At The Movies

These days, most of my movie watching is done via streaming services like Netflix, or Amazon Prime. Though I’ve never rented DVDs from Redbox, I do miss stocking up on videos at Blockbuster to cocoon on those cold, wet, winter weekends.

Although I’m spoiled by the convenience of watching whatever I wish on demand, I still enjoy the experience of going to the theatre. My favorite part is arriving early to get a good seat. But then inevitably, right before the movie begins, a family of twelve takes the row behind us and proceeds to talk through the entire movie. It always seems that one of them has already seen the movie and feels obliged to maintain a running narrative of what is about to happen.

One time we were at the theater with another couple and the folks a few rows behind us were talking loudly. My buddy’s date tolerated it for about thirty seconds, after which she stood up, turned around to face them, and yelled, “Shut up!” at the top of her lungs. Amazingly, it worked. Not another peep.

My theatre experience has been forever diminished by an incident I read about at the Regal theatre in Hollywood, Florida. It seems that while this couple was busy watching “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” and chowing down on their popcorn, a legion of bedbugs was chowing down on them. To make matters worse, by the time they later noticed red spots on their skin, they had infected their own beds. Yuckkk!  Now I always take along a large plastic bag to wear over my body.

But even with these little irritations, I like the overall experience of the big screen. Where else can you pay $57 for an extra-large bucket of popcorn with a pound of salt and a bunch of real, fake, buttery-like, oily substance on it? I also like the way they price the small at $56.75.

I’m a sucker for a good deal, so I usually blow a quarter and go for the XL.  Throw in a $42 dollar soft drink and for less than a hundred bucks (excluding the price of the tickets, of course) you’re ready for showtime.


My daughter, Brittany, is one of those people who enjoys the challenge of smuggling food or drinks into the theatre. I think it’s more about the thrill of being a daring outlaw than saving money.

At one time, theatres weren’t quite so picky about bringing things in. I recall going to the movie years ago (I swear I’m not making this up) and having a family of five sit in the row right in front of me. The movie hadn’t been playing for more than a few minutes when the mother started taking out stuff to make sandwiches.

I’m not talking about handing the kids little Ziploc bags with pre-made sandwiches. I mean she laid out a full-blown picnic on the seats between them.  She had an entire loaf of bread, packs of meat and cheese, and a large jar of mayo they passed down the row and back!

We never did that, but my Mom always made food to take along when we went to the drive-in. I hate that our kids won’t get to experience drive-in theatres. Some of my fondest memories are of going with my parents to the drive-in in the summer time.

My mom would make sandwiches, and my dad would fill an enormous paper bag with greasy popcorn. We’d throw a cooler with drinks into the trunk and off we’d go to watch a movie from the comfort of our car.

I loved to play on those crappy little swings and see-saws on the playground up front until it got dark. As soon as they began to play the, “Let’s all go to the concession stand to buy really high-priced food” ad with the dancing boxes of popcorn, I headed for the car. The cartoons preceding the feature film were always my favorite part.

Usually, we would have to move our car once or twice before my dad found working sound – one of those gray, cast aluminum speakers which hung on little poles. The sound was scratchy and tinny, but that was all part of the drive-in experience.


Then when I got older, I liked to take my dates there. I really can’t recall any of the movies we … er … watched… sort of; for some reason the car windows were always foggy at the drive-in, which made watching the movies challenging. We never complained; we figured that was all part of the drive-in experience.

Brittany thinks she’s all bad for smuggling a box of Milk Duds into the theatre. Heck, we used to smuggle several full-grown teenagers into the drive-in by hiding them in the trunk of our car.

A buddy of mine heard you could sneak your entire car into the drive-in by going through some bushes. So we thought, “Cool, let’s give it a shot.”

Sure enough, we found the place and drove right in. Unfortunately, the drive-in-manager-type-folks had somebody watching. We no sooner made the turn by the crappy little playground before this guy jumped up and started running after us.

My wide-eyed date was screaming, “Go faster! He’s gaining on us! We’re going to get caught and go to jail.” So with her clutching the armrest in a death grip, I rocketed across the parking lot.

As you may recall, drive-in parking lots were not flat. No, each row was mounded so that when you parked your car, the front was higher than the rear. That way your view would not be blocked by visors or the car in front of you.

So as I sped across the rows, we would become airborne at the top of each mound, only to crash back down, the car springs groaning, before climbing the next mound. At the time, we thought seat belts were only for wussies, which made remaining in the driver’s seat and controlling the car somewhat more challenging. But my buddy had it worse.

Since we weren’t sure we’d be able to sneak the car in, he and his date had climbed into the trunk to avoid paying. I can only imagine what it was like back there. I could sort of hear muffled screams but couldn’t actually make out any curse words.

Luckily, it was dark enough that by the time we got to the foggy-windowed back rows, I had lost our pursuer.

We whipped into a parking spot, helped the dazed couple out of the trunk, grabbed our tinny metal speaker, and focused on looking innocent. We saw the theatre-employee-guard-guy as he continued searching for us, but either he didn’t get a good look at my car or our acting job did the trick. In any event, we didn’t get arrested.

By the time I was in my final high school years out in California, drive-ins were passé. So I was back to taking dates to the theatre.

I recall one occasion when I got a date with a girl I’d been in hot pursuit of for some time. Since she was a year older, I was eager to impress her and wore my best shirt and favorite jeans. I even bought her the XL popcorn.

During the movie, I played the old “yawn, stretch, and put your arm around her while hoping that she doesn’t scream” trick. Things were going along quite well it seemed until the movie ended.

We were walking up the aisle while I plotted my next moves when it happened.

Some fool had left one of those small, $56.75 popcorn cups in the aisle. (Really? Too cheap to spend an extra quarter?) I failed to spot it as we exited, what with my arm still affixed to my date’s shoulder. But in an amazing feat, the toe of my shoe slid right into the popcorn cup – where it stuck.

I shook my foot as discreetly as possible, in a futile attempt to dislodge it, but that sucker wasn’t budging. Each time I took a step, it went  “thwap,” and my date looked at me like, “What the crap was that?” while I attempted to appear nonchalant.

When we reached the lobby, I was forced to stop and remove my unwanted footwear, making it patently obvious that I was a klutz. From the expression on my date’s face, it was clear that whatever advantage I had gained by spending the extra quarter on the XL popcorn was lost.

Disclaimer: Frank Wilem is an author, speaker, and all around funny and entertaining guy. On this blog, his stories are based on his real life experiences, often with a satirical twist.

Invite Frank to speak to your next conference, corporate retreat or club meeting. Ask about having his speaker's fee waived when you purchase his latest novel for each of your attendees!


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