The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

A reason to love multiplex theatre lobbies

with 35 comments

Multiplex theatres invite you to write angry rants. There’s no lack of things to get annoyed at:

  • The staff with a look in their eyes as if they were flipping hamburgers, counting the minutes before they can go home.
  • The endless queue to the ladies room and the gravitation field in there which inevitable makes all toilet paper jump out of the holder, spreading over the floor and basin in an appalling mess.
  • Popcorn.  People hugging their popcorn buckets as if they were precious tesseracts, popcorn smell in my nostrils, the crunching sound as I step on them carefully, trying not to slip.

Theatre lobbies are easy targets for criticism, but in this post I’m aiming for the opposite. I want to share what I love about lobbies, especially the ones of multiplex theatres and the larger they are, the better. It’s not a major reveal; as a matter of fact it’s a simple little idea or rather an association. But whenever I pull it out of my pensive, it is as if the popcorn battlefield fades out and the film magic returns.

This moment of cinematic bliss occurs to me after I have passed the ticket checkpoint. In my theatre they don’t have individual checks for the different salons; they check all at one place and then it’s your responsibility to find the correct location for your movie.

It happens as I slowly walk down the corridor and it’s already over when I enter my final destination, where I’m going to watch the movie for the night. That room always makes me think of the Wood between the Worlds.

Does it sound familiar? It may be if you’ve read C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series as many times as I have. It appears for the first time in The Magician’s Nephew, when Digory and Polly take the first trip between our worlds using magic rings and making a stop on the way.

 As he rose to his feet he noticed that he was neither dripping nor panting for breath as anyone would expect after being under water. His clothes were perfectly dry. He was standing by the edge of a small pool – not more than ten feet from side to side in a wood. The trees grew close together and were so leafy that he could get no glimpse of the sky. All the light was green light that came through the leaves: but there must have been a very strong sun overhead, for this green daylight was bright and warm. It was the quietest wood you could possibly imagine. There were no birds, no insects, no animals, and no wind. You could almost feel the trees growing. The pool he had just got out of was not the only pool. There were dozens of others – a pool every few yards as far as his eyes could reach. You could almost feel the trees drinking the water up with their roots. This wood was very much alive. When he tried to describe it afterwards

Digory always said, “It was a rich place: as rich as plumcake.”

On the following pages Polly and Digory plot about in a dreamy state of mind until they start to figure out what kind of a place it is.

No, I don’t believe this wood is a world at all. I think it’s just a sort of in-between place.”

Polly looked puzzled. “Don’t you see?” said Digory. “No, do listen. Think of our tunnel under the slates at home. It isn’t a room in any of the houses. In a way, it isn’t really part of any of the houses. But once you’re in the tunnel you can go along it and come into any of the houses in the row. Mightn’t this wood be the same? – a place that isn’t in any of the worlds, but once you’ve found that place you can get into them all.”

“Well, even if you can -” began Polly, but Digory went on as if he hadn’t heard her.

“And of course that explains everything,” he said. “That’s why it is so quiet and sleepy here. Nothing ever happens here. Like at home. It’s in the houses that people talk, and do things, and have meals. Nothing goes on in the inbetween places, behind the walls and above the ceilings and under the floor, or in our own tunnel. But when you come out of our tunnel you may find yourself in any house. I think we can get out of this place into jolly well Anywhere! We don’t need to jump back into the same pool we came up by. Or not just yet.”

Multiplex theatres remind me of the wood with the pools. Every door in the hallway leads to a different world. If I open one of them, I’ll make a long and perilous space trip. Another door brings me to a scout camp in the 60s. And one door leads to a waitress job at a rock club in Hollywood in the 80s. (Something warns me against it though; it doesn’t seem to be a good pool to pick for my jump).

So many different experiences are within my grasp, despite the fact that all tickets in Sweden are prebooked. In reality I’m lawful and wouldn’t dream of seeing a different film than the one I’ve paid for. But in theory I could slip into just any world, and the idea soothes me and helps the everyday life loosen its grip on me. Wherever the pool will take me I will be ready to meet it.

And this is my reason to love multiplex theatres.  I toss out the idea in the hope that it will help some more film buffs to find their way to the Wood between the Worlds.  It’s kind of hidden, like platform 9 3/4. But keep an eye  open for it and ignore the popcorn smell and you might spot it too.

