Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Finally using the $1.50 theater


For six months now I have lived 2.8 miles from a theater that charges $1.50 for movies on Sundays and Tuesdays, and last night I finally watched something there.

It's a second-run theater, of course, and I believe the regular charge is something like a whopping $3.50. But until now, I guess I've been seeing most of the movies they've been showing when they were still on first run, or thought I could wait until DVD for them.

Of course, "now" encompasses my year-end cramming season, and like last year, there are some movies falling in limbo between theatrical and DVD that I want to catch before my list closes on Thursday.

Last year I made a special trip to a geographically inconvenient arthouse theater to see Take Shelter, and was pretty glad I did -- I ended up ranking it as my #3 movie of the year. 

This year, the geography was much more convenient, but you'll have to wait until Thursday if you want to see whether Seven Psychopaths made it into the upper echelons of my rankings.

This $1.50 price tag for tickets is almost unthinkably low. In fact, the only cheaper method I'm aware of for paying to see a single movie is a Redbox rental, but even then it would only be cheaper if you rented a DVD. A Redbox BluRay comes out to $1.63 with tax. A Redbox DVD is only 19 cents cheaper at $1.31.

So low is this price that I decided to pay for it in a truly ridiculous fashion. I fished into the change compartment in my car and came out with a quarter, two dimes, five pennies and one of those gold-colored dollar coins that they were trying to make happen 10-15 years ago. (The only reason I even had one is that I got it as change from a vending machine.) The woman dutifully counted out my change with an expression that indicated both being mildly annoyed, and having seen this kind of thing before.

Here's what I learned from my first trip to the $1.50 theater:

1) You get what you pay for. The bathroom floor was strewn with hand towels. And in a phenomenon I've seen at other second-run and cheap theaters, there was no mirror on the wall in the men's bathroom -- one less thing for some ruffian to break, I guess.

2) The lobby was teeming with people, even at 10:10 on a Sunday night. And not the kind of people I usually see at the movie theater. Some of them seemed like they were there just for something to do, a type of cavalier attitude not supported by first-run movie ticket prices.

3) Toward that end, if you pay only $1.50 for a movie, you really don't mind walking in as much as 15 minutes late. Making it more like Five Psychopaths than Seven Psychopaths, depending on how the movie may or may not have been structured. 

4) Despite the late arrivals and cheap price, the crowd with whom I saw the movie was quite respectful of it -- no one talked at the screen, no one talked on the phone, and I heard only one cell phone ring, which was quickly silenced.

5) Their hesitation to spend their hard-earned money on first-run movies was no indication of their overall enthusiasm level. It was a lively crowd in all the right ways, and that's not something you get just anywhere these days. It was pretty comforting.

6) No one stays for the closing credits. As a matter of fact, even upon realizing that the initial start of the credits was a tease setting up about three more minutes of action, some people still continued their march out of the theater.

7) When you charge only $1.50 for tickets, that still doesn't leave you so financially destitute that you can't pay a security guard to stand around and make sure no one decides to make trouble.

Speaking of financial destitution, this theater has to be owned by someone rich (appearances notwithstanding) because they've got to be taking a bath on it. Either that or charging twice the normal amount for concessions (though I doubt that). I wouldn't know, seeing as how I did my usual of sneaking in Twizzlers and a Diet Coke. I suppose it helps that they have about eight screens, since the more screens you have, the better the profitability margin -- even at only $1.50 a pop.

Although I may not visit this theater super regularly, it's a nice reminder of the fact that there exists an easy option for me to catch movies I'm not sure of on the big screen -- as they were intended to be seen.

In any case, I'm sure I'll be back again before next January. Maybe next time I'll pay them in nickels.

1 comment:

Travis McClain said...

Last Fall, my doctor was transferred to a different office. I'd visited her office three consecutive months before I finally remembered that it's just a couple blocks away from the last second-run theater in Louisville, the Village 8.

On 16 December, I was out and about running some errands and decided on a whim to swing by in the middle of the afternoon. It was a Sunday and I was all by myself. I got there just in time to catch a showing of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which turned out to be the perfect movie for such a day and viewing context.

Growing up, most of the movies we saw in theaters were at the second-run theaters: the Village 8 or the now-defunct J'Town 4 or Green Tree 4 in Clarksville, IN. It was a big deal for us to even go there, much less the first-run theaters like Showcase Cinemas or Loews Stonybrook.

I hadn't been to the Village 8 in four years until September, when a friend of mine screened his movie there. I enjoyed going back there after all this time, and I enjoyed going by myself.

The floor is sticky, like those unconscionably cruel mouse traps that my grandmother insists on using; the screens are small and the seats haven't been comfortable since George H.W. Bush left office. Hell, there are actual support beams inside the auditorium. It's certainly a lot smaller than I remembered it being as a kid.

And yet, I confess: I loved going back there. The Village 8 is probably the theater I think of most when I think of my youth. Now that my doctor is right around the corner, I really have no excuse for not catching more movies there.

One oddity, though. The Village 8 is the second-run theater, but it's also now our art house theater. That's because it's owned by the same people who own Baxter Avenue Filmworks, which was our art house theater until a few years ago when they decided it was more lucrative to make Baxter a first-run mainstream theater and shift the art house fare to Village 8.

[I know I name-dropped lots of theaters that mean absolutely nothing to you. I tend to do that when I get all anecdotal.]