Movie theaters have disappeared from many towns. In Beppu, where there were 25 cinemas at its height, one town movie theater continues on to this day. Ms. Okamura works there mainly by herself doing everything, including selling the tickets, being the projectionist, and even cleaning up.

 

She even screens movies that are not distributed by the major film companies, and prizes her role as a link between those making the films and those watching films. As a theater manager who provides a setting that is an opportunity for directors and actors to directly address an audience, she has many fans from both sides. Last year she held a Bluebird film festival, which many actors rushed to attend, including Mitsuru Hirata. She operated the film projector herself for the screening of “Kamata Koshin Kyoku” (English title, Fall Guy), which was the centerpiece of the festival, and the sold-out theater was enveloped by a sense of unity.

 

Looking back, when her husband was the theater manager, they were a screening theater of Nikkatsu (a former film company) during their golden age when Yujiro Ishihara and Sayuri Yoshinaga were in their prime. The theater building was built on a main street in front of a train station, and as Beppu flourished as a hot spring tourist city, the theater also prospered greatly. Her husband was a very creative person and came up with the novel idea of the joint establishment of a cine-salon, where you could enjoy food, drink and movies at the same time. Her husband, who was a year older than her, passed away when she was 40 years old leaving her with two daughters and a feeling of bewilderment. However, inspired by loving memories of her father and husband, she resolved to take over the movie theater.

 

Her girlish love of films does not diminish no matter how old she gets, and she continues to provide a protective stronghold for the town’s film culture. The screen of Aoi Tori is a shining light, whose existence is dear and precious to the people of Beppu.

 

Teru Okamura

Born in Beppu in 1931. A student at Oita Prefectural Beppu Girls High School when the war ended. Graduated from Oita Prefectural Beppu Midorigaoka High School (currently Oita Prefectural Geijutsu Midorigaoka High School) owing to reforms to the educational system. In 1953, married her husband, Akio, who was in the same year as her at school.

Cooperation: Oita Prefecture RINRI Hojinkai Association President, Mr. Hidetoshi Hirano.

Translation: Media Research, Inc.

 

This article originally appeared in “Shinsei” magazine, May 2018 issue, published by RINRI Institute of Ethics. Partially rewritten to update for this internet release.

Spirit and Spine
‘Kitohone’

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