The movie theater industry has been taking hits for over a decade now. The most harmful blow has been COVID-19, which has the theater industry on hold for most of 2020.
The failure of Christopher Nolan’s Tenet in America has led to studios either rescheduling their releases or putting them on hold. The most direct result we’ve seen so far from the rescheduling of the fall and winter release schedule is the announcement that all Regal Cinemas theaters in America will be temporarily closing their doors.
This news hit home for me, as I worked at Regal theaters in both high school and college.
So this week, rather than talk about new streaming titles or make estimations about the rest of the 2020 release schedule, I figured I’d share a bit about the origins of my personal love for movie theaters.
Opening at the Coventry 13
My first paid gig wasn’t a movie theater but, rather, a position as a golf caddy. I’d carry around clubs for maybe 12 hours a week and get paid under-the-table. I was 15 and any money I could get my hands on was welcomed. But I don’t really think that counts as a job.
My dream at the time, when I was 15, was to work at a movie theater.
For the prior few years I had been biking to the Coventry 13 Regal Cinemas theater once or twice a week, which was not nearly enough. TVs were small and looked awful back then, so leaving the house to sit in a huge, dark, loud room with a gigantic screen was by far my favorite thing to do.
My friend Clint got a job at the Coventry 13 theater around the time I decided to retire from the caddy game at the ripe age of 15. Clint knew I wanted to work at any place that allowed me to watch free movies, and thus gave me tips on how to get hired.
It’s easy to remember the moment in which the call came in that I had the job because I felt as if I had won the lottery.
a Dream come true
I started my first shift on my 16th birthday, the first day I was allowed to legally work. It was a young man’s dream come true.
That night I learned how to make popcorn, how to read a movie schedule, how to clean a popper and a warmer (worst part of the job, by far), how to restock candy, how to get gum out of carpet, how to water down the nacho cheese and, most excitingly, where to deliver soda to the projectionists.
During my training the manager informed me that I could watch up to one free movie per day. I quickly learned that I could go to as many free movies as I wanted if I did a good job and wasn’t creating any problems for anyone.
And so I saw everything. Twice. Three times. As many times as I wanted.
I saw Jan de Bont’s Twister 15 times.
I liked that on weekends I got to work late and then hang out with my co-workers. I liked that the theater kept hiring my friends.
But mostly, I liked that I spent a whole lot of my time around these huge, dark, loud rooms that blasted out story after story from around the world.
Eventually my face broke out to the point that I was not someone you’d want to look at when ordering hot dogs. My then-girlfriend convinced me that the acne was a direct result of being around so much oil and butter while making popcorn and cleaning the popcorn warmer. She was older than me, and therefore wiser, and so I reluctantly quit my then-dream job.
Later in college, I worked here and there at movie theaters again for extra cash. But when I look back at that first movie theater job I had when I was 16, I think of it as a short-lived personal golden era in which I saw every single movie that came to town at least once.
It was just me and my friends, watching every movie, putting nacho cheese on our popcorn, and drinking all the soda we could stomach. It makes me sad to think that those jobs are disappearing, and that the movie theater experience might not be for long.
All that being said, I do not think that movie theaters will go completely extinct. Not yet at least.
There’s something about seeing things with a crowd. About getting out of the house. About release dates. About meeting up with friends. About first dates. About catching the previews. About the buzz you feel after you’ve just seen something great.
And you can’t replicate those things at home, no matter how big your TV is.
Send your movie theater memories my way at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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