We missed the Friday matinee today. It’s become an-end-of-the-week tradition of ours, going down to the Clover Theater, sneaking out on the nub end of a workday to catch a movie while it’s still fresh out of its wrapper. Before anyone insists you have to see this or any critic can sour me. I don’t want to know the plot line. I want it to hit me completely.
It also has to be on a big screen. Just as a good book is read on paper. A museum, however, rather than a book, is the best place to take in artwork. You pay for music, rather than streaming it for free. Small political acts, usually concerning art. I have a whole bunch of them. Our Friday matinee tradition began seven months ago, in February.
“How about going to see a movie?” Janet had suggested that Friday morning. “It’s the first showing of Black Panther.”
“Sure,” I’d said. “A movie about Bobby Seale.”
Janet smiled at me. “Right,” she said, after a brief pause.
“That should be good. I think the whole Bobby Seale angle hasn’t been told yet. I hope it’s not just one of those two-dimensional bio pics.”
Janet was still smiling. “Oh, no. I don’t think it’s that.”
I’d been existing in this bad health fog that had hovered over me for over a year, generally too sick to keep up with what was going on in much of the world. Especially the arts. I had a novel I’d left in mid-sentence. A month or so before this, in January, I’d thankfully exited the fog, but I still found myself not quite trusting yet that the worst was over. I didn’t want to jinx anything. I hadn’t gotten back on my bike yet, telling people it was because it was the rainy season. But the truth was, I hadn’t regained the feel for my skinny tires on the road yet. I was still working my way up to that.
On the drive over to I thought about our friends Kathryn and Ryan, who own the Clover theater. A couple of actors who decided to get on the management side. They moved to town the same time we did, bought an old theater and quickly turned it into something more. Kathryn organized the Alexander Film Society, which brings amazing, farflung films to town and funds a program for teaching movie-making for high school students in the county. Ryan leads an improv class. Wednesdays at the theater is trivia night. Several evenings a year they put on an old fashioned drive-in at the Citrus Fair, where they show popcorn classics. They throw a big Oscar party every February. For big municipal issues, the city council has housed meetings there.
Kathryn and Ryan, in other words, have embedded themselves in the community, a brilliant business plan where everyone wins. After six years, they’re like the most popular people in town. With the availability of online entertainment, movie theaters aren’t what they used to be. It takes retooling the animal in order to survive. The big secret Kathryn and Ryan offer is inclusiveness, which no online carpetbagger can.
It wasn’t a movie about Bobby Seales. I was surprised at first to enter a theater to find so many people shared my enthusiasm. Very quickly after the lights dimmed, I realized I was in for a different kind of experience. It was fine, actually, better than fine. There’s something heartening about cheering in a room with a bunch of other people in a classic story over good versus evil. I glanced over at Janet when I initially caught on. She was too busy watching the screen, which I did as well.
It turned out it was exactly what I needed, a hero’s tale. Where good is jeopardized, then restored. I’d kind of been through a medical version of that. If I closed my eyes, everyone was cheering for me.
We haven’t missed many matinees at the Clover theater since. It doesn’t matter the kind of movie. What Friday afternoons are about is the chance be the first to see something, along with the cool magic trick of turning day into night for a few hours.