If you grew up on Aquidneck Island, you probably spent many a Friday night hanging around Island Cinemas 10 in Middletown. You would coordinate the carpool and the minivan would drop you and your buddies off long before the previews took over the silver screen. This premature arrival was strategic, for the playing of the various arcade games rising up out of the lobby’s sticky reddish carpet like absurd monuments. Once you’d shot a couple bucks on the hunting game, beat your friend two times out of three on the racing seats and lost a couple dollars to the infamous claw game, it was probably time to buy some tickets with the crumpled wad of cash your mom gave you on your way out the door.
Being in eighth grade, you’re probably seeing Transformers 2 for the second or third time, as the movie is not really the point. The point was feeling like an adult, released briefly into society by your parents and free to choose whatever snacks you could afford with the little money you had left after splurging on the 3D glasses. And with any luck, you’d bump into some other buddies from school, similarly drunk off of nothing more than the thrill of being in a slightly more exotic suburbia.
And as we grow up, our trips to Island Cinemas 10 become less frequent but more strategic. We now go with the intent of seeing a movie for its own sake. We drive ourselves now and we stop at the Dollar Tree on our way in to sneak in cheaper Swedish Fish and Sour Patch. We realize that sneaking into the theater without paying is totally possible if you go to the latest showing, and maybe we’ve even done it before in a moment of petty crime.
But what is it that keeps us coming back to Island Cinemas 10? The space itself is somewhat dingy, the floors always sticky from spilled sodas, the plastic seats grimy from popcorn butter, the movie itself occasionally petering out midway through or not starting on time. And yet the scent and sight of that impossibly yellow popcorn was captivating and calming all at once. And if you’ve lived here long enough, you know that you can’t go to the theater without seeing some people you went to middle school with, that guy that works at CVS, that girl you used to work with. Maybe you remember when it was a bowling alley. Or maybe it’s the fact that the theater itself is rarely packed to capacity. In fact, if you time it right, you can almost guarantee yourself three seats plus legroom.
Perhaps we take Island Cinemas 10 for granted, tucked away behind the Home Depot in a parking lot off of West Main Road. It’s always been there, an unflinching staple of the landscape. Sure, it doesn’t boast the floor to ceiling screens of the IMAX in providence, or the subtle but definite elitism of the Jane Pickens, but it has everything that we need. For many of us, it might seem surprising to think that we have been patronizing Island Cinemas 10 now consistently over the course of more than a decade. Thus, I feel it necessary we take a moment to pay tribute to this island fixture. With a quiet, grimy grace, this theater is idyllic in its ubiquitous familiarity.