I don’t think I’d been to the multiplex for three years. There are several reasons why my husband, Paul, and I prefer to trek to Waterville to Railroad Square Cinema.

They screen the type of films we want to see. They make interesting snacks available, including coffee. They are a positive influence in their community and in the cultural life of Maine as a whole.

Perhaps most importantly, the people who go to see movies at Railroad Square are more apt to be interested in film as an art form, rather than just an entertainment opportunity. Thus, they are quiet and attentive not only through the show, but while the trailers are playing.

My father is rolling in his grave at this point. He was a happy-go-lucky teenager who loved to play baseball; bright, but not interested in applying himself in school. Dad was the third of four children, swarthy and with a head of curly black hair. Ray favored his father’s brother Manny — a Brazilian immigrant who ironically played for an amateur soccer team called the “Corky Rows”— in both looks and personality. Corky Row was the Irish section of town.

His younger brother, by contrast, took after the Quebecois side of the family, with his fair hair. Arthur was a talented artist. Though only two years younger than my dad, he hung out with a bohemian crowd. Ray and Arch managed to get into plenty of boyish trouble together, but Dad disdained his brother’s artsy friends. Once Dad said to me with disgust, “After they watched movies, they discussed them! Took them apart!”

He probably told me that after I tried to analyze a film with him. Or maybe when I was doing an independent study project in my high school English class on “Popular Books and Movies of the 1930s and 1940s.” Whatever prompted the comment, it was too late. Just as Dad had inherited Uncle Manuel’s devil-may-care spirit, I carried the DNA that made me want to deconstruct books, films, music and works of visual art.


Dad was not a philistine. He was an avid reader, and loved music (he had my sister and me take organ lessons so we could have live music in the house) and travel. He did not talk through movies, either.

That nasty habit, dear readers, seems to becoming more of a problem these days. I was apprehensive when Paul and I ventured out to the multiplex to see “Manchester by the Sea.” I would have much rather seen this heartbreaking, gorgeously filmed and acted movie at Railroad Square, but alas, their matinees were at an inconvenient time for us. (We rarely venture out at night.) I was surprised to see a movie of this caliber playing at the multiplex, but there it was.

Now, there is one more problem I haven’t mentioned about this particular cinema.

It has reclining seats.

I don’t think we should recline in public unless we’re on a beach. Yesterday it became acceptable to wear pajama pants in public, today it’s cool to recline in public. How lazy can we get?

I wondered if I would fall asleep if I reclined. I especially worried that my fellow viewers would interpret reclining as an invitation to chat throughout the movie, as they likely do at home.


I was relieved to see the seats were high enough and spaced wide enough apart that I didn’t feel too cozy with anyone except Paul. We chose to sit upright, however. We weren’t going down that slippery slope.

Sure enough, two women chatted behind us. I tried to ignore them through the trailers, but at one point they got so loud, I peered between the seat gave them a sharp look. They stopped for a moment, then started right back up again. I will note they were both reclining and stuffing their faces with popcorn.

A few minutes later Paul tried with a stern, “Could you please be quiet?” They said “Huh?”

I panicked. If they would not quiet down, I was going to storm out to the lobby and demand my money back. I’d go home and sulk.

Then I remembered I had a secret weapon. As the movie began and they were still yapping, I stuck my face around the seat again and said “Shushhh!”

I’m a professional librarian. I know how to shush. Ironically, libraries aren’t the silent vaults they used to be. But movie theaters ought to be.

And for the rest of “Manchester by the Sea,” this multiplex theater was.

Liz Soares welcomes e-mail at lsoares@gwi.net.

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