The Wood between the Worlds,” said Polly dreamily. “It sounds rather nice.”

“Come on,” said Digory. “Which pool shall we try?”
[…]

“One – Two – Three – Go!” said Digory. And they jumped.”

Written by Jessica

June 15, 2012 at 4:38 pm

35 Responses

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  1. This might be my favorite post ever.
    As passionate as we are on the blogosphere about seeing the films we see, we tend to spend an inordinate amount of time complaining about the logistics of going out to see them. Nowhere else have I seen anyone equate the space between the screens as that wonderful place Lewis told us about…the place that seems to exist between awake and asleep.

    Thank-you for this. I’m off to update my weekly link round-up now to include it.

    Ryan McNeil

    June 15, 2012 at 5:23 pm

    • I thanked you over Twitter Ryan, but I want to thank you again. It really means a lot to me. I felt happy writing this post; it was close to my heart, but I had no idea if anyone would care for it once I pulled it out of my chest and hold it up for the world to see. Your immediate response made me very happy. If only one person in the world understood what I was talking about, I knew I wasn’t just rambling to myself.

      Jessica

      June 16, 2012 at 8:40 am

  2. Wonderful….anyone who connects movie lobbies with CS Lewis is a wonderful spirit. Great post!!

    Karl Kaefer

    June 15, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    • Thank you so much Karl. I’ve carried this thought for a long while but I wasn’t sure if it was possible to devote an entire post to it. Apparently it was.

      Jessica

      June 16, 2012 at 8:38 am

  3. I guess you’re right. Except for me at least it’s kind of different for most of my life.

    I, from Jamaica, spend most of my movie watching patronage at our local cinema – Carib 5 – a 5 screen movie house. You go to the box office, buy your ticket and then enter the lobby/concession area. Ahead of you are two screens and off to the right is a short hallway to the other three bigger screens. In front of each door is an usher who checks each patron’s ticket before entry just to make sure they have the right screen they’re about to enter.

    There’s no real option of behind door A or door B which I can go into and noone cares.

    Now, as I’ve moved to Trinidad, there is a bigger (10 screen) multiplex which I usually visit and it is very much like that for me. But I guess I still have that feeling of them being unavailable worlds to me because there’s a guard/usher at each door telling me “no” and that my screen is the other one around the corner.

    Nice post though Jessica.

    • Thank you Andrew! I really love to hear about how different cinemas look in different parts of the world. Even something like a multiplex theatre can differ a little bit. I see those ushers very clearly in front of me now. It’s as if there was a guardian at each pool in that wood.

      Jessica

      June 16, 2012 at 8:47 am

  4. That’s a wonderful connection. I struggle to find anything good about multiplexes, but you’re right sometimes when I’m there for a matinee and it’s quiet and there’s no one around, I do feel like I could open up any of these doors at random and find something special.

    Bonjour Tristesse

    June 15, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    • Thank you! I think it’s easier to sink into the Wood-between-the-worlds mood when there aren’t too many other people around. A fairly empty lobby with all those doors opening to different worlds… it really evokes cinematic bliss.

      Jessica

      June 16, 2012 at 8:37 am

  5. That is a beautiful multiplex. Why can’t American multiplexes be this beautiful?

    Steven Flores

    June 15, 2012 at 10:21 pm

    • The top image isn’t from Sweden. I think it’s form Eastern Europe somewhere. Just some random image from the webs. The second one is from a Swedish newly renovated theatre, which really is a beauty.

      Jessica

      June 16, 2012 at 8:33 am

  6. THIS is why the Velvet Cafe rules. (Applauds.)

    Nick

    June 16, 2012 at 12:51 am

  7. This is a great post Jessica thanks for sharing even though you already told me about the concept of it in beforehand!

    The LAMB (@LambThe)

    June 16, 2012 at 11:34 pm

    • Thanks Joel! That place, the wood between the worlds, is one that I keep coming back to for various reasons. It soothens my mind.

      Jessica

      June 17, 2012 at 10:21 am

  8. The lobby of a multiplex = the gateway to everywhere.

    Nice post Jess. Makes me wish I could afford to see more films at the cinema!!

    Rodney Twelftree

    June 17, 2012 at 9:14 am

    • Thank you Rodney! Well, perhaps your reviewing eventually can leed to some fre prescreenings. And if not, there will hopefully come a time in your life when you can live on a higher budget. Cheers!

