Saturday, July 12, 2008

My Best Job

Want to get a job at a movie theatre? Try watching the same film (the only film they're showing) seven times in a week. That should get the owner's attention. That's exactly what I did. The historic Granada Theater was showing some film called Tortilla Soup. I had nothing to do one night, thought I'd check it out.

From the first second, the film's music and colors grabbed me and guided me through ninety agreeable minutes. I went back the next night. I took a friend the night after that. Tortilla Soup and I became quick friends. So did my future boss and I.

9/11 had just happened and people were acting all funny. Some people weren't going to movies much anymore. Some couldn't get enough, maybe they were trying to enjoy every last moment of freedom. My movie habits didn't change. Seeing a movie seven times in theatres is no new experience for me.

During those first few nights, the owner, Howard, and I chatted about what a good movie this was. A Latino remake of Ang Lee's Eat Drink Man Woman, it focused on the food just as much as it did the characters. Not a film for everyone, a bit corny for some, less of a masterpiece than I had described it, etc.

Something about the movie and something about the theatre kept bringing me back. I never considered applying for a job until the seventh night. By then, Howard and I were talking film all the time. He would tell me how, way back in the day, the theatre used to give out dishware to every customer. Mondays would be a plate, Tuesdays would be a cup, etc. You'd have to come every night to get an entire set. Apparently it worked. Decades later, the theatre was still up and running.

From the lobby, I could see into the back room. It was filled with movie posters. In high school, my room was 100% covered in posters. You couldn't see the walls/ceiling at all. I don't know why we even bothered painting. Getting my hands on these posters would be like finding the Holy Grail.

My friend and I offered to work for free posters but I wound up getting a real job offer. I started two days later. Next thing I knew, I was tearing tickets, popping popcorn, and cleaning up after the messiest people in the county. It was the greatest!

Working at a movie theatre was a dream come true. Free movies. Free food. Talking about film all day. I even got to help my boss choose which movies to play! We decided to run El Crimen del padre Amaro, a controversial film about a Catholic priest who has a relationship with a teenage girl. Every night, the place was packed. Half way through the film, the place was half empty. People were storming out of the theatre, yelling at me like I had made the movie.

I worked at the Granada until the business sold. The last two films we played were My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Chicago. We closed the doors after letting out sell-out crowds. The people who bought the Granada promised that they would still continue to cater to the Art House crowds. After playing The Pianist for a single week, the marquee read "Vin Diesel in A Man Apart." Sad.

Today, the Granada no longer plays movies. My boss moved across the country without giving anyone his address. I moved to another town and got a job at a corporate video store. I'll have to write a "My Worst Job" post later. Every time I'm back in town, I drive past my best workplace. It houses a community theatre group now. Sad.

Working at a one-screen, art house movie theatre was my best job. Somehow, Hollywood Video and Circuit City can't really compete. If I can say one last thing, it would be to tell you to support independently owned businesses. Especially movie theatres. Get to know the employees. Make it a habit to drive the extra ten minutes to the tiny movie house. Maybe you'll get a job there and have an excellent eighteen months filled with free nachos and movie posters.


Kimberly Grafton said...

How sad! Those old movie theaters are so cool. I wish there was one around here. That definitely sounds like a kick ass job. I've never had a sweet job like that, although I do work for a mom and pop flower shop (literally... my mom and dad own it) which has been pretty sweet

Daniel said...

Wow, great story. I regret not having worked at a theater when I was a younger man. Always still out there I suppose, but the one's I'd like to work at are closing down like Cinema Paradiso - and like yours.

Megan said...

Great post!

Our "Village" theater recently closed and we are sad.

Marilyn said...

You brought back memories when I read "Granada." But I wasn't my Granada on the North Side of Chicago. Huge movie palace where I first became a crime victim--my purse was stolen off of the seat next to me. More criminal was when they tore down the theatre to build condos. Only the name, Granada Apartments, stayed.


Nageoire said...

Well, I guess all good things have to come to an end. Granada was one of them. I remember the first movie I saw there was Batman Returns...for a dollar. Great place. I'm glad you took something good out of that short stint in Hollister.

Cknopf said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cknopf said...

Is the San Benito Stage Company really that bad? ... ...

Remember when we saw Toy Soldiers there? I believe that was the first movie I ever went to without a grown up.

We saw Madeline there too (I want to say it was a double feature as well, but I can't remember what it was paired with though). Didn't you see Dinosaur a bunch of times too?

elgringo said...

hey Chris! SBSC isn't so bad, but it's no one-screen art film mecca for San Benito County. Now if people want to see an indie film they have to drive all the way to the Osio.

Yeah, Madeline played on a double-bill with Small Soldiers. But I think Mom went with us. Hmm...maybe she drops us off.

The first movie I ever saw alone was also at the Granada, SPAWN!

Thanks for finding my blog.