I’m not quite sure how it started to be quite honest. Well, maybe I do to some degree. I got a text from my friend Dylan the night before. Dylan and I met years back at the old Improv Comedy Club (now the Broadway Comedy Club). I was in an extremely shitty short-form group doing a knock off “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” show for tourists and other rubes we accosted in Times Square and he worked the door for another group that ran shows out of the upstairs room most of the week. We’d exchange pleasantries, but then he randomly came into the club early one day as we were finishing up a practice session with the news that he had just ran into “Bernie” from Weekend at Bernie’s. Being the dork that I am immediately acknowledged said actor by his real name (Terry Kiser) and mentioned some of his lesser known credits, Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood & Mannequin Two: On the Move for example. Dylan’s eyes lit up at a fellow dweeb in the house, especially one with such intricate knowledge of obscure character actors that get slaughtered by Jason Voorhees; and thus, a friendship was born.
I left that group I was in a few months later but I would still sporadically show up at the club from time to time to hang with Dylan where we’d bullshit about movies and I’d eat half his bag of pretzel rods. One such night, we left the club and headed for the train together. He too lived in Queens. One of his co-workers walked with us to the corner where there was a 24 hour ATM at a closed bank. I thought the other guy was just stopping to take out cash, but instead he took out a pipe, a bag of weed, and sparked right up inside the bank. I joined in…because, why the fuck not? The dude parted down 8th Avenue and Dylan and I made our way to the 57th Street/7th Avenue N stop. By the time we got to 53rd & 7th it was abundantly clear that we were fuckin’ higher than giraffe ass. We stopped at a little news kiosk to for sodas & candy, because if you’re not aware, after utilizing such herbal supplements in that manner side effects include stuffing your face, cotton mouth, random fits of giggling, and the rare super paranoia which may or may not lead to a total freak out.
We walked down the street and I stopped in my tracks holding my half eaten Snickers and proceeded to do an absolutely flawless and spot on impression of a character from Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning who was a stuttering fat pathetic loser who ate candy bars and (SPOILER ALERT) bites it in the first 10 minutes (pardon the pun). Dylan had to sit down on a parked bulldozer to compose himself. He laughed, and I laughed at him laughing. We were high, fuck you, it happens. We both laughed uncontrollably for seemingly an hour non-stop. Now sure, that’s an hour in high-time, it was probably more like 4 minutes, 5 max. But something in that experience triggered something in our budding friendship (pardon the pun). When we would hang out we’d have just average run of the mill nerdy-as-fuck conversations about movies. Now that, for lack of a better term, drugs had entered the fray, the nerdiness became even more fun. A tradition we’d uphold for going on for 7 or 8 years now. Being a nerd is fun, but have you ever tried being a nerd……on weed?
For the next couple years we would meet up every couple of months to smoke up and go to the movies, occasionally after a movie we’d walk from the Regal Kaufman Astoria theater (our go to home base) to my neighborhood in Sunnyside and end the excursion with a stop at the local White Castle to submit to our mutual enduring of a previously mentioned side effect. I don’t know at what point we both were like “we’re sick of going here” [Kaufman] and we broached the topic of maybe changing up the venue to which we’d cinematically escape from time to time. We experimented here and there with a couple other places, but they were always places we’d already been. Then came that text he sent me that I mentioned before way back in the first paragraph.
He had time to kill before having to go to work at the club that day and was going to the AMC Kips Bay theater on 2nd avenue to see Daybreakers, an awful vampire movie with Ethan Hawke, Sam Neil, and Willem DaFoe. I said “fuck it, why not?”, and we went. For some reason I had my camera with me, well not “for some reason”, it was new and I had the convoluted notion in me at the beginning of the year, since it was January, to document the year in photographs and post them on my Facebook like a friggin’ teenage girl. Judge away, fuckers. Anyways, when the movie was over we got some lady to take our picture in front of the theater. It was an excruciating experience. Do you know how hard it is for 2 socially awkward dorks who most likely reek of cannabis to ask someone to take our picture in front of a movie theater? Two days later we found ourselves back at Kaufman, and again my camera was in tow. We’ve remedied the previous embarrassment this go around by setting a timer on the camera and framing the shot and I’d jump in frame while the camera took like 5 or 6 shots and ultimately I’d pick out the “right one”. Super rarely when there’s no place to set up the camera we’d submit to the embarrassment of having to perform a “selfie”. God, I equally hate both doing that and referring to that as such. Anything to avoid said social awkwardness of obviously being high and asking for help. True story; one time these 3 cops came up to ask what we were doing when we couldn’t find a place to set up the camera, we thought we were so busted, we weren’t, and they ended up taking the picture for us.
