Sunday, May 17, 2015

On My Mind: Ewww. What is that?...and Links


About fifteen years ago, my wife and I discovered a theater on the other side of town. We were looking for a movie that had been out a few weeks and apparently had been pulled from most theaters in the area. Another obstacle was that two...yes, two multiplexes within fifteen minutes of us both shut down within a few weeks of each other earlier in the year. This theater was called The Raleigh Grande. It was about a thirty minute ride for us, but we both really wanted to see this movie that, for the life of me, I can't remember the name of. Since this was the closest theater showing it, we made the drive, not knowing what to expect.

According to the address, it was right off a main road we traveled many times, but neither of us had ever seen this place. We made the right off this road, dutifully following our mapquest directions and still didn't see it. Then we made the first right after that. Suddenly, this gigantic building appeared out of nowhere adorned with the words RALEIGH GRANDE. The spacious parking lot seemed to be beckoning cars to come and kneel at its feet in worship. I said "Oh shit!" It wasn't that damning 'oh shit,' borne out of frustration or resigning oneself to a less than desirable fate. This was that gleeful, giddy 'oh shit' one says when receiving the most wonderful surprise. I gladly found an empty place to park and thanked The Movie God.

The surprises kept coming as we entered the door. We walked into a spacious lobby and saw many neatly uniformed employees going about their work while exuding a pleasant demeanor. This includes a number of smiling faces standing behind the concession stand, waiting to serve as if it gave them great pleasure to do so. Video games and movie posters were all around. The young man who tore our tickets did so with great pride. When he said "Enjoy your movie," it had the most sincere ring to it. This man, in this place, in this heavenly place, really cared about our movie-going experience. My wife and I thought about skipping the concession stand for only an instant, but the impossible happened. We magically floated over to it, as if compelled by something greater than ourselves. We ordered a large popcorn and one large soda to share, as is our way. Naturally, I popped a kernel in my mouth and found it had been lovingly covered by the holiest of butters.


In hindsight, we realize there were signs announcing what would become our biggest and best surprise of the day. However, we missed them amidst all the other glorious things we were seeing, hearing, and smelling. We entered the door of the theater where our feature was playing and noticed the unusually high walls blocking our sight as we walked in. It was sloping downward toward the screen as the walkway we were in sloped upward. The two met and that last piece of magic washed over our eyes.

Stadium seating.

Oh shit.

Many of you may not understand how big a deal this was. Just about any theater worth its popcorn has stadium seating. Then, we had only heard rumors of such a thing. None of the other theaters in the area had it, to our knowledge. The two theaters that closed certainly didn't have it. Let's add another factor to this. Both Mrs. Dell and myself are very short. There has been a time or two in our lives when we were stuck seated behind a tall person in a crowded theater and had to watch a movie around this person's head and shoulders. Here, at Raleigh Grande, God's house, the seat in front of me only came up to my shin. Prayers have been answered. We happily skipped to our seats right where I like to sit: in the center of the theater. Lovely seats, they were, plush, comfortable with moving armrests. Clean.

(Not actually The Raleigh Grande, but a reasonable lookalike.)

The Raleigh Grande would become our go-to theater over the next few years. Whenever we had an opportunity to see something new, we first checked to see if it was playing there. The experience remained great. Over time, a number of other theaters sprang up all over town offering at least as good an experience, if not better. Most of them were closer to us. We didn't need The Raleigh Grande as much as we once did. We needed it even less after we moved. Even though we moved to another city, we were still about thirty minutes away. Just like when we were in the same town, there were lots of theaters between us. One of those is about five minutes away from us and has taken things a step further by including an IMAX screen. Years have passed without us visiting our old friend.

Last weekend was Mother's Day Weekend. I couldn't afford to take Mrs. Dell on some extravagant trip. I still promised to make the entire weekend as much about her as I possibly could. She said she wanted to see two movies. One as a date night for just the two of us. We'd make the other a family outing by taking the kids. The date night movie was Furious 7, a movie that had been out a little over a month. I'm from the 70s, folks. That was an era when movies stayed in first run theaters over a year, if ticket sales warranted it. There was no home video market. The VCR was still something no one had ever heard of. The only way to see movies was to go buy a ticket, or wait for however many years it took for an edited version to reach network TV and get played with commercial interruptions. It still surprises me a bit when a movie only a few weeks old is hard to find. That great theater right around the corner from us already jettisoned Furious 7 for newer fare. In fact, no place was still showing it. Well, there was one place, The Raleigh Grande. Looks like we were going back to our old stomping grounds.


