in Milwaukee, this little voice went ‘IT'S JULIE!!!’”
"My parents, of course, slunk down into their seats. That's when they knew I was probably destined for a career in show business."
"I don't remember a time when I wasn't going to movies. I was the oldest of four. My dad was a minister, my mom was a teacher, and we never had a lot of money. My first memories of going to movies were at drive-ins when we were on summer vacation. I remember 'The Unsinkable Molly Brown' and there was a Disney movie called ‘The Three Lives of Thomasina.' My favorite without a doubt is ‘Casablanca.’ I never get tired of watching ‘Casalbanca.’ The script is so sharp and the performances are so vivid."
"Because I went to so many movies, I just volunteered to be the movie critic for the college paper. I don't think I ever wanted to make movies, but movie criticism was a way that I could combine my interests in going to movies and forcing my opinion on other people. I also teach film history at Rowan University, and I've been doing it for almost 20 years now."
"At two times in my career, I have worked in theaters that were once movie theaters. My first job out of college was as an intern in the marketing department at the Indiana Repertory Theatre in Indianapolis. It was renovated 1920s movie palace, a gloriously beautiful building."
"And then in 2006, I got a job working at The Grand. The Grand has a history as a movie theater, but wasn't built as a movie theater. It was built as an opera house in 1871, was on the opera house circuit for many years, then on the vaudeville circuit, than in the 1920s it became a movie theater. There was a building right next to it, The Aldine Theatre, which is where my office is now, in what’s now The Baby Grand. It was built as a movie theater, so it was considered a first-run theater while the Grand was considered a second-run theater."
“At one point, there were 14 movie theaters in downtown Wilmington, on Market Street and 9th Street. When I talk to my class, I say it's hard for you to imagine, but at one point not only was there no Internet and no computers and no cell phones where you could watch things, but there wasn't even TV. Movies were the primary form of entertainment in the early 20th century. And all those movie theaters were there on Market because people were making money."