After Time Away from Movie Theatres, Gelato Mama Is Ready for Her Close-up

Lights. Camera. Action.

  • Category
  • Written by
    Emily Tecklenburg
  • Illustrated by
    Yuiko Sugino

I’ve always had a love affair with the movies.

As a kid it was cheap entertainment—just a few bucks for a ticket and popcorn along with a quarter to call home when we were ready. High school brought us giggly girlfriends to the theatre to watch Titanic more times than I’m comfortable admitting. Then, as a poor student living in New York, I lived a dangerous life of crime—paying for just a single ticket, then roaming the giant 42nd Street chain complex all afternoon, slipping in and out of two or three films. My good-girl felt guilty; my wallet felt satisfied. 

In Los Angeles, with nobody but strangers around, I sunk into the comfort of Laemmle Sunset 5, where it didn’t matter what was showing; it only mattered that it distracted me from the lonely reality that awaited after the credits would roll. Moviegoing has always been my favorite date, my favorite excuse to escape, my favorite way to pass a rainy day. It was a friend, always available, whenever needed.

But then COVID-19 disrupted our lives—a plot twist that won’t stop turning, resulting in the shuttering of so many beloved theaters. Believe me, no one was more thrilled than I to sit in a packed, giant theatre for the first time in over two years as Tom Cruise regaled us with nostalgia and newness alike, but I couldn’t help but mourn what was left in its wake. My Laemmle, my Landmark, my Arclight—a small, intimate audience of likeminded cinephiles. 

How I long to stuff some stale, snack-sized candy into my purse, spend a paycheck on popcorn and sink deep into the darkened solace of a quiet, generational saga or squint my eyes at foreign subtitles or cry shamelessly at an offbeat indie. How I long to sneak away to an afternoon matinee to see a film I know only my quirky tastes will appreciate, shielding my eyes from the sun as I exit, freshly inspired and filled with wonder. 

I don’t want the comfort of my sofa and my streaming and a superhero. I want the comfort of a seat that almost reclines and a booming reminder that silence is golden as I take a sharp look to glare at the person to my left with the squeaky straw until at last we settle into the dim lights, not knowing if magic or mishap awaits.

I dream that some Daddy Warbucks is going to descend and save independent theatres, at least the ones dearest to me. But my hope has dwindled, and I worry that my “remember Blockbuster” will be my kid’s “remember movie theatres”—leaving them just a smattering of moviegoing memories. Those memories are pretty happy ones though. The only thing better than a matinee by myself was a matinee with my two best little buddies, scrunched up close to me, their tiny hands held out awaiting melted M&M’s and sticky lollipops until at last the lights would dim and we would wait for the magic or the mishap.

It didn’t really matter. We were just happy to be there.