For the next eight months we’d continue with the tradition. Going to different movie theatres every time, no longer would it be monthly, it would be sometimes numerous times a week. Some we both went to or haven’t been to, some he’d been to and I haven’t and vice versa. Dylan would always have these free gift cards to different theater chains at the time that he’d get from some friend of his family, so it didn’t really cost us much other than the swipe of a MetroCard. But it was around the time we went to the middle of Harlem to see Vampires Suck (it’s really hard to admit that publicly) that it was apparent that we were in it for the theaters and not specifically the movies themselves. If they were something we wanted to see then it was a bonus, if it was something we could potentially tolerate the thought would be that on the bright side we could cross the theater off our list; then came an actual literal list.
Thanks to the technological advancements over the last few decades made in the field of science by the many nerds that came before us, we were able to utilize the revolutionary invention called the internet to find the locations and courtesy of my obsessive compulsive disorder and Dylan’s aspergers we found appropriate ways via public transit of getting to every single theater that charges admission and shows movies in all five boroughs of New York City that are open to the public. Our quest was solidified; spark up then catch a flick EVERYWHERE. But as time went by the NYC list began to diminish with content and we had to start getting pickier. We started noticing that what were left on the NYC list were pretty much just Bollywood theaters and artsy fartsy pretentious cunt theaters. We had to pick our battles, but when we weren’t sucking it up for the greater good and stomaching obscure Asian cinema or shit catering to hipstery bundles of sticks we came to a decision to branch out a bit to theaters outside the NYC borders that were still fairly reasonable to get to. Economically and locationally (that’s probably not a word). We’d take the MetroNorth upstate or to Connecticut, New Jersey Transit, PATH, and Port Authority buses to theaters in Jersey, the LIRR and MetroCard swipable buses in the far depths of Queens to go to a bunch of Long Island theaters, and even on one occasion a Bolt Bus to the city of Brotherly Love where we’d also end up popping our cheese steak cherries.
After 3½ years, we’ve reached a milestone. The 100th theater! One hundred times we made these silly cinematic journeys under the influence of decriminalized recreational inhalable plant life. Each one documented by a picture of our mugs in front of whichever theater we have just conquered. Now sure, we’re haven’t officially closed the book on all the New York City theaters just yet, that’s only because there’s one last place we need to go to. It’s prolonged our quest since the place only recently just opened within the last six months or so. But we will go there, that’s for sure. It’s only a matter of time. It’s another one of those picky fuckin’ places where we have to choose our flick wisely. But even then, there’s no apparent endgame to this whole thing. There’s a handful of other “out-of-towners” we have in mind down the pipeline. I just find it pretty cool that we’ve made it this far.
Over the past 100 theaters, we’ve had our fair share of crazy times I must say. I think our lowest point was when we decided to “kill off” a real shithole theater in Queens. We got there a half hour early, we went in to get our tickets and the dudes behind the concession counter, which doubled as the box office, were like “just go in now, we’ll start it now”. That wasn’t an option…purely on the basis in that we hadn’t yet been able to toke up just yet; we wanted to get the tickets first. We come back 20 minutes later, eyes glistening and feeling lighter than air, and the dudes break the news to us that the heat is broken. It was early February, just so you have an idea how much that sucked. We said “fuck it” and went in anyway. The place hadn’t been cleaned from the night before, we were the only people there, we could see our breathe when we spoke to one another, and we’re still not sure to this day if the movie was in 3D and they didn’t give us glasses or if it was just out of focus. We sat there, cold, frustrated, high-as-fuck, and just laughed at how pathetic we were that we were going through all this trouble and putting ourselves through such environmental torture for such a nerdy reason. Maybe the experience would’ve been better if we weren’t there to see fuckin’ Yogi Bear (also hard to admit publicly).
