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Depression Era Theaters Gave a Glimpse into a New World

In our generation movie theater lobbies are plain but necessary entrances. They are a place where you deposit your ticket or purchase your popcorn, candy, and beverage.

But in the hard days of the Great Depression, the lobbies of show palaces were places of awe-inspiring beauty. (See the images for The Los Angeles Theater, built between 1911-1931 and the Paramount Theater in Seattle, Washington, built in 1928.) The typical lobby was a feast for the eyes because it was designed to offer a transition from the grind of daily life. Theater architects wanted moviegoers to feel a sense of anticipation for what was coming next. Vaulted ceilings, museum-worthy art, lush tapestries, beautiful fixtures, and uniformed ushers gave customers a sneak-peak at what they could expect once they entered the theater itself. During the Depression era movie tickets cost about 27 cents apiece. That wasn't cheap for those times, but movies offered Americans a chance to escape loneliness and fear, bringing strangers together for a moment of beauty and hope.

The body of Christ [or our worship services, or works of art and beauty] is a lot like those classic theaters. God has called us to give the world a preliminary picture of another world—not an imaginary film world, but a real world filled with God's glory. We help people get excited about God's kingdom and our heavenly home. Even in our sin and brokenness, we're called to model a way of life that is different from the world around us. Our love, our hope, our forgiveness should offer the world the beautiful alternative of life with Christ.

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