A Helpful Guide to Seeing a Movie in the VI

Before I begin, I want to be very clear. This post is not a complaint. If you’re lucky enough to live on an island with a movie theater (which I currently am), you don’t complain. Why? Because if you’re not lucky enough to live on an island with a movie theater (which I’ve experienced in the past), you sound like you’ve been living alone in the Space Station like an out-of-touch lunatic every time you go back to the mainland to see friends and family.

People constantly throw out references, lines, and jokes that go right over your head. Everyone at the party is laughing but you. It’s like middle school all over again. When you didn’t know what that word  meant, so you just laughed along with the three pretty blonde girls you desperately wanted to be friends with. You have to ask what a particular movie is about only to find out it was a beloved Oscar winner that everyone in the entire world saw, loved, laughed, and cried over. Except for you. And because if you live on an island without a movie theater, don’t even begin to think you may have the ability to rent movies. You have neither. You only have the occasional Season Four of Everybody Loves Raymond  that your mom mailed you in a box that also included Twizzlers and extra curry powder. Even though you’ve never seen Everybody Loves Raymond.  So this is not a complaint. I count my blessings that I can go see Edward and Bella find eternal bliss if that’s what I so choose to do with my Friday night.

But island movies aren’t without their challenges. So if you’re thinking of going, on St Thomas, that is, here’s a handy checklist of things you may want to be prepared for. Sometimes knowing is half the battle. Heed my advice and you’ll greatly improve your island movie viewing experience.

1. Bring a parka. And wear closed-toe shoes with socks. It’s often so icy cold in the theater (I’m assuming to counteract the hatefully hot temperatures outside) that without an extra blanket and a wool hat, you might be too uncomfortable to sit through the entire movie. You think I’m kidding. My friend brings blankets and wool hats – she’s fun to sit next to. In arctic conditions, hypothermia can begin to set in after 20-30 minutes. The average movie is 90-120 minutes. You do the math.

2. Make sure you wear a tank top under your parka. Because every now and then, they must have someone other than the local penguin controlling the thermostat. Be prepared for all conditions. That’s all I’m saying.

3. If the power goes out halfway through your movie, don’t be alarmed. This happens all the time. Just sit quietly in the dark for about 20 minutes in case it comes back on. Maybe throw popcorn at the head of your friend that happens to be sitting four rows in front of you to pass the time. If it doesn’t eventually come back on, an employee will come in and tell you to just forget about it and try some other day. They’ll write on your ticket that you can come back and see only that specific movie again. But make sure you come back in a day or two, because the movies change frequently. If you can’t make it back before your movie switches out at the end of the week, you’re out of luck. Even if you only got to see the first half hour.

4. Pay no attention to the rats eating the stale popcorn off the floor. Don’t bother them, they won’t bother you.

5. If you were hoping to see an Academy Award nominee, don’t be too picky about which one. They’ll get one or two eventually. Usually about a month after the Oscars.

6. If there’s a movie playing that you really want to see, change your weekend plans and go see it immediately. Movies usually only stay a week – two if you’re lucky, three if it has wizards and muggles, and possibly four if it has a saw-weilding psychopath cutting off innocent victims’ body parts. Possibly.

And there you go. An easy guide to seeing movies in the Virgin Islands. It’s really all about managing expectations and being prepared. Keep these six things in mind and you won’t be (too) disappointed as you prepare to take in all of the upcoming summer blockbusters, island-style. Or, more realistically, seeing the four summer blockbusters that actually make it to your island.

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Melissa Rogati

About Melissa Rogati

Melissa is a St. Thomas, USVI-based 30-something and a 10 year island veteran who can’t endure even the smell of shrimp. It all stems from a childhood experience where a beloved grandfather told the once shrimp-loving four year old that shrimp was “yucky”. Her husband has requested multiple times that she undergo exposure therapy on the issue, but she refuses out of tribute to her grandfather. Melissa started her island adventures on a sparsely populated outer island in the Bahamas before moving further South to the “big city” of St. Thomas a few years later. The early island experience of dependence on a weekly mail boat to bring supplies (and the lack of Target) cultivated a realization that you can make almost anything you need. That means you can regularly find her feasting on fresh baked bread and homemade peanut butter and jam.

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7 thoughts on “A Helpful Guide to Seeing a Movie in the VI

  1. This is all so true, but may I add that just because their schedule says that a movie is playing, don’t count on it. Anyways have a secondary movie in mind you wouldn’t mind seeing or other plans. And for us parents out there never promise a movie, just surprise the kiddos. Telling them we are going to see a movie can really ruin everyone’s day when it isn’t playing! Lol

  2. Don’t forget to bring patience! People on the rock are very social. They like to include friends in their movie experiences by discussing the movie with them, or even attempting to participate in the dialogue of the movie. If friends could not be at the movie with them, they may call those friends during the movie and discuss the movie, then life in general, with the person on the other end of the line at length. Reactions to the events on the screen may be visceral, with feedback offered instantaneously, vocally, and again, at length. Those audience members will also take sides with the characters, whether its Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights, or Heathcliff the Movie, the audience will let the character know how they feel about him or her. This will be held against the actor in real life. Villainous role players are not welcome here. If you played a really good guy and then a really bad guy, you’ll probably be asked to come back to the right path, like the sweet innocent boy you were in Batman Begins, and not the spoiled sadist you became in Game of Thrones. And finally, someone from the movie theater will send someone by the theater to make sure everything is ok. For some reason, this involves turning on the lights of a room directly under the screen, which is very distracting. But otherwise, enjoy the show…

    • Leigh,

      Why are you not a woman? Why? I want you writing with us!
      How could we have forgotten such an important part of the movie-going experience? Thank you for adding this intensely accurate and helpful addendum. 🙂


  3. There’s always the option of Monday night movies over on Water Island, where the screen looks to be a huge sheet hanging between two palm trees, and you can watch the sunset over the ocean right before show time. There’s even fresh popcorn and they supply the plastic lawn chairs set up on the beach. Well worth the ferry ride over. And sometimes the movie is even from the current year.

  4. From living in St. Kitts for a few years, you learn a few things about movie theater etiquette. Basically, there isn’t any. The person in front of you will text, with the ringer on loud, and laugh hysterically. There will be someone behind you having a lengthy conversation, typically on the phone, but their neighbor may also work well. And there is always a screaming child, especially if the movie is not appropriate for children.

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