I promised myself to go see Pavarotti at the theater when it came out. The only theater showing it [earlier this summer was] the Fine Arts Theatre in Asheville. So I drove up just to see it there.
I’m 67 years old and partially disabled. I can walk short ways but was very grateful that the one handicapped spot was available to park in. So I buy a ticket for the show and am faced with a double set of stairs to climb to the theater upstairs. Using my cane, I managed to slowly get up there, determined now to see the movie. It was a special treat for me. I’m a huge Pavarotti fan.
Then I watched the other people climb up and fill the theater. The average age of this group had to be 60! Many canes were used. Some of the people were really struggling after being in 80-plus degrees heat to accomplish this climb. Many balked at the third set of steps to the seating.
After two hours … I made the climb back down, slowly. I spoke to the manager about this bad level of ageism and while he apologized, he said it’s the way the building was built and he couldn’t do anything about it. I think warning people about the stairs might have been a start! Only showing it downstairs would have been another good idea.
Is this the general attitude in Asheville nowadays, gearing everything to the younger and/or fitter set? Is mountain climbing a requirement for everything there? I’ve lived in this area for nearly 20 years. I avoid doing numerous things in Asheville for this very reason.
Grabbing the ice and pain pills [after the show]. Not a treat.
— Gail Nash
Editor’s note: Xpress contacted the Fine Arts Theatre with a summary of the letter writer’s points and received the following response from Neal Reed, the theater’s manager/programmer: “Our ‘Upstairs’ auditorium is the original balcony from 1947 when the theater opened. The balcony was used as segregated seating; all nonwhites had to climb the stairs to see the same films as whites were watching on the main floor. Unfortunately, the building just won’t accommodate an elevator.
“We always try to open films on the main floor, as we did for Pavarotti for the first week’s showings. Pavarotti moved upstairs for its second and last week, as we opened Yesterday, one of the biggest films for us this summer.
“We note each film’s auditorium on our website and on our phone message.
“When possible, we move films down during the week for those who can’t make it up the stairs. Go to fineartstheatre.com or call 828-232-1536 for auditorium information.
“The reality is not discriminatory ageism at the Fine Arts or elsewhere in Asheville’s beautiful old buildings.”