It was talked about for years. They were going to build a movie theater in Essex. We wouldn’t have to drive 20 minutes in heavy traffic to get to a movie theater in Burlington. It would be 10 minutes away with no traffic. It seemed ideal for everyone in the towns surrounding Burlington and those even more outside the queen city. Vermont isn’t known for it’s multiplexes so this was huge…and was rumored to be in progress for like 10 years. Finally, it came to life right in Bethany’s backyard.
And it was the best job ever.
We applied immediately and began training while the theater was still being built. The original crew was mostly made up of people in our high school so we all knew each other. There were a few others from outside towns but we were all about the same age. The best part: we all loved movies. Some of us were actors or directors. Some of us just loved movies of all genres. We were a bunch of misfits but we somehow all got along. It helped we had the best bossman and managers watching over us and that we were all in it together from the start.
This is just a mix of stories and memories. I can’t even to begin to rub it in everyone’s face how cool this job was. And it was cool. Get ready to be jealous.
When you work at a movie theater, sometimes you are treated to viewing the movies before they are released in the theater. It helps to give the reel a run before they sell tickets to test volume and whatnot. That’s what they always said but none of us really cared. We just liked to brag we had seen the biggest summer blockbusters before anyone else.
Midnight showings were usually Thursday nights. It would be for employees and guests of employees so I brought my family occasionally. My brother ended up working at the theater later on so we would drag along my dad sometimes if he promised not to fall asleep. Normally, it was Bethany and me going together, with my brother in tow. We would stop at Maplefields (the gas station across from the shopping complex with the theater) and load up on snacks. Like, a lot of snacks. I always got a Carmello bar which I always regretted because they are extremely difficult to eat in the dark. Seriously. That caramel just drips out of every corner, you have to put the whole candy bar in your mouth basically. I digress.
The staff working that night would let us in and we’d all pile into theater 1 which was the biggest stadium space we had. It would be about 20 of us max so we would all spread out in our small groups and still be enjoying each other’s company. We’d be respectful but at the same time, we would talk at the movie once and while depending on what we were watching. They can’t all be gems and some comments needed to be made.
I got to see Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Pirates of Caribbean, Anchorman, Phantom Menace (I don’t need to brag about that one), Spiderman, Signs, Shrek, Catch Me If You Can, and so many other great movies and so many bad ones before anyone else. It felt like we were on a VIP list. Sitting in a theater with the lights down and watching a movie with all my friends. How marvelous is that? It made every movie viewing personal to us with the time we spent together laughing, crying, cheering, or waiting for the next jump moment.
This was just one of the aspects of the best job ever. I don’t know if it sounds like a good time to anyone else but I treasure my time there deeply. My brother worked there. I dated a boy for several years from there. My best friend and I got to spend the days and nights drinking soda and eating nachos and sneaking into Finding Nemo on our breaks to sit with our plastic baggies of popcorn covered with cheddar. Bethany and I have CDs and playlists made up of MovieTunes (the music they play in the lobby and before the movie) and the songs they would play during credits of the movies when we were cleaning. We would have actual dance parties as we swept up soda cups, Skittles, and the occasional condom or pair of underwear or dog biscuit (yes, we found all those things multiple times).
When Star Wars: Phantom Menace came out, there was a line out the door. I was usually put in charge of the line because I was organized, thorough, and very, very loud. We were bored because nothing else was really drawing attention so we got one of the huge trashcans on wheels, I climbed inside with a broom, and we rolled me back and forth in the hallway by the entrance. We all took turns, doing different poses, and entertained all the Storm Troopers, Ewoks, and Jedis as they waited for hours only to come to realize our little display was better than the film. I credit myself with saving the day.
When Austin Powers: Goldmember came out, Bossman* let us run to Bethany’s house (it really was across the street) and change into costumes that went with the movie. We came back as quick as we could and took tickets in the most ridiculous outfits we could find in her closet. We got to dress up for any movie we wanted if it was big enough. We all drew lightening bolts on our heads for Harry Potter. We were able to bring fun to our little hometown theater and personalize it for us and the guests.
We’d play games behind the concession stand. I sometimes had a British accent. We’d play the game from Super Troopers where we said “Meow” as much as we could before the guest noticed. We’d have competitions of who could get the order faster (we were wholesome kids). Seriously. This is what we actually did. I credit some of the best bosses in the world for teaching me how to make work fun and enjoyable while still being competitive and doing the job well.
There was something magical about working in a movie theater that I can’t explain. It was amazing to walk in and sit and watch a few minutes of whatever I wanted. It had a sense of power to it. To see the people come out of a film and know instantly if they liked it or hated it. To see the different experiences and emotions. The tear soaked faces after The Notebook. The disgust after King Arthur (it’s so bad, guys). The chatter and smiles after Harry Potter. It was great to talk movies with strangers or people I grew up with or neighbors or hockey families. I’m smiling now writing about it.
I saw so many movies and made so many friends. Two marriages came out of that theater! The last time we were home, Bethany and I ended a tradition by seeing the fourth Pirates film at the theater. Bossman gave us free passes to see it and encouraged us to have a drink in their newly established restaurant. The theater has grown and is still growing. There’s a new crop of high schoolers and a few familiar faces still working behind the counter. I don’t know if they had as much fun as we did but I hope so. I couldn’t have asked for more: great boss, great movies, great friends, and all the pretzels I could eat.