I'd driven by dozens of times and never noticed it. Tucked away from the main parking lot, vines had begun to cover the corners of the building. Pieces of sheet metal were hanging from what once might have been a modern looking building.
A Wheel of Fortune aficionado may have been able to make sense of the remaining letters on the marquee. It probably said "Home Alone", "Kindergarten Cop", and "House Party" or some other movies from 1990.
That's when the movie theater was shut down. It was built on the edge of a hill, and half of it was now a few inches down that hill. The building had cracked apart and been condemned.
We parked our car in a dark corner of the lot. There were six of us, each toting a mag lite we'd purchased minutes before at Home Depot.
The front door was locked, but that wasn't a surprise. The back door was locked too. We circled around to the box office, trying to see if we could somehow squeeze in through the ticket window. We couldn't.
I walked along the side of the building, desperate for any way to get in.
There was a set of exit-only double doors. I almost passed it by, assuming it would be useless, but at the last second I noticed that near the top one of the doors protruded by a fraction of an inch.
I grabbed a stick and jammed it between the doors. After a few tries I managed to pry the door open by half an inch. I stuck in my fingers and pulled the door open.
We piled in through the door. The floor was completely covered in sand. I thought that it felt like walking into a pyramid in Egypt.
Was anyone in here? If I was homeless I'd live here, I thought.
We slowly crept down the dark hallway. The only light was from our flashlights. After all, theaters are designed to be as dark as possible.
Around the corner was the actual theater. A giant tattered screen hung on a wall. Through the rips you could see where the speakers used to be. All of the seats had been removed, leaving a giant sloped room. The floors were covered in debris and sand, the only identifiable remains were the two aisle carpets that ran from the top to the bottom.
It was eerie being alone in a room that was designed to be full of people.
The concessions stand turned out to be a bonanza. There were two coke machines there, which we considered taking but figured would be too heavy. A Dove ice cream freezer was earmarked to be taken back to our dorm.
"Hey... have some coupons!"
I threw the book of coupons at Al.
"These aren't coupons. These are gift certificates."
Whoa. That was pretty cool. The nearby mall was the same brand of theater, so they might work there. The design looked dated, of course, but they'd have to accept them, right?
We dug around and found another book. Twenty dollars each, plus some coupons in the back of each book.
Al and I went upstair to the projection rooms. Between them was a big storage room full of paperwork and letterhead. In the corner was an unopened box.
I opened the box and yelled.
"Oh my god! Look at this!"
Al came over. Inside were bricks and bricks of gift certificates. Hundreds and hundreds of dollars worth.
We finished exploring (although we'd later come back many times, including once to test a flamethrower we built), and quickly drove to one of our apartments. We laid the gift certificates out on a bed and counted them.
In the end we had $3,600 worth of gift certificates, which we split six ways.
Still in disbelief, we met at the theater the next day to see if the tickets would work. I got suckered into going first.
"One ticket, please."
I handed him seven dollars worth of gift certificates.
He looked at them.
"Haven't seen this type in a while."
He glanced up, and then returned to his computer. My ticket printed out.
"Enjoy the show."
For the rest of the summer we saw every movie that came out. Every time we went we'd get pizza, slushies, popcorn, and candy (which the gift certificates also work on). I never spent all of mine... I lost the remaining few around the time I moved to LA many years later.
Note for those of you who think this is horrible and immoral : The way gift certificates work is that the franchise purchases them from the main office and then sells them for more to movie patrons. These were paid for by the defunct movie theater, so the theater we spent them on got their money back when they redeemed them from headquarters.
One of the few stories I've read that you hadn't already told me about! Next time I ask for a story before we go to sleep, I won't believe you when you say "I'm pretty sure you've heard them all, Kristen!" This one is so good, too; I'm amazed it never came up... Ya been holdin' out on me!
I laugh. It's the annual casino night at my college dorm. I'm dressed up more than usual - I'm wearing a blazer. Today it's more function than form, though.
The ticket taker isn't laughing, though.
I walked into the airport in Seattle, ready to fly to San Francisco. I was checking in, and the kiosk I was using gave me the option to change my seat. I mostly fly on the East Coast, and really only on Airtran Airways, and on Airtran it costs money to change your seat. This time however, it was free, so I decided “What the hell” and hit the button. I immediately noticed I was in the back row, all the way on the left. There wasn't even a window, it was almost as if it used to be additional storage, but decided to put half a seat there to make an extra couple of dollars. There were two other seats open, one center seat about 3 rows from the back, and one in center of the very first row of coach. “Hot damn,” I thought, and I grabbed the seat at the front of coach.
I got onto my plane, and noticed there was no where in front of me to put my bag, and the flight attendant made me put it in overhead storage (which I hate using). The plane was about half filled when another guy who looked about my age (19) sat down in the window seat next to me. He had kind of scraggly, unkempt hair, and an earring that looked like (and probably was) just a woodchip through his left ear. He sat down next to me, and the flight attendant immediately yelled at him to put his bags up above. We exchanged grumblings about having to put our stuff up, and then we started talking.
“It's weird being in an airplane again,” Marty commented, looking around uncomfortably. “In fact it's kind of weird to be surrounded by people.” I asked if it was his first time flying, and he responded “No, I've just been... out of touch with the world for a while.” He then went on to tell me about how he had just spent the past four months by himself in a log cabin in the woods of Northern Minnesota, fifty miles from the nearest road. He told me about how he was in the backwater bar in Minnesota, talking to some loggers. This one logger was telling Marty about his grandfather had built a log cabin up north a long time ago, but no one had had time to go there in fifteen years. Marty thought about it for a second, and then asked the logger “How much?” The logger was a bit taken back, and replied cautiously “Nine hundred dollars?” Marty wrote him a check on the spot, and then met back up with the logger the next day for a topographical map. “It's the only way you can find it,” the logger said. Since it's so far from any roads, you have to find the right hills, follow streams and rivers, and take the correct forks. Marty got some equipment, and then headed off.
He arrived in the closest town (50 miles from the cabin) and proceeded to make three trips to the cabin. He was hiking the whole time, so he could only carry so much. He arrived towards the end of winter, and had some trouble the first month. He shot three bucks, but didn't preserve the meat of the first two correctly and the bodies were covered in flies and maggots within 45 minutes. The third one he did right, but had to dry the meat in a corner of his cabin for a month. He said “it smelled like a dead animal.” He paused, and then laughed and added “Well I guess it was a dead animal.” The cabin had a wood stove, a wooden desk, some candles, and not much else.
He spent a lot of time cleaning up the cabin and the surrounding area (no one had been there for 15 years), and spent the rest of his days hunting small game (rabbit, squirrel), fishing (in lakes so clear you could see 30 feet below the surface), and exploring. He told me about how he used a series of pink bandannas to tie around trees, so he could find his way home. When exploring, he'd tie them around trees as he was about to get out of sight of the previous one. On the way back home, he'd untie and collect them, leaving no trace he was ever there. When he arrived back home, he would sit at his desk and read books, write, and draw.