The Met Cinema
My hometown movie theater has closed its’ doors. Maybe it’s a sign of the economic woes America has been wading through over the past few years, maybe it’s a herald of what is to come in the 21st century entertainment landscape. Maybe it’s a bit of both. I am not a soothsayer or economist. But I do know that televisions are getting bigger and blu-rays are getting sharper, and I don’t have as much money to spend on popcorn as I used to. Regardless of whatever the cause, I’m saddened by the loss of The Met Cinema in Oakhurst, California.
As a Child living in an isolated town in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, movies were a keyhole to the rest of the bustling, industrialized, multicultural world. Movies let me see the Manhattan skyline, Upper West Siders hailing cabs at rush hour, the dreary melancholy of England, a galaxy far far away, etc. In the days before world-wide connectivity and information, the movies I saw at the Met Cinema as a child were bits and pieces of the wide wild world parsed out in celluloid given to my brain as a medicine against narrow-mindedness. It fueled my imagination and began a lifelong obsession with Film.
When I was in the second grade my parents snuck me out of school to see the first showing of the live action “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” movie. I remember thinking that I had the coolest parents, they knew my insatiable need could not be quenched by waiting 2 hours for school to let out. We got popcorn, and my dad took a carton of milk duds and generously shook them into the bucket of popcorn, “to surprise you every other bite,” he’d say. It was a quirk I used to think bizarre but in retrospect find endearing and actually quite delicious.
In the back corner of the lobby there were quarter gulping arcade games and a claw machine that promised treasure and delivered frustration. Once when we were left unattended, my little sister found a way to shimmy into the Claw machine through the drop shoot and grab the stuffed animals inside. We were bandits! Stealing from the claw and giving to the poor! Did not get away with it though, Mom found us and made us give everything back.
As a teen my relationship with the Met changed dramatically. No Longer was it merely a place to see movies and be transported to new and interesting worlds, It was also a place where you could take your girlfriend to explore the inside of each other’s mouths. I bought many tickets to movies I never actually saw a single frame of.
After graduating from high school and before my illustrious and short-lived college career I worked concessions at the Met. It remains to this day one of my favorite jobs. Here’s a breakdown of how a workday would go,
I arrive, restock candy, check soda syrups, and make popcorn. Impending hordes file in for the first show, I am frazzled for 10 minutes as the crowds of theater goers crash upon the concession counter like hungry waves upon my salt and sugar encrusted beach. Then, as quickly as they came, they are gone, nestled in their respective seats like docile babes. It is at this time that I am given 30-40 minutes to sit and read, I burned through Jack Kerouac’s On the Road during the first month of working there, which began my early twenties obsession with beat literature.
Then, about fifteen minutes before the movie let out, we braced ourselves, triple checked supplies, four man teams waited by the doors as the final scene played. The once docile sugared movie goers would stampede out into the world, into our once peaceful lobby, where a short while before I was reading about Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty. Madness! Children running for their parents, Parents running for the door, my co-workers and I would brave the dark to see what presents the movie going public had left us. The worst shows were the kid’s movies. As a child it’s hard enough to eat when you can see what your doing, add the distraction of a pitch black theater and your favorite cartoon characters playing on the wall in front of you and it’s nearly impossible to get any food in your mouth.
Once, during a showing of the first Pokémon movie a frozen bon bon made it’s way from the back of the theater down the sloping rows of chairs the front, leaving a snail trail of melted chocolate goodness. This, to a teenage minimum wage earner, is enough to make you want to kill yourself. In retrospect I’ve cleaned up tougher messes. One of my roommates in College used to get drunk and piss in the closet thinking it was the bathroom. That was worse, but I digress…
The Met holds a special place in my heart. I left my tiny town of Oakhurst for Los Angeles to work in movies. The Met was the only place I could go to escape the feeling of obscurity that fills someone like me up like a hundred-year flood. It gave me a rush of excitement every time the lights dimmed. I still get that way at the movies, Just not as strongly as I used to, when I was huddled in the back, with my feet on the seat in front of me, transfixed by a window to the world that would call me from my rural upbringing to Hollywood. God bless You Met Cinema, you will be sorely missed.