Screening bias

My son just asked for Skittles in three words.
“What?” I ask in monotone, marveling at the mere four dollars I’ve just spent on two tickets. Two. I’ve payed up to twelve a piece in recent weeks.

“I want skittles please…” He says taking his cue. A dollar. A dollar for a normal sized package, as opposed to the Diabeetus Party Pack.

I hand over the Skittles but now he’s busy exploring the lobby. It’s partitioned; exactly opposite the modern, sprawling, vaulted lobby. There are actual lamps in it. On end tables. Like the sitcom living rooms I grew up in. He seems to share my enthusiasm for the streamline stylings of the place: the second-run Riverview Theater in the Howe neighborhood of Minneapolis’ southeast side. Looking around, I wonder why we don’t visit more often.

I went with my dad to the movies a lot. He had a prejudice -which I didn’t contract-against any person who’d go solo to a show. “I’m glad I’m not that guy,” he’d say in a hushed tone about some sad, lone attendee. I’m sure a lot of others share it, his prejudice. Probably it’s one of the many instances I’m weird for failing to grasp, let alone observe, a social convention. I don’t care; I’ll go alone.  Not that I ever need to. I have kids. Theaters have candy.

“It looks old on the outside,” he says to himself, “but it’s normal on the inside.”

I wonder what he means. It’s obviously vintage. Though, it’s not entirely unlike our own living room -the question whether this fact reflects the programming I viewed as a child is clipped by a recollection of the boy last summer, studying, with amusement, the crackling window speaker at Vali-Hi Drive-In.

I’m prepared to pit the memories we’re making against any competing memories of icons glowing on living room liquid crystal displays. To try to mimic such experiences in the home misses the point completely. I’ve heard the argument, ad nauseum, that there’s no longer any need for theaters. All the points of the thesis align: theaters offer neither ease, elegance nor economy. (Evidently the theaters have heard it too, judging by recent remodels). In the end though, I’m left wondering when ever there was a need. Then I imagine the other side of the debate, sitting in sweats, sunk in a love seat, swiping at Netflix. The cruel notion occurs to me that any desire to make it a contest is a symptom of my old man’s ancient prejudice: no one can see you sitting at home alone in your underwear watching a new release… well,  your kids might catch you, I guess.

The sad fact is that the experiences are in competition. I’m convinced theaters will whither from existence before I’m finished enjoying them. There’s this half-conscious imperative to get my kids in theater seats early and often before the impending extinction. At some stage I acquired the ethic that nostalgia isn’t a productive place from which to operate. On this issue I’m an unrepentant stegosaurus. My children will learn The Old Ways.

The End and we’re having a look at the antique urinals. With a sudden, concerned expression he half whispers,”I think I needa poop.” And at least one convincing reason to remain at home occurs to us.


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