      Jessica

      June 17, 2012 at 10:25 am

  9. What a wonderful post. Made me remember why I love going to the movies.

    Dave Enkosky

    June 17, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    • Thanks! Me too. Got to think those things over once in a while.

      Jessica

      June 17, 2012 at 3:37 pm

  10. Wonderful association. I would never have thought of it myself in a million years but it’s spot on!

    Sofia

    June 17, 2012 at 3:46 pm

    • That wood is a place I’m very fond of. It’s an image I carry with me as an illustration of the possibilities that life offers and the point of rest there is in between them. I actually think about it a lot.

      Jessica

      June 17, 2012 at 4:04 pm

  11. Very nice post! I had a similar thought a few years ago about books; I was amazed at how a few words on paper had the power to transport me to another world or time. I never thought about it in regards to the cinema, but I don’t think I’ll ever forget it now! You’ve made the humdrum multiplex magical.

    Will

    June 17, 2012 at 4:51 pm

    • Thank you! Even if we visit multiplex theatres hundreds of miles away from each other we share the magical world of imagination. See you in the forest!

      Jessica

      June 17, 2012 at 4:55 pm

  12. Beautiful post, Jessica! I don’t know if I’ve said it before but your blog is my favorite.

    fernandorafael

    June 18, 2012 at 5:59 am

    • I don’t know if you’ve said it, but your frequent commenting tells me you’ve got a liking for this place and you have no idea how much I appreciate it. Thank you! Really.

      Jessica

      June 18, 2012 at 7:18 am

      • You’re welcome! Glad I stumbled upon your blog. I always look forward to your posts 🙂

        fernandorafael

        June 18, 2012 at 7:23 am

  13. Beautiful writing, really enjoyed reading this.

    Nostra

    June 18, 2012 at 8:37 am

    • Thank you Nostra! I enjoyed writing it, especially putting out the beautiful words of C.S. Lewis.

      Jessica

      June 18, 2012 at 8:45 am

  14. I brilliantly written article matey. As you know from my previous RANTs and MOANS I am not the greatest fan of the multiplex. I would prefer to go to my little boutique cinema to see a film. A lot more soul and history there. But they only show the smaller films, so I am forced to go to a Multiplex. Luckily I have found one in a near ISH town that is actually pretty good.

    Thanks for the read.

    • Huge thanks Scott! Of course I’m a fan of small, independent and soulful cinemas. I don’t know where I’d be if my local arthouse theatre would shut down. But no matter what – I still watch a lot of films in multiplex theatres and then I could as well try to see it from the bright side.

      Jessica

      June 18, 2012 at 11:48 am

  15. Fantastic post. Especially as it’s talking about the love and mystery that multiplexes house – the most accessible place for anyone to go and see a film. It’d be great to be able to see every film at those locally run, small art house style cinema, but they just don’t exist everywhere. And there are fewer and fewer now.

    Loved the comparison with CS Lewis here. The next trip to my local multiplex is definitely going to remind me of this post!

    Jaina

    June 18, 2012 at 4:37 pm

    • Cheers! Thank you so much for your kind words. I wanted to plant a seed throwing out this idea and I’m so glad it stuck with some of you. Multiplex theatres won’t go away anytime soon so we can as well try to look at them from a different point of view and make the visit more enjoyable.

      Jessica

      June 18, 2012 at 4:42 pm

  16. Wow. This is such a wonderful, beautifully written piece. Kudos to you, Jessica. I wish I could write as well as this.

    John

    June 21, 2012 at 4:30 am

    • Wow, thank you John! To be honest the honor goes to C.S. Lewis. I quoted from his writing, which puts me and everyone else at shame. But I really enjoyed to remind us of the wonderful place he gave us with the Wood between the Worlds.

      Jessica

      June 21, 2012 at 7:46 am

  17. Your analogy to the pools in Narnia reminds me of this older gentleman who we always see in closest multiplex where we see a lot of matinees of mainstream films. One time he came up to us inside about five minutes after the movie started and asked us what movie wa playing before he sat down. We are convinced that he buys one ticket, gets past the ticket taker in the front, and with the tacit approval of management, spends his entire day hopping from pool to pool.

    Steven

    February 26, 2013 at 2:09 am

    • Haha, that’s a lovely story. I wouldn’t have the nerve to do it myself, but it’s rather endearing to hear about.

      Jessica

      February 26, 2013 at 7:27 am


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