We turned off that main road, made the ensuing right and there she was looking as glorious as ever. The lobby was still welcoming. The staff, though comprised of faces we hadn't seen before, was still pleasant. We didn't buy any concessions, this time, but the popcorn still smelled great. Hand in hand, we strolled to our theater and took the familiar walk next to the incredibly high walls shrinking into the mouth of the theater. Looking up at the rows of tall seats, each entirely visible, was still a tremendous site. We walked to the center row, the center seats. We were early enough that the lights were still bright.

Let me pause to pose a question to you. You know those party scenes in movies where everyone is having a good time and either a fight breaks out or an authority figure makes an entrance? Even in movies now, you instantly get the sound of a record scratching and the music stopping. What happened next felt just like that.

We looked down at what we wanted to be our seats and...and...ewww. What is that? Both seats were covered with the stains of thousands. There was a splotch of something on nearly every part of the upholstery. I said "Oh shit!" It wasn't that gleeful, giddy 'oh shit' one says when receiving the most wonderful surprise. It was that damning 'oh shit,' borne out of frustration or resigning oneself to a less than desirable fate. We looked up and down the row and all of the seats were this way. We went one row back and managed to find two relatively clean seats. By relatively clean, I mean at least they didn't look like they played host to a date that was a little too hot. What was once an idyllic experience was now a biohazard. We watched our movie, dreading the conversation we would have to have before the night was over, the inevitable break-up. As the credits rolled we exited the theater and stood for a moment in front of the marquee of The Raleigh Grande. We told her it was over, that we were growing part, that it was us, not her. There were tearful goodbyes and slow, solemn trudge to our car. We got in, drove away, and sorrowfully watched her disappear in our rearview mirror.

Forever?


In my travels around the blogosphere, I read some great posts this week. Some of my favorites:

And So it Begins... - Top 46 Things I Love About Spring Breakers (that no one talks about)
Black Girl Nerds - Nerdy, But Not Nerdy Enough
Channel: Superhero - Blogathon: Saturday Morning Memories Announcement
Fernby Films - Movie Review - Supergirl
Film Grimoire - Every Bond Film Reviewed in One Sentence
Geek Soul Brother - Why Ava Duvernay Should Direct The Inhumans!
Hitchcock's World - Society and Science Fiction
Mettel Ray - Let's Play: Movie Roulette Blogathon

Don't forget...

check out the latest edition of the 4 Ways a Best Picture Roundtable featuring yours truly.

14 comments:

  1. That sucks! What used to be (based on your description) a really good theater just became horrible after all that time. It's really about the maintenance, or renovation is probably due?

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    1. It wouldn't even be a major renovation, compared to what some other theaters need. They could just reuphloster the seats. Everything else seems to be as good as ever except that one thing.

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  2. Great post as per usual Dell. nice to have some links to find new sites :D

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    1. Thanks. I hope you like these sites as much as I do.

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  3. Wow, that's quite a story. It's funny how places like that can change over time, then a few years later you return and it's nothing like you remembered. Thanks for mentioning me in your post.

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    1. The funny part is it isn't now some dilapidated, drafty theater. It is as I remember it, except that one major thing.

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  4. That is such a shame. It looks like it was such a beautiful theater.

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    1. It still is. Just needs new seats. And man, are they bad.

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  5. Love this write-up dude, I often recall the old cinemas of my youth (before all three of them shut up shop) and how fondly I enjoyed watching movies there. Always a shame to find "you can never go back".

    And thanks for the linkage too, mate. Cheers!

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    1. Thanks. I could have gone on forever if I wanted to recall all those old theaters. Too bad you can't go back.

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  6. What a great find Dell!! I'm only 5'3" so YAY for stadium seating!! If only there's a theater like THIS near us!

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    1. I do hope you get a theater with stadium seating soon. They are a godsend for shorties like us.

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  7. Loved this post. Sorry your once-favorite theater has turned into a dump! I worked at a movie theater all through high school. At the time, it was the only theater within 20 miles of where I lived. Now there are 4 much better theaters closer to my home town. So, last Christmas I decided to go back to the theater I once worked at. Was my first time there in several years, and my experience was a lot like yours and your wife's. Yuck! Thanks so much for the link!

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    1. It's amazing how fast it goes downhill for some of these places. At least we both have other theaters.

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