Then there was the time we narrowly escaped a Washington Heights bar we went to for a beer one afternoon after our movie up there at a super old timey chop job* (*We refer to any old one screen theater that management obviously decided to break up into several separate theaters years back to accommodate more films/showtimes as a “chop-job”). We went into the bar because when we were walking around the neighborhood before the flick stealthily breathing in the THC fumes and we thought it looked super old, dumpy, and cool. We were in there less than 15 minutes when a fuckin’ Wild West bar fight broke out on the other side of the bar and while all the attention went to that side of the bar the old timey barkeep made a weird shady money hand off wrapped in newspapers to some dude who looked like Danny Trejo. It was 4pm on a Saturday for fuck’s sake. Still blows my mind.
But by far the weirdest thing was discovering, or rather come to the realization far too late, that one theater within the city limits we thought specialized in Asian cinema (going by their website) is actually a front for really skeazy old dudes to smoke cigars and bone. We found that out when the movie never actually played and we were watching the summer Olympics for 20 minutes on the big screen, the place was practically empty save for the lockers that lined the walls and then some dude sat diagonally in front of us smoking a cigarette and started breathing all weird and super heavy. He then turned his head and made direct fucking eye contact with us, which immediately sent up some red flags. Rather than go and ask the dude in the box office what was going on and look like idiots. We were like “fuck it let’s go”…but before we departed I had to pee. Bad idea. We followed the signs in the lobby that was ensconced in neon pink lights, the illumination of black light tropical fish tanks, and flashing lights of a few arcade games to the strange maze like hallway that was to lead us to the lavatory. Upon arrival we found that the men’s room to have no door to it, no lights on, and creepy Alanis Morisette music echoing throughout. Since we were under the influence (as always) the super paranoia side effect kicked in to high gear (pardon the pun). Needless to say we got the living fuck out of there at the speed of which I can only compare to be in line with a “Scooby Doo” cartoon where we escaped with such urgency and force there just may have been two 6 foot clouds of smoke formed identically in our likenesses that remained where we stood for several seconds before slowly fading away into the ether. But we totally still took the picture in front of the place anyway…how could you not? Hilariously we kept saying to ourselves “at least we didn’t pay full price”, since we both used printable $5 off admission coupons that were available from their website.
There’s a bit of sentimental value attached to our 100th theater we recently just conquered, it’s one that was quite a formative one in my youth. It is a theater that I’d been to countless times over the course of my younger life, a theater where I’ve been with different family members, various different friends, and also just plain old by myself. It’s the same theater where at 6 years old I stood on a line with my brothers that went all the way across the street for almost a hundred yards to the front door of 401 Main Street to see Back to the Future Part II, where at the age of 10 I walked over a mile in the aftermath of a winter storm from my Woodlands duplex just to go see Fire in the Sky with my new Sherwood friends, and where at 17 one could say I had my “first date” only I didn’t know it was a date because neither one of us actually said it was a date but she thought it was a date or at least implied it was a date and I was a socially awkward fat kid who had a fake boisterous Farley bravado to hide my personal inadequacies and failed to pick up on intricacies of female subtlety and the end result saw me trying to “impress her” by pissing her name in the snow (in cursive) and taking her back to my place where she literally said “show me your room” because we had the place to ourselves since my Mom was practically never there on the weekends and all I ended up doing was spilling a Garfield mug of warm Diet Coke on myself whilst talking about the new Thomas Harris book in the Hannibal Lecter series in front of my Crimson Tide poster and my light switch that looks like a dick. Sexy, right? Thank God that changed, eh? Not really, I’m 30 and I have Batman pillowcases, an Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem poster & the same dick switch; but hey, chicks’ standards have changed so WOOHOO! Anyways, so yeah, I got a lot of fond memories of the place.
