January 2004–Sunlight washed over the vast parking lot, reflecting off of the pavement as we drove in. There were cars filling practically every spot, and I had never seen such a large cineplex before. I was coming from my comparatively small town to visit my cousin for the weekend. The size of it was almost daunting; I had been to the movies before, of course, but the movie theater back home was not nearly as large as the AMC 24 that we were standing before. There was only one screen to be found in that broken down, fire-hazardous theatre. We could hear the commotion of excited teenagers before we had even exited her Corolla.
I followed behind her as we walked up to the ticket booth. We passed by a wide fountain spraying out beautiful clear blue water into the basin, and I looked in to see the bottom speckled with change. It was refreshingly cool outside even though the sun was out, and I was glad that I had decided to wear a skirt today. I soon regretted that decision, however, when I felt the blast of cold air escaping from inside the ticket booth as the employee inside handed over our tickets. Why do I always forget that movie theaters are freezing, I thought as we walked to the door. I never understood why the managers in these places feel the need to freeze their occupants.
As we walked inside, the overall scenery impressed me. It was dim, and it cast a slightly mellow and romantic mood. Movie posters advertising this week’s coming attractions and beyond were placed on the walls; they were definitely a step up from the half-torn, frayed posters from back home. They were all behind this glass covering, safely protected from the spontaneous vandalism of errant teenagers. I had never seen the appeal of wanting to deface public property, but maybe I had just never reached that realm of boredom. There was more than enough “security,” for there were cops walking around and socializing with other employees. A circular area was isolated by rope connecting from an information desk as soon as we entered the main door, and my cousin handed over our tickets. They told us to walk down the hall and to the right after handing us back the stubs. I started to head in that direction, but my cousin caught my arm.
“Not just yet,” she said. “First, we’re going this way,” and she pointed straight ahead.
We walked forward, and the first thing that I noticed was that a dome structure was erected over four pillars in the middle of the room, just before the main concession stand. I had seen others down the hallways that branched off from this area, and the smell of popcorn was more distinctive as we walked closer. There were benches under the dome, and as we walked underneath, she pointed upward, and I saw a miniature replica of the night sky.
“It’s pretty cool, isn’t it?” she said, and her voice echoed as we stood beneath the starlit dome.
She was right. This display was definitely a step up from the little neon green, glow-in-the-dark stars and moon that I stuck on my ceiling when I was a kid. Even though I kept them up there, I never thought those stickers glowed the way they were supposed to. There was effort put into this, although most people probably would not think that when they look at it.
“Yeah, it is pretty cool,” I said as I rubbed my arms, “and it’s also pretty cool in here period.” Next time, I am bringing a jacket, I thought.
“You get used to it,” she said as she grabbed my arm again. “Come on, or we’ll miss the previews.”
We passed many more posters as she practically dragged me down the lengthy hallway, and I even came across a few life-sized posters made of cardboard. I caught a glimpse of a few game machines, and as we moved past, a kid hit one in frustration as he dug in his pockets for more quarters. As we entered our designated theater, there was music playing on the wide movie screen, and I looked up to see that the film had not started yet. We walked up the walkway, and turned the corner at the end of the wall. The seating led up off the floor of the theater, reminding me of the inside of a stadium. We sat somewhere towards the middle, but not in the back because there were already teenagers there. They were already making enough noise, and I sat back and hoped that they would not continue that behavior when the movie started, but that seemed unlikely. I had read somewhere once that if they were in Japan, the whole theater would have been looking at them with censorship at this point, especially if they did not stop once the movie began As soon as that thought crossed my mind, a man and woman walked by, their three kids trailing behind them. The family of five moved down the next row behind us, and one of their small children, a boy that looked about eight-years old and already fighting with his older sister, sat behind me. Light fixtures projecting from the walls began to dim. This is going to be great, I thought as the movie began, little feet already kicking the back of my chair.
I sat through the latest comedy/drama for the next two hours, and after we moved down a couple more seats, I was actually able to enjoy the movie. The other audience members laughed at all of the appropriate comical attempts in the movie, and I laughed along with them. The air conditioning situation was even worse while sitting in the theater, and it made me yearn even more for the comfort of a jacket. My stomach started to rumble, and I wished that my cousin and I had stopped for some popcorn before rushing in here, but I could do without. As I sat there rubbing my legs and trying to get a little warmer, I looked and saw a couple sitting in front of us a few rows down. The girl was sitting next to her boyfriend, and the arm had been let up between their seats so that she could cuddle up to his side as he put his arm around her. It was a little strange that I noticed that, but they looked cute sitting there together. It was not an overt display of affection, just simple and romantic. If they had been in another country, such as Malaysia, they could have been fined $70. It must be nice to have someone like that, I thought to myself.
As the movie wound down and the credits started to roll, I rose out of my seat along with my cousin. We walked out of the row and down the walkway, and as we passed by the couple, my cousin started to giggle.
“Look at them,” she said, and I looked over to see that the couple was kissing. “I don’t think they even know that the movie’s over,” she said with another giggle. I rolled my eyes at her; sometimes she could be so silly and immature.
“Come on,” I said as I pushed her down the walkway. “You’re holding people up, and on top of that, you’re silly,” I said, but all she did was laugh.
” I am not.”
“Yes, you are, but I am not going to argue with you about it because I’m right.” I said, sticking out my tongue at her.
“Talk about silly,” she said with a laugh as we walked out through the doors into the lit hallway. There was a concession stand situated in front of us, and my stomach growled, a signal that I was still hungry. She heard it, and with a look of humor in her eyes, she grabbed my hand and said, “Let’s get something to eat.”
She led me down the hall towards the main entrance where the larger concession stand could be found.
“Why didn’t we just go to the one back there?” I asked as we passed some kids competing at a driving game.
“You know, I don’t know why, but I swear that whenever I come here, those concession stands are never open. I think it’s really stupid for them to do that though, because it just makes it crowded up here,” she said, and she gestured to in front of us where there were already lines of people in front of the three open cash registers.
As I waited behind my cousin in line, she turned to me and asked, “So, how did you like coming here today?”
” I really had fun,” I said. We were finally next in line, and we ordered our food and stood of to the side to wait.
“Do you always come here?” I asked her as we stood there.
“Yeah. I love coming here, and the price is alright to see a movie in such a nice theater.”
“Yeah, you’re right. This theater is really pretty cool,” I said as I received my food from the cashier. We walked over to the domed structure in the middle of the room, and sat on one of the benches beneath it. We sat there for a while, just eating and talking, catching up in a way that we had never had the chance to in awhile.
As I sat and finished up the remnants of my hot dog, I looked over to see my cousin staring up at the dome, and I started to laugh as she said, ” I wish I may, I wish I might have the wish I wish tonight.”
She looked over to me and said, ” I always wanted to do that, but I never took the time to wish on a star.”
” Think it will come true?” I said with a small smile.
“I don’t know. I hope the wishing gods accept spur-of-the-moment improvisations.”
“You ready?” She asked.
“Yeah,” I said, and I stood up to throw away my trash.
We walked outside to be greeted by a setting sun and a fresh breeze blowing through the parking lot. As we walked past the ticket booth, I looked at all of the people milling around outside, a few of them sitting on the side of the porcelain fountain and talking with friends. As we walked back to her car, she looked over to me and said, “I am really glad we did this today.”
“So am I,” I said as I looked out of the window at the theater one last time.