We now have added the Met Cinema to the long list of Mountain Area businesses that have closed their doors in recent years. The Met Cinema will rank among others we'll always remember such as Mountain Boot & Shoe (April 2009), Gottschalks (June 2009), Mountain House Restaurant (December 2009) and the Oakhurst Auto Center (January 2011).
The loss of the 26-year-old Met Cinema, where we all experienced many laughs and a few tears while watching some great films over the years, has left a big hole in this community.
You can rent all the movies you want to watch on your TV, or have the family crowd around the laptop for a movie, or even squint to watch a movie on the tiny screen of a smartphone ... But there is nothing better than sitting in front of your local "Big Screen" to enjoy a movie while hugging a bucket of popcorn (extra butter please).
I remember when Rusty and Sara Murphy, along with Rusty's parents, Mel and Meribeth Murphy, first opened the Met on March 20, 1986, bringing the magic of movies to Eastern Madera County. That was a big day for Oakhurst.
I remember all the fundraising events at the Met for the Oakhurst Boys & Girls Club, Manna House, Kings Vintage Museum, Sierra Historic Sites Association and many others. Other fundraising events included a John Wayne Film Festival, an Animation Festival for children and the simulcast of the Academy Awards.
I remember the Central California Classic Film Festival that Rusty and Sara helped me organize in the mid-80s when I was the Madera County Film Commissioner. The festival featured 28 classic MGM movies including "Gone With the Wind," "Unsinkable Molly Brown" and "A Night at The Opera."
The Met even served as a safe house where troubled teenagers and abused adults could escape to to see a movie and have some popcorn at no charge.
Let's face it -- Eastern Madera County is not the entertainment center of the world. Heck, it's not the entertainment center of Madera County, but the Met Cinema was a big part of entertainment in the area, especially during the winter when recreation options are limited.
Unfortunately, the sad reality is the financial burden of rent, payroll, utilities, insurance and supplies became too overwhelming for the Martinez family.
In addition, the industry has switched from "film" to "digital" and the cost of converting the Met's five screens to digital would cost tens of thousands of dollars.
And losing the theater means more than losing the convenience of watching a movie in Oakhurst. It will now be harder than before to live by the chamber of commerce "shop local" battle cry. Mountain Area residents will now be drawn to Fresno to see a movie -- and as long as they are there, they might as well do a little shopping, fill the family car with gas and grab some dinner. Much more money will be spent out of county than just the price of a movie ticket.
We should now consider a movie in Madera -- at least we will be keeping those funds in our county.
Maybe some things could have been done differently with the operation to save it, but there's no need to play the 20-20 hindsight game.
One can only hope that someone will ride into town on a white horse and save the day by reopening the Met Cinema. You know -- Like in the movies.