The Palace Theater: The Saddest Place in Springfield, Missouri

This last Saturday I decided to join my friend, Jordan, to revisit a habit we started in high school and are now half-heartedly keeping alive (because we’re busy now; because we’re not in high school now): watching the newest, and worst-looking horror movies. On this particular rainy Saturday afternoon our choice was the new “Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” an equally hilarious and unnecessary reboot of the slasher/torture porn franchise. And to see this bloody garbage, we went to Springfield’s Palace Theater.

Located at 2220 West Chesterfield Boulevard, The Palace is inside of Chesterfield Village, which is basically a fake village in Southwest Springfield. If Springfield, Missouri, were a brain, Chesterfield Village would be the part of the brain that thinks its body is capable of something more, and is suffering an identity crisis, cloaking itself in well-groomed lawns, odd roads, a giant fork prop, and outlet malls that look too classy to contain businesses in Springfield. Chesterfield village is a fancy fantasy (a “fancytasy?”), and The Palace is a looming, neon pink-and-turquoise-glowing reality check, symbolizing and epitomizing every other instance of tackiness in all of Springfield (including that giant fork in the road from before).

The movies at the Palace are the movies that make you say, “Oh, that movie is already at the Palace?” The Palace is a check point indicating that a movie has “run its course,” as it only shows its movies once regular theaters have moved on, meaning the Palace feeds on the scraps of popular cinema. The Palace shows decent movies too–not just blood-soaked reboots–but only once you could simultaneously see them on DVD or Netflix. They also show cult classics occasionally, which is pretty cool (I’ve seen Army of Darkness and The Wall there before), but you have to be willing to go to The Palace, which is kind of a bummer. The atmosphere is just depressing. I’m not sure if paying $3.50 for a movie is worth seeing the employees forced into wearing black and pink short-sleeve leisure suit/bowling shirts (no one makes that look good), while they emotionlessly sweep popcorn and tune-out their customers’ children. It’s like watching an elephant mope in a cage, or like watching an elephant wear a hideous shirt that distracts from any redeeming physical features that make you want to pet it or feed it a peanut.

Confusing metaphors aside: I gave my ticket to some poor kid who probably thought it would be so cool to work in a movie theater, and ignored his sadness as I trotted to my seat at the new “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (by the way, has there ever been a better title for a horror movie?) so I could enjoy the fake sadness and cartoonish brutalizing of too-attractive actors.

And then the sweetest-looking humans on earth ruined my crappy movie.

Some woman brought six, count ’em, SIX children (CHILDREN!) into the theater. To see Texas Chainsaw 3D? (That’s the official title, but 3D viewing was not available at The Palace.) Surely not. She must be in the wrong place. She can’t be intending for these kids to witness to such gruesome acts. I almost said something to her. Something like, “You know this is a movie that has the words “chainsaw” and “massacre” in the title, right?” or “Wreck it Ralph is across the hall,” or “Get the eff out of here/what are you thinking, woman!” But I didn’t. Not I, nor anyone else in the theater, had the decency to explain to this woman her lack of decency. So I sat there, feeling miserable about what these SINGLE-DIGIT-AGED CHILDREN were about to be exposed to, waiting for the woman to realize an obvious mistake and go to the correct  movie screening. But that never happened.

I tried to forget that there were children a few rows away from me and enjoy Leatherface’s lackluster return to the silver screen. But this proved difficult.

Spoilers start here (as if you’re going to see it): The movie’s opening consisted of every murder scene (and a few other creepy moments) from the 1974 original, before picking up right where the original ends. This potentially-3D “Texas Chainsaw” is apparently a new sequel to cinema’s initial source of chainsaw death, even though there isTexas Chainsaw Massacre 2 starring Dennis Hopper from 1986 (which I’ve also seen). After the murder montage (“murdertage?”), we get to some new stuff. After a bunch of people are shot and Leatherface’s family’s house is burned to the ground, crushing them and turning them to charred grossness, a couple of sterile Texas rednecks steal a surviving baby in order to save her and pretend like they’ve created her themselves. 