I moved away in 2001 shortly after I graduated high school, so my last memory of that theater is passing out in front of it on prom night. Like many other theaters have done over the past couple years In the Islip Triplex shut its doors and closed up shop back in 2006. Earlier this year a miracle occurred and it was announced in the paper that it would re-open its doors in the spring. I kept checking and checking and checking online. The tentative March open came & went. Then finally on June 20, 2013, on the very last day of spring (way to dramatically stretch that shit out, dicks), the New Islip Cinemas finally re-opened to the masses. When I heard the news, I immediately texted Dylan and plans were hatched without delay for our invasion. The fact that it just so happened to be our 100th different theater in the 3½ year period we started this whole nerd quest made the journey all the better, and what better place celebrate our nerdy milestone with the place that most likely caused me to be the nerd I am today. It was great to be back, it was the first time I genuinely looked forward to going back to my hometown. The interior may have changed, but it still smelled the same which immediately took me back to the glory days of yesteryear.
Ultimately throughout these experiences we’ve been able to truly see where some of the best places to go to the movies are. That’s what brought Dylan and me together in the first place, movies. We’re nerds. And I use that term knowing full well that it doesn’t have the same stigma as it used to. Pardon the soapbox rant but if you think in anyway shape or form what we’ve been doing is “pathetic” or that we’re “losers” for partaking in such an endeavor, I say to you this…for years dudes would verbally shit out sports statistics from yesteryear to today, and people would follow their favorite teams or musicians all around on tour. Basically we’re doing the same thing. Wearing a sports jersey spouting out the college stats of an NBA player with your friends is no different than Dylan and I wearing Rocky t-shirts quoting lines of dialogue from Cliff “John Ratzenberger” Clavin in Superman II. But just like there’s no experience like actually going to a sports game at a stadium live and in person, or seeing a band live in concert, there’s nothing like the experience of actually going to a movie at a movie theater. The anticipation of waiting in line to get your ticket, smelling that popcorn smell when you walk in the door, finding that right seat, getting all giddy when the lights go down and the previews start (I really really fucking miss the scrambled actor name game). If people can spend thousands of dollars being season ticket holders to a sports team, I can spend a couple hundred dollars over almost 4 years and go to 100 theaters.
Long story short (or maybe even short story long), in this day and age it’s easy to download, stream, watch on demand any film you could possibly fathom on your computer, mobile device, tablet, or even such ancient passé technology like your television set, but there’s nothing like going to the movies. Nothing. I’ve taken many steps in eliminating most all of those awful things I used to do because they were quite literally killing me, but nothing will ever get me to stop physically going to the movies. Even with the recent inflated ticket prices, I’m still gonna go. I used to smoke cigarettes when they cost $3 a pack, and I kept smoking when they hit over the $10 range. The increase in price didn’t stop me. Point is, when you’re hooked, you’re hooked. Only going to the movies doesn’t kill you. Well, unless you’re shot at by a madman or you’re in poor health to begin with and collapse on a concession line only to be revived by EMTs by a candy machine. But that’s not the theater’s fault.
I don’t know what the future may hold for Dylan and me as we march forth to other, farther theaters, but it’s been a pretty fun and silly ride thus far. Hopefully I was able to embed the Google map properly somewhere around here so you can see for yourself the whens, the wheres, and the whats of our cinematic travels to date. Thank you for your time reading this long winded, babbling, rambling bunch of nerdy bullshit, it’s just cool thing I think I do and I wanted to share it. If you don’t like it, fuck you xoxox
Google map link (click a flag to view us at a conquered theater): http://goo.gl/maps/68rD2
Favorite theater in NYC:
A colossal, grand, classy-as-fuck one-screen theater in midtown that seats over 1,000 people, it’s an old Broadway style theater converted into a movie theater. Very “old New York”. It’s great place to see a big time movie. Highly recommend going if you ever get the chance.
Honorable mentions: AMC Lincoln Square, AMC Fresh Meadows, Atrium Cinemas, Whitestone Multiplex.
Least favorite theater in NYC:
Northshore Towers Cinema
It’s a one screen theater in the basement of a high rise apartment building for senior citizens on the Queens-Nassau County border. Such a bitch to get to and when you get inside it’s like watching a movie in a middle school auditorium complete with the uncomfortable wooden chairs and terrible paint job.
Dishonorable mentions: Linden Boulevard Multiplex, Jackson Heights Cinema, Fair Theater, The Pavilion
In memoriam of those movie theaters we have been to that have since closed their doors for good, you will be missed:
AMC 72nd Street East
United Artists 64th & 2nd
Clearview 1st & 62nd