Matinees provide a haven for hooky-players

By Molly Bentley, Special to the Daily Planet
Saturday April 06, 2002

It’s Tuesday and I shouldn’t be here. I have research to do and income taxes to file. Instead, I’m eating popcorn in a movie theater and it’s not even noon. That would be fine if this were an arts theater with a limited run of a documentary. Instead, I’m watching “Death to Smoochy,” a movie that even Roger Ebert panned. I can still make something of this day if I leave now. 

“There’s something scary about going to a matinee,” said Bruce Buchanan who was buying popcorn at the concession stand. “I mean, I’m going to the movies in the morning. It’s like you’re playing hooky. But that’s what makes it fun, isn’t it?” 

He, of course, had a pass with him — his 10-year-old son, Wiley. A child in tow makes a mid-week matinee legitimate.  

“It’s the Puritian ethic,” said Michael Stoler, an employee at Shattuck Cinemas. “It’s the idea that you should be doing something good during the day. Like work.”  

Only kids on holiday or retired adults seem to enjoy an afternoon at the movies without guilt. After all,they are the ones who buy tickets for mid-week matinees say local theater workers.  

The Oaks theater, which showed “Death to Smoochy,” and “Spike and Mike’s 25th Anniversary Show” on Tuesday, schedules its matinees around school vacation, said Marti Throssell, an Oak’s employee. Otherwise, their movies start after five.  

Indeed, the majority of adults at the Oaks on Tuesday had children with them. Michael Fullerton came with his daughter, Molly, 10, who was on Easter break. Didn’t she have homework to do? 

“Finished that,” said Molly, opening a box of Junior Mints.  

Not all kids wait until the school bell rings before heading to the box office. There is the occasional hooky-playing teenager that Oak’s worker Yousif Sassi spots easily. They act guilty when they buy tickets, he said. “They get all nervous and can’t speak or talk.”  

At least the day off doesn’t cost much. Tuesday’s moviegoers said cheaper prices made matinees more attractive than regular shows. It’s especially nice for families, said Heather Fong, who was out with her husband and son. A matinee is $5 at the Oaks and $5.75 at Shattuck Cinemas. Night time showings can be $3 to $4 dollars more expensive.  

Cheaper daytime prices drew Greg Kelly and Barry Forgione to the theater. Forgione, who, according to Kelly is a “matinee star” and sees hundreds of matinees, says he likes the shorter lines and the peace of a near-empty theater. A recent weekday matinee of “Spike and Mike’s” drew some 50 viewers, whereas the same time slot over the weekend drew 10 times that amount.  

Kelly and Forgione said they have flexible work hours, so meeting in the morning isn’t “a question of hooky.” Forgione cited another advantage of an early start. “Sometimes I’ll go to another movie if I have time,” he said.  

Not me. I’d dodged enough work today.