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.
“Most days, I try desperately to forget my childhood. There are tiny, nagging things that have settled just within the back of my mind, and no matter how hard I try they will not relent. Most of it is related to my original home, the one I was raised in. I pass it quite a but, and though it is vacant more often than not it is the exterior, choked by vines, that continues to keep it where it stands. It has become part of the landscape. But for me it will simply be my former home. I don't think many people live to see their homes turn into legends, but for me there is little I have gained from this. If anything, people who know the history of the place choose to avoid me when they can. To the rest, I can at least be some semblance of normal
My father and I lived in the home nearly twenty years ago. My dad got it cheaply, shortly after my mother passed away. I was born at the local hospital, and had plenty of friends. Yet I spent most of my time in my room on the bottom floor. Even back then the vines were thick on the home, and I can recall my room being bathed in green light even during the brightest days. I would hole myself up in my room for what felt like weeks, and during the summer that was likely the case. All that time I would spend just trying to stay out of the way of my father.
I kept my door closed most of the time, but it didn't always help. Late at night I would lay awake in my bed, the streetlamps lighting up the leafs of the vines. In the other room I would hear my father talking to someone, though there was never anyone there. It was never anything clear, but it was certainly his voice with breaks in conversation for someone else to speak. This would continue late into the night, and if I was lucky I would be asleep before he started crying.
I was not ashamed of my father, and I didn't think poorly of myself for him being like that. He would still take me to movies, to plays, and would even on occasion take me out to the woods for camping. The camping trips were the thing I most looked forward to. The house seemed to have a bad influence on him, and it was only when we were outside and far away from that building that he seemed to be himself. At times like that he could talk about my mom freely, and though some might think that as morbid, it was actually comforting. I loved my father, and losing him was something I have really never worked through.
As the years passed, he continued to get worse. At dinner he would insist that I set an extra place setting. The few times I refused he sent me to bed without dinner, though he would ultimately show up later with a small plate. Often we would just have a normal dinner, but sometimes my dad would suddenly get quiet, and the conversation would stop. He would just mumble the whole time, and I would have to grab his rapidly cooling plate and put it away so he could have it for lunch the next day.