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Catharsis on the Silver Screen

A Mini Memoir of Movie Theater Survival

By LalainaPublished about a month ago 3 min read
Catharsis on the Silver Screen
Photo by Donreál Lunkin on Unsplash

This piece was originally written in 2019 for a graduate school course. Some revisions were made.

My first job when I was eighteen years old, wide eyed and bushy tailed and more than willing to do anything to prove myself. It did not matter that I was just working at an AMC, making minimum wage for far too much work and far too irregular schedules. I had to do my best at the job I was given. Sometimes, I put too much into. Way, way too much.

I would go back twice to the job after that initial summer before college. The next summer while I stayed at home. The summer after I graduated college because I could not find a job to last for six months and my parents were separating, and I could not bare to drive and had no license. I got better at my job each time. A little more confident, a little more cocky, a little more comfortable with myself. I promised myself that the third time would be the last. I would not let myself go back. I would be a real adult and get a real adult job. Oh, to be young.

There were not many benefits to working at a movie theater. Television had lied to me, telling me it would be like a great adventure. It would be filled with movie premieres, comradery, and a dramatic summer romance. Instead, I had an unattainable crush that made me wish I could just stick my head in the popcorn maker and let the hot oil scald me to death. I was also yelled at by a man who though he was overcharged a quarter, accused of stealing a wallet by a scatter-brained family, and had to clean other people's shit from underneath movie theater seats. I learned to smile and bare it, all while thinking things that I would never say in front of my parents.

It was an awful job, arguably the worst job I ever had. Though, to be fair to AMC Theaters, it never gave me quite the same level of PTSD as teaching sixth graders in an inner city school. The paycheck was much better with the gremlins though.

However, working such a job did change my life in one significant way (two, I guess, if you count my ability to project my voice across a crowded room). While working there, I learned to love movies.

Catharsis through movies is nothing new. It is two hours you are allowed to escape reality and focus on nothing but the story in front of you. I watched movies I would never have expected myself to, and not just because they were ridiculously overpriced. The Avengers and I would have never become acquainted. I would have not discovered that I enjoyed Marvel more than DC. I would not have watched Zootopia roughly six times in one summer because it was just that good. I would have never seen my first Bollywood film, which would have been a shame because Sultan was a gift to the world and the medium was definitely something worth exploring. I would have never been brave enough to watch Magic Mike or the Purge, the latter which I still haunts me and the former which definitely signified a grand transition into adulthood.

Without the movies, I would have never smacked my father’s shoulder for scaring me during the Purge or laughed during the Shallows because they showed a clip of Galveston at the end, except it resembled Cancun more than grey sludge. I would have never been brave enough to sneak into the Greatest Showman with my little sister long after my job was over. I would not have dragged my dad to Finding Dory in Spanish or watch the Angry Birds Movie more times than I would like to admit. I would have never considered paying ten dollars instead of watching something on Netflix in order to escape for just a moment.

Movies are the modern campfire story. It is a moment we are invited into someone’s tale, invited to leave everything behind. They have come to me when I have needed them most and for that, I am grateful.

Though, thank god I never have to work there again.


About the Creator


She/Her. Writing Center Coordinator & Professor. Novelist. 30+. Proud Latina.

I'm obsessed with my cat and fantasy fiction.

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Comments (1)

  • Autumn Perales28 days ago

    My first love was film. I actually became a writer because I couldn't become a filmmaker.

LalainaWritten by Lalaina

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