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Scenes from a theater: a true story

Posted at 12:43 PM on January 12, 2008 by Euan Kerr

It's Friday night at the discount theater. People shuffle in for the screening of the Josh Harnett vampire flick.

They select where they will sit. It's a delicate and complicated dance, depending on how close they want to be to the screen. Then you have to see where other people are already seated, and finally check the state of individual chairs. Several people look down and feel the cushions to see if their risk discoloration of their clothes.

When satisfied they turn, drop down - and back. These are spring mounted seats which droop dramatically under the weight of even a small human.

The patrons lean back, rocking slightly, well into their popcorn long before the movie is due to roll.

Movies like this always attract a diverse crowd. There are the gray-hairs who were always there first to get the seats they want. Then there are the adult couples, some reveling in their intelligent choice of a discount theater, others far enough into their courtship that no-one needs to be impressed by an expensive movie ticket.

And then there are the teenagers: a few shy looking couples hoping for the amorous advantages offered by a horror film, but mainly single-sex groups of youngsters just hanging out and passing some time in the dream palace.

A small commotion suddenly arises from the group of junior high girls down near the front on the right.

"It's there. And I can't stand it!" one of the girls announces as she stands up and walks round in front of the screen. The theater is small enough that she can walk right up to to the huge white surface. She reaches up and points.

"It's right there. It's going to bug me!" she calls back to her giggling cohorts. The rest of the audience casually turns it's attention to where she's pointing. There seems to be a small dot on the screen, about four feet above the tip of her outstretched index finger.

She jumps several times, but comes nowhere close to the offending blemish. Talking all the way she returns to her seat.

Most of the crowd returns to task of popcorn consumption, but the commotion has clearly intrigued three young men on the other side of the theater, right at the back. They stand and strut forward to the front, their outsized sports shirts and baggy jeans encrusted with the latest stripes, designs and logos. They cross in front of the screen, then slide into seats directly behind the young ladies.

They don't say anything. The girls just ignore them.

The girl who is so offended by the blemish on the screen stands up again and drags one of her friends out to the screen. The friend squints, then turns to her friends back in their seats and calls out.

"It's a gummi bear!"

This new information clearly unsettles some people in the audience. If it's a gummi bear, then how is it sticking there? Eeewww!

The friend makes a stirrup with her hands and tries to boost the girl high enough to knock down the bear. She's foiled by lack of strength, lack of coordination, or perhaps just by the silliness of her pal's single-mindedness.

"I won't be able to watch the film if it's there," she insists.

Yet it's clear defeat is inevitable. They return to their seats just before the lights go down and the pre-movie ads begin.

Suddenly a figure crosses in front of the screen. The pictures from the projector play across twisted baseball cap and puffy parka as he walks to where the girls had been struggling just moments before. With a single spectacular leap, and a deft flick of the wrist he dislodges the gummi bear and it sails off into the darkness.

He returns to his seat to appreciative noises from the girls.

Who says chivalry is dead?

January 2008
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