After the opening credits we are in 2013, where Leatherface’s hot cousin (who has no idea that Leatherface or the rest of that family ever existed) has aged about two decades even though her biological family died around four decades ago. But this time jump is one of the least reasonable things to complain about in the whole movie. It’s much more fun to mock the cartoonish gore, bad acting, senseless advancements in plot, Trey Songz (whoever that is), poorly written dialogue, frequent falling while running, illogical character actions, and a police officer non-ironically saying, “I’m getting a bad feeling about this,” after he’d been exploring Leatherface’s dungeon of flesh masks and meat-hookery for what felt like ten minutes. There were more laughable problems in this movie than un-bra’ed bouncing breasts, and there were a lot of those.

Despite the immature glee Jordan and I experienced at every fatal surprise or piece of dialogue that could have used revising, I couldn’t help but fear for those poor kids’ brains. Several times a couple of them left and returned, either to get more popcorn, or to go to the bathroom, or to throw up, probably. I saw The Exorcist when I was in middle school by mistake on TV, and I wanted nothing to do with horror movies for a long time, and I would still occasionally get spooked just thinking about the possessed face of Linda Blair. These kids saw faces smashed with a meat tenderizer, young people still living and being impaled on meat hooks, cannibalism, folks cut up or in half by a chainsaw, car crashes, a man being chopped up by a chop-up machine (like a wood chipper, but for meat) in a slaughterhouse, people getting the crap beat out of them, a guy being stabbed with a pitchfork, a pretty girl getting shot in the face, lots of blood, a man’s face being cut off, a face without any skin on it, a guy attaching another dude’s face to his ugly mug by sewing it through his cheeks, and a buncha cursing, too.

I hope I’m not the only one who is getting all “Holden Caulfield-y” about the preservation of innocence here. I left the theater after the movie’s ending thinking about how either those kids’ brains are broken now, or how they may have not even really been affected because they’re already desensitized, which is even sadder. I think the woman who brought them even knew what she was doing could damage them, as she leaned forward to say something to them every time someone was murdered, and she also shushed a girl who started crying.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, the movie ends with Clint Eastwood’s son betraying the hot cousin, and then she learns that these Texans murdered her biological family because she reads a box of unguarded evidence, and teams up with Leatherface, her only remaining family member–who tried to kill her, and did kill her best friends and her boyfriend, like, an hour ago–to get revenge on the cops. Moral of the story being that everyone born in Texas is straight-bonkers.

For whatever reason, The Palace didn’t stop this pack of kids from seeing their most violent movie, making its environment even sadder by following the old rule–if you want to make something worse, add children!–and helping to solidify its honorable position as The Saddest Place in Springfield.

See you next time, after me and those kids go to see Texas Chainsaw Massacre 4 in 2014.

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8 thoughts on “The Palace Theater: The Saddest Place in Springfield, Missouri

  1. I work and have worked at the palace for nearly three years by now. I gotta say it is a fun jump it can get dry but it’s a great first job. Aside from that I totally agree with what your saying. The uniforms make me wanna kill myself for starters. Then there is our child policy which I’ve been advocating that we change for a long time. I know the Campbell doesn’t allow any kids under 4 into R movies after 8. I’ve been trying to get management to follow along with that but they just don’t listen.

  2. Well said Tyler, well said. I couldn’t agree with you more, especially having lived within walking distance of the theater myself. lol…

  3. I agree “Holden”. It’s sad to see ‘the least of these’ neglected, even abused by needless exposure to gore. I saw The Exorcist when I was prego with Julia. I was haunted by it for months. I don’t think I’ve seen a horror movie since then, in over 38 years.

  4. I actually like the PALACE. It’s been there for awhile and although yes, Chesterfield Village is…..weird; the Palace reminds me of “old-Hollywood” and I think one of their principles is to keep it that way. I always feel like I’ve walked into a 1950’s. Not to mention you can have an outing for very little money. I usually wait for a movie to hit the Palace before going to see it. Thus, I’m able to see twice the number of movies most people see on the same amount of money. I don’t actually like any other theatres because I don’t feel like I’m in a theatre. If I want to be at home, I’ll stay at home. I want to be in a theatre, and I want it to look like a theatre. It also makes great vintage pics. I’m seriously considering having some retro engagement pictures taken here.

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