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Yesterday I left my apartment wearing clothes – casual, non-running clothes. This marked my first time going outside during the day for a purpose other than running. For The Hobbit I made an exception.

Movie theaters and I have a rocky relationship. The one I grew up going to had two small narrow flat-floor theaters and no center seats because for some reason that’s where they put the aisle. I was thrilled when stadium seats in theaters became a thing all those years ago. The future looked bright. As a teen I loved working at a movie theater and doing little things to help people have a good time – making sure they had some popcorn to go with their cups of butter-flavored topping and obsessively cleaning while wearing a smile that in hindsight was possibly creepy.

The last movie I saw in the theater was The Purge: Anarchy, which I loved as much for the story and operatic notes as I did for the overall experience of watching it. We saw it in NJ on a rainy night. For the first time in my life we had reserved seats in a movie theater. I thought this was silly, but then I laid eyes on my seat and I do me MINE as there was most definitely a sense of ownership.

It was love at first sit. A leathery recliner with control buttons and panels of Plexiglas in front of and behind me so I could stretch out without being kicked. I’ve never flown first class, but this is how I imagine it feels. During tense parts, which is about 90% of the film, I squeezed the arm rest, accidentally pushing my sister’s seat controls. So every time something crazy happened her body either leaned into the madness or fell further back. She acted annoyed but I’m sure this heightened her experience. The movie ended and we stayed to watch the credits (another first) if only to have a few more minutes in those spectacular seats.

Part of my incentive to catch another big movie on a big screen was wanting to sit in a big cushy recliner again. It sounds like a ridiculous luxury, but tickets are so pricey it only makes sense to go to theaters that offer a better experience. Seriously, it’s half a year later and I’m still delighted that those seats exist. Maybe it’s the short child in me who had to sit on everyone’s jackets and crane her neck to see a movie framed by two big hairy heads.

Imagine my excitement when MoonPie suggested we go see The Hobbit for date night instead of our usual romantic endeavor of making dinner and eating it in the dark watching Dead Files. The catch was that to use the passes MoonPie bought ages ago we had to go into Manhattan instead of walking a few blocks to Pavilion, which has recliners.

It was nice to go outside wearing only one layer and the fog over the city made it look sort of ghostly. We got off the subway a few stops early and strolled and yet we arrived with an hour to spare. Lately, I have this tendency to assume wherever I’m going, everyone else in the city is going, too.  This in spite of the fact that most events I go to aren’t exactly hopping – a lively discussion on Hindu comics based on the Ramayana? With refreshments! I was the first one there.

We arrived at Kip’s Bay theater on 2nd avenue an hour early and didn’t feel like walking around in the rain then sitting in wet clothes in a cold theater. Up to the mezzanine we went to read our books in the giant window featuring a full view of the Empire State Building a few avenues over. Not a bad way to spend an hour, but we only stayed 30 minutes because we had to be the first ones in the theater to ensure we had seats together because of course  I expected every seat to fill.

There were six people in the theater, including us. The seats there are not recliners. They are anti-recliners. Like a flat couch, I could tell they’d once had a heyday of cushioning beneath the worn, faded fabric. Every time I shifted, and I shifted all the time, I wondered why. This is a movie theater with a gigantic footprint in an expensive neighborhood. The entire first floor is just a big empty lobby with a handful of employees pretending not to stand around. Why haven’t they upgraded their seats?

I get that movie theaters are struggling, but continuing to rely on junk food and soft drinks to keep the doors open seems like a bad plan in a city where everything is a competition. And maybe they should serve food other than a 1300+ calorie handful of stale nachos. A friend met us there right after work and looked so sad gnawing on his crunch-less chips that were really just a vehicle for transporting cheesy sludge into his frowny face.

Despite the physical discomfort, the movie didn’t disappoint. It didn’t swallow me up like I wanted it to either. A few story lines lacked impact, but I still want to runaway with an elf.

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