Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Rumor Has It (14Feb06)

This week was a tough call. Valentine's Day. Do I go out for a nice dinner with my husband to celebrate the five-year anniversary of our engagement, or do I just forget it, grab some fast food, call it good, and head to The Cheap Theater? I mean, sure, it's Valentine's Day. But it's also Tuesday. Can I really skip a Cheap Day at The Cheap Theater -- especially during that exciting time of the year when all the holiday movies are finally arriving?

I was torn.

When Paul came home from work, he pretty much made the decision for me. He had a headache and was suffering from the effects of Bad Chinese Food. He wasn't really feeling like going out for a nice dinner, so, after much deliberation, we threw together a quick dinner and rushed out the door.

What we found at The Cheap Theater this week was highly disturbing and seriously pathetic. The parking lot was packed -- more crowded than even the busiest of summer Tuesday nights. Apparently, taking your Valentine to see a 50-cent movie is the epitome of romantic gestures around these parts. And that makes me sad. Sure, we were there, too -- but we're always there. It's tradition. To the rest of these people, it was a special Valentine's Day treat. And that's just wrong.

So if you spent your Valentine's Day with your Valentine at The Cheap Theater this year -- and you're not a high school student or an obsessive regular -- I have three words for you:


Needless to say, by the time we made our way past the overwhelmed yet talented ticket-ripper and through the door to which he'd directed us, the theater was already pretty full. We had, after all, been running a little behind to begin with -- and then there was all the time it took to hike through the crowded (and deadly) parking lot. So when we got inside, the back row was full. In fact, the aisle seats were occupied in the whole back half of the theater -- so, instead of taking seats in the front, we chose to climb over a couple to get seats near the back.

Just before the movie started, we were joined by another couple, who decided to fit into the two seats between us and the couple on the aisle. Our new row mates, I soon discovered, had emptied out their pantry before leaving the house and had smuggled in enough food to feed every last person in the theater (even the big scary Solitary Guys). As soon as they sat down, the man produced a can of soda from somewhere inside his coat. But I know that's nothing new -- I've heard many an opening soda can in The Cheap Theater. Next, the woman opened her purse and pulled out a bottle of water (which she placed in the cupholder in our shared armrest) and a little box of what may have been raisins. Or Junior Mints.

The man then produced a giant potato-chip-sized bag of what appeared to be popcorn. And a big box of SweeTarts. I have no idea where this stuff came from, but he definitely hadn't been carrying a shopping bag with him, so I could only assume that he'd fully stocked his winter coat (which he'd purchased two sizes too big, just for this reason). I can imagine that, in case of nuclear holocaust, this couple will be able to survive on the food they've stashed somewhere on their person.

I was so fascinated by their four-course meal that I barely noticed the serious technical difficulties that we were having in the theater. From time to time, the sound would almost go out, and the screen would get a green tint to it. Some people got angry and started shouting whenever it happened. I, on the other hand, was too engrossed in my gorging neighbors.

Once she got sick of the popcorn, the woman then went back to her purse and produced a little package of cookies. And all this had me wondering:

1) Did these people rob a convenience store on the way here? And if so, are they hiding a can of Vienna Sausages as well?

2) Why did the security guard, who's always guarding our dear ticket-ripper these days, not notice that these people were carrying 20 pounds of contraband? What's he there for, if not to catch Smugglers?

It also made me very sad for these people. Not only did they consider a night at the 50-cent movie theater the ultimate romantic Valentine's Day treat, but they were too cheap to even spring for, say, fast food. Or movie theater popcorn.


As soon as the movie ended -- and the couple next to us had finished their meal -- the credits started rolling, and everyone in the theater got up to leave. Everyone, that is, except for the couple at the end of our row, who remained firmly planted in their seats. Now, there was nothing fun to see here. No crazy credits or outtakes or anything. Just a black screen and a bunch of names. But they weren't budging. Paul, who had popped up as soon as he saw the first of the credits, had his coat on and was about to push past me and climb over the four other people between us and freedom. But I stopped him.

"Just hold on," I told him. "Their son's probably the Second Best Boy or something."

When they finally got up, we determined that their son was the caterer.

After we made our way through the crowds and hiked back to our car, we splurged and went out for dessert. At a real restaurant. With real cutlery. We felt very classy.

If you'd like to know what I thought of Rumor Has It..., check out my review at


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