Without a doubt, magic resides in strange places. Sometimes it is located in some exotic faraway land that requires multiple plane exchanges, vehicle travel up narrow cliff roads, and, at the top, the donning of mystical robes with lots of chanting. Other times it is tucked away in the furrowed trunk of an old tree that is nestled in your backyard with just enough of a tree burrow at the base that if you get down on your hands and knees you might see a tiny old man dressed in green sweeping out his kitchen. Yes, magic’s location may be part of the mystery — but there are places that are generally a safe bet for magic exploration — toy stores, forests, old houses with attic dormer window protruding out into the night sky, and any barn that still smells of hay — to name a few.
With the growth of malls and multiplexes, the movie theater has long been removed from any “magic list.” The aficionados of movies harken back to their youth and disdainfully reject any magic in a place that has a large parking lot, multiple ticket windows, and a concession booth that is run like the checkout at Target — but more expensive. BIG MISTAKE!
This is my neighborhood movie theater at eleven this morning — Carmike Wynnsong Theaters. The large parking lot and large front-glass windows are totally a disguise. Don’t be fooled. You need to look past the disguise, walk through the 90+ heat blasting off the concrete entry, and open the door.
Wow! You’ve arrived. The swish of cool air is the first sign that you’ve stepped through a portal. The young ticket taker is working behind multiple windows in a booth that announces the carnival inside by lights and music and a microphone-tin voice talking through a hole in the glass. You are almost there . . . .
Once you’re past the ticket booth and go through the second portal, the overpowering buttery smell of popcorn will cause you to swallow as you walk into the fantasy lobby:
Bright lights, murmuring voices, popping corn, and mirrors await. And here is Ian at the popcorn — churning out a mountain for the late morning shows. I’m wagering Ian does double duty as the clown.
Fortified for the next hour and forty minutes, you head to your theater, but you must first be allowed to enter by the gatekeeper, Lissy — a broad-smiling young woman with twinkling eyes who will get you to your correct location after taking your ticket.
With some trepidation, you enter the dark canyon that beckons to your show — and there is the mysterious, watchful glance of Emmett, looking like a Vermeer painting and keeping one eye on your safe passage:
Straining all your senses in the dark, stumbling on the soft carpet, and patiently waiting for the giant screen to light up and whisk you to another world — you’ve finally arrived. Magic is now in play.
Then time stops, . . . your mouth drops open, . . . and you watch your movie.
After existing only in your head and heart for one to two hours, the body that-is-not-quite-you will stiffly stumble to the doors when the movie is over. You are a different person than when you arrived: years older, eons wiser, and perhaps now having Spiderman skills. You have been transformed. Magic.
Don’t worry, as you leave you can stop by Ian’s and take a bit of the magic with you.