Friday, February 6, 2009

A little school assignment

In my Writing and Reporting class, Meryl Gordon asked us to spend two hours somewhere and write a 500-word piece on the place. It was a chance to exercise our descriptive writing muscles. I chose to hang out at a movie theater lobby, looking very much like a girl who had been stood up by her date. Here's the piece I came up with:

A Night At The Movies

Fade in: a massive Loews movie theater in Kips Bay, a little-known New York City neighborhood along the East River. Jacobus Kip, a first-generation Dutch farmer for whom the area is named, is long deceased, his bay filled and the land reclaimed for apartment buildings.

Actors and actresses stare down from faded movie posters at bundled people scurrying past on Second Avenue. A group of three passers-by look up to return the gaze.

Paul Newman wheels by with a brunette in white on his handlebars.
“Butch Cassidy and the Sun Dance Kid, right?”
A horse gallops by bearing Peter O’Toole, who wears a white kuffiya and has a sword in hand.
“That’s Lawrence of Arabia.”
A black silhouette of a bicycle against the moon…
“Easy. E.T.”

The theater’s entrance at 30th Street is framed by white lights that alternate between bright and dim for a pale imitation of Hollywood sparkle. The immense high-ceilinged lobby beckons Manhattanites accustomed to cramped apartments and shared offices.

Valentine’s Day candy hearts taped up in the glass entry doors taunt “He’s Just Not That Into You” as movie-seekers hurry in from the cold. Two ever-green potted palm trees flank the entrance, followed by an advertising assault for those making their way to the ticket counter at the lobby’s far end.

To the lobby’s right, a Goliath-sized red shopping bag promotes “Confessions of a Shopaholic;” a seven-foot red-haired actress peers out from the bag, a look of shock on her face. “All she ever wanted was a little credit” reads the tag line. To the left, a massive one-eyed blue gooey blob devours a Dreamworks Monsters vs. Aliens sign.

Sony televisions shout at each other across the room. A wall of six screens show a looping Sprint commercial—“Do more with the Blackberry Curve”—while two screens overhead sing out in support of the Metropolitan Opera.

Click-clack. Click-clack.

The sound of boots across the white-and-black tiled floors competes with the televisions and easy-listening station playing on overhead speakers. A dark theater with a singular movie soundtrack awaits grateful ears.

Those waiting for friends in the lobby perch on ledges, finding entertainment on the small screens of phones and PDAs. Couples wander in, some heading to electronic kiosks with movies already firmly in mind, while others linger in line for the human teller discussing the fifteen staggered options on the movie board in hushed tones.

The loud, deep voice of a 20-something in a hooded white sweatshirt rises above the noise.
“He started laughing hysterically. Just get out of my sight, he said.”
His female companion giggles, and then glances toward the movie board. “Uh oh. 7:05. Glad we got here early.”

Tickets in hand, the couple descend via escalator past Coke, popcorn, and pretzel bite ads to Theaters 11-15. A waterfall of freshly popped popcorn spills into a plastic bin, drenching the room with the smell of butter. Milk duds, Junior Mints, Butterfingers, and Whoppers sing their Siren song, tempting movie-goers before they reach the ticket-taker.

“Do you want anything?” a woman asks her pink-coated friend.

Moments later, carrying popcorn ($6.75), soda ($4.75), and a Dasani water bottle ($3.75), they hand their tickets ($12.50) to a red-shirted, bespectacled Loews ticket-taker.

A balding man emerges from a theater, shaking his head.

The ticket-taker resumes a conversation that must have preceded the movie viewing. “I told you. She’s an A-list star, like Julia Roberts,” he says forlornly. “She doesn’t need to do this movie. The story is so bad.”

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