Sunday, 4 March 2012

A trip to the movies

From the outside, Toby Theatre didn't look like it was open for business. The big wooden doors looked firmly shut, there were no windows to peer in from and all was quiet outside. But when K tugged at the door handle, it reluctantly relented, revealing its plush, red-carpeted warmness inside.

Before we could thaw out from the cold outside, we had to pay the lady sitting in the little booth right by the door inside the theatre. Calling it a booth might be a little generous. It looked more like a closet, or a confessional booth, except instead of a curtain and some netting to obscure the confessor, there was a thick clear plastic pane with a little cut-out circle so that we can communicate.

There was no need to tell the lady which movie we were watching. Neither did we have to tell her which screening we wanted. The cinema only has one screening about once every two days and if you haven't figured it out by now, the cinema literally only has one screen.

We were catching Mission Impossible 4 (one would think that they would be screening Mission Impossible 5 by now, being this close to the tinsel source), but it wasn't only that they were screening something that is already on its last legs of the season in Australia a few thousand kilometres away, the movie actually made its premiere in downtown Invermere a mere week ago. And we caught the final screening a week later.

Stepping into the building, everything felt very . . . compact. It was as if we had entered one of those old British theatres (for performances, not movies) in minature. There was dark wood panelling and a maroon carpet. There was a sense of plushness and also . . . tradition. We didn't even get a ticket stub in exchange for our money. S was a bit confused as to where we'd be sitting. The lady called out "just go through and sit wherever".

We had to pass the strategically located candy bar before entering the screening room. K and D succumbed and bought some popcorn with "real melted butter" (it was one of the selling points on their website). In true German style, S wondered if there were any beer available. I helpfully told him there was root beer.

"That's not beer," S replied.

"But there's the word 'beer' in it," I reasoned.

"Yes, but there's also the word 'root'."

Goodies in hand, we turned to the screening room where we could already see the entire width of the screen through the double open doors. Guess the minature theme extended there. There were model WWII planes hanging from the ceiling, giving me the distinct impression that I was going to be catching one of those propaganda movies during the war.

We walk down the carpeted path, past less-than-plush chairs. These weren't modern-day, Gold Class cinema soft cushiony seating. These are what church pews would look like if they had individual seating and fold-up seats, complete with hard wooden back rests and the bare minimum of cushion for your bottom that leaves you undecided if the seats are soft or hard. The seats in the back half of the theatre even had some strange red carpeting on the back rests.

Amusingly, some of the seats were actually cuddle-friendly, in the sense that they had no arm rest in between two seats, not in the sense that they were any more soft or lounge-friendly.

We chose our seats, D and I on one of those "love seats", K and S in individual seats next to D. The place was really warm and we were in a hurry to shed our layers, beanies and gloves. Unfortunately, some of us were also heavy laden with pop corn and drink, and there were no cup holders. S stood in as a human-sized cup holder for K, while I placed our drink on the hard cement floor (the carpets were reserved only for the aisle).

Before long, the lights dimmed and the trailers came on. We got as comfortable as one can on seats that promoted good posture. Then about a minute into the first trailer (some sort of sequel to the Borat movie), the film reel melted.

You know those special effects you see of the film melting and suddenly all you see is a white screen? For a split second, we all thought that was what we were witnessing. That was until the lights in the theatre came on and the screen stayed white for an unnatural amount of time.

D exploded into laughter. Elevator music came on. The four of us looked at each other in amusement. I looked around at the other five people in the cinema. They looked like this was what they experienced every time they watched a movie. I didn't realise there are cinemas out there that still use actual film!

About five minutes later, the lights dimmed again and we continued where we left off. After the second trailer and no ads, the movie started.

For a small screen and lack of Dolby surround sound, we actually got quite engrossed in to the movie. That was until the part where Tom Cruise had to step out of a window some 100 stories up so that he can scale the building from the outside.

I waited with bated breath as he inched closer towards the open window . . . and then suddenly, a white screen with the words "Intermission" appeared. I actually thought it was part of the movie. Who puts an intermission in the middle of a Hollywood movie? This isn't a circus act. You watch a Hollywood movie, you commit to it and ignore the bladder that threatened to explode the minute the movie started.

But once again, the lights and elevator music came on. People actually walked out of the cinema as if this was normal. This time, I burst out laughing and looked at D, K and S, asking incredulously, "Really?!"

With nothing else to do, we milled out into the foyer that now felt like half the size of an entire hotel suite (the budget one, not the presidential one).

Since this was no longer a bladder endurance exercise, I thought I'd pay a visit to the washroom, appropriately labelled "Guys" and "Dolls". That was when the next surprise of the evening awaited me. It was as if I had stepped into an old Western saloon.

There were two stalls in the washroom, one fully enclosed, the other, which I had to go to, had one of those Western saloon swinging door that basically only covered me from my knees up to my chest. Luckily, I could lock the door.

Unluckily, there was another girl in the washroom who I somehow felt I had to have a conversation with, seeing that we could see each other clearly despite me being in a cubicle! We exchanged an awkward look, I muttered, "This is interesting." She laughs and politely replied, "I'll just leave now."

Escaping the less than private washroom and about three minutes later, we settled back into our seats and resumed our movie-watching, picking up from where we left off.

Toby Theatre was a very interesting experience, something that I have never had before. It was a step back into time and what made it even more amazing is the fact that this was no tourist attraction - the locals actual experience this in their daily lives (well, maybe weekly lives, if they choose to catch every new movie that comes into town).

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