Observations From A Movie Theatre Lobby


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Every night at nine o clock, the concession stand pops a fresh batch of popcorn, filling the theatre lobby with the smell of salt and butter. Or, the smell of salt and sunflower oil, anyway. Real butter available by request.

The early screenings are just letting out. Emerging customers drift thoughtfully towards the exits, their minds still back in the darkened house of the theatre while their fingers fumble for parking validations and bladders urge them towards the restrooms. The late screenings open their doors and incoming audience members arrive in ones and twos, juggling tickets with popcorn and drinks, spilling fluffy kernels on the gleaming floors to be quickly retrieved by one of the myriad custodians, invisible in their utilitarian, black uniforms, standing by with brooms and dustpans and mops to return the lobby to gleaming perfection.

The individuals of the audience are preening, social creatures, young and beautiful and unaware of their implicit privilege. They glide through the airy hallway, dressed to be seen: women in tall shoes and skinny pants, men in carefully curated combinations of jeans, khakis, and button down shirts. Only a daring few wear sneakers. Designer sneakers.

One wears his hair long on the top of his head- not long enough for a man-bun, just long enough to form a short, upright tuft of a ponytail on the crown of his head. He punctuates the conversation with his laugh: a head-tossing bray followed by two percussive claps, like the full stop beneath an exclamation point:

Bray! Clapclap.

Bray! Clapclap.

Bray! Clapclap.

One woman wears a short dress with a short bob of a hairstyle that makes her look like a walking doll. Another wears pants that are technically see through, but then again, technically so is her top. Not that you can see anything, of course, the dramatic print of teals and black may be sheer, but it’s not tasteless.

Another guest wears a brown straw trilby hat and carries a plush My Little Pony (or Brony?) under his arm. The My Little Pony plushie has a limp mohawk made of grey fringe and a gold hoop-earring. The guest is probably a rennie.

Another guest wears a long army-green jacket with black suede boots. From the back, she might be a refugee from WWII era Russia. From the front she completes the look a short dress of horizontal black-and-white stripes stretched over a pregnant belly. A geometric, asymmetric necklace and bold lipstick on a winning smile nudge the look from “Soviet refugee” to “funky, stylish, creative type” in the way that only an Angeleno can.

And then the screenings begin and the crowd disperses leaving only a solitary custodian woman mopping the floor in mesmerizing strokes. Back and forth. Back and forth. She navigates the room like a gondolier: the cords of her mop swirling around each stroke, collecting leftover crumbs of popcorn and paper in a silent, unremarked ballet.

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~ by Gwydhar Gebien on June 9, 2016.

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