I love movie theaters. Nothing is better than a big bag of popcorn, a diet coke and some raisinets while you sink down in a big comfy seat in front of a huge screen surrounded by strangers. Even with today’s 100+ inch flat screen high definition TVs with sound systems that create that “theater experience”… it’s still not the same.
And even though the big megaplex, gazillion screen theaters of today offer so much more convenience than the small theaters of my youth, I still miss the small ones.
The Carolina Theatre was in the heart of downtown Elizabeth City. Most nights you would have to park a block or two away and walk to get to the ticket booth. It was one of those single little box offices recessed a little bit off of the street. On the average Friday night there wouldn’t be much of a line.. maybe 3 or 4 of my friends and their dates but that was usually about it. I do remember though when I went to see JAWS there. The line wrapped all the way around the corner onto Colonial Ave. That was the only time I ever remember seeing the theater full. Anyway, as you got up to the front of the line, you could already smell the popcorn that was cooking inside! Once you got your ticket you could walk through the door on either side into a relatively small lobby.
On the left hand wall were the big movie posters of coming events. Over on the other side was the concession stand. If there were two people working back there, it was crowded…. so more often than not… there was just one.
Once you had your popcorn and associated amenities you walked up through the double doors where you would find yourself standing under the balcony but if you looked to the right you were looking out into the theater. There was a very subtle orange glow to the heavy draperies hanging on the side walls to help with the sound. There was a little stage looking area at the front of the screen with lights shining up the screen to provide some additional light when you were looking for a seat.
As we walked in, people would call out your name as you walked passed them and of course you would have to stop and talk… and sometimes you might even join them. But more often than not, we spread out over the whole theater since we were on dates. We all wanted to be alone… together.
The movie always started with a short of some kind back then instead of commercials and thousands of previews. Once the movie started though, the experience back then was almost the same as it is today… a couple hours opportunity for me to get completely lost in a world that has absolutely nothing to do with the trials and tribulations of the day to day world I live in. Now that I think about it… I wonder what’s playing this weekend?