As most of you probably know, I work in a movie theatre. It’s not the fanciest theatre – far from it. We have six theatres crammed into a small space, a lobby that, on a major opening weekend can at times feel about as large as a residence hall room, and out of date décor. But hey, a movie is a movie, and most don’t need a particularly shiny box to play in.
What some people don’t know is that I “grew up” in this theatre. I was there the night it opened – Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure was playing. Of course, everything sold before we could even catch a glimpse of the lobby through the glass doors. So, we went home and came back after things had calmed down a bit.
The movie theatre played a major part in my life. Driving home from shopping in West Lebanon, we’d always make sure to drive by the theatre to see what movies were listed on the sign, often having a good chuckle over the funny abbreviations and combination of titles they’d put up there (“Die Hard Bambi” is still a personal favourite). I got to see re-releases of classic Disney animated features with my family, anything I could get into with my friend Susan in elementary school (to this day when I have to card someone for a ‘R’ rated movie, I remember the time we were denied access to Parenthood – it was PG-13, and I was only 11), and when I was older going on holidays with my sister when we just needed to get out of the house.
I saw Sneakers with a group of friends, and had my first (and only) experience of the projectionist having threaded and run the wrong movie. It was also one of the few times I hung out with a group of my peers and didn’t feel like the odd one out. When Titanic opened, I was there opening night. When The Wizard of Oz was re-released fore the 60th Anniversary, I sat in the theatre of my youth, watching the movie of my childhood.
Over the years, the theatre has fallen into disrepair. The carpets are rundown and worn from the hundreds of moviegoers seeking a few hours of escape from their lives. The concession stand is dated (the same one I used to buy candy from as a child). And even though I spend most of my time there, even though I have seen where the magic comes from in the projection booth (I even get to run the projectors some nights!), and even though I know all about the business end… when I come in to see a movie, as soon as I walk down that long, dark hallway, open the door and choose my seat, it is all magical again. I still catch my breath as the lights dim, and the “click, click, click” of the projector can be heard. Sadly, that is soon a thing of the past, as now all theatres (including mine eventually) are being forced into the digital age. But, that is a rant for another time.
Yes, I work in a small, run-down theatre in an age of fancy theatres with stadium lounge chairs and full-on meals out of their concession stands. But truly, when the sparkly packaging is stripped away, you are still left with entertaining stories being played out on a screen in a dark room; yes, when you strip away all the fanciness, you are left with magic.