Before COVID, one of my favorite things to do was to go to movies.
I’m bonus introverted. I don’t social. So I like finding ways to get myself out of the house, for the variety and all, without having to actually interact with people.
Movies, boom, done. I’ll just go to those a lot, I guess.
So, one of the last times I went to the movies, it was the local theater’s weekly old movie night. Usually, they just show one old classic or another and it’s a reliable way to be somewhere in a super low energy kind of way. Old movie night: two hours of life float by like a vintage dream with radio static crackling in the (theater’s smallest, empiest) screening room.
The habit is that I would use a renewable ticket to ensure a seat for the regular old movie night time and- once or twice a month- watch whatever was showing. I tended to not know in advance what I would be watching. I just knew that this ongoing series was never well attended, so it was one of the more relaxing rooms to hang out in.
One night, though, the old movie screening was sold out. I showed up and there was a line outside of that room and I thought, “Why are people invading the place that I like?”
I joined the line. I noticed that theater staff were walking down the line and handing out commemorative posters for whatever they were showing that night.
When they jabbed a roll of poster in my direction, I said, “No, no thank you.”
I waved it off.
All of the people in line reacted with shock. A few of them, at the exact same time, reached out to take the poster, while asking me if they could have it.
The employee said, “These are free with the ticket you purchased.” They jabbed the poster toward me again.
An elderly woman behind me leaned forward and urged, “These are limited edition.”
The poster is large and I can’t imagine holding on to this thing throughout the duration of a sold out screening. I don’t want to contend with suddenly having a thing to tote around.
“No thank you,” I told her and the staff. “I decline.”
The staff looked irritated, asked, “Should I give it to someone else?”
I looked around and multiple people were visibly interested and so, to prevent random favoritism, I told them, “No. It can just be like I returned it to the theater…for fairness or whatever.”
They shrugged, moved on. People around me really seemed huffy about the poster. I felt consternated.
Once we took our seats and the screening started, I understood the high attendance: the theme was Lucille Ball Night. It was fun and delightful and they showed a lot of classic stuff and the packed room was into it the whole way through.
Sometimes I would get distracted by the sound of paper scratching the floors and seats as people tried to find ways to settle their posters for the duration of the event. In my view, you hand the posters out as people are leaving- but then, everyone seemed so excited entering the theater with their newly acquired memorabilia, so maybe it’s…I don’t know, maybe it doesn’t matter.
Lucille Ball vintagely drifted by and, after awhile, the energized theater emptied.
The next time I went to old movie night, they were showing Patton. Only one other person showed up and they left halfway through the film. After that, it was just me and George C. Scott staring at landscapes and historical damage.