My Version of Paradise



It had been almost six months since I’d seen a movie in an actual movie theater when my girlfriend and I pulled into the parking lot of St. Thomas’s multiplex. It was midday on a Monday in July and I’d just finished a grueling week at work. Instead of heading straight back to St. John, we stayed an extra night on St. Thomas specifically to see a movie in a real movie theater. Now here we were, trudging across the hot asphalt in the seemingly deserted strip mall, steps away from magic.

I love movies. Not just movies but the whole movie-going experience. I love the cool, darkened theaters and the quiet scurrying to find the perfect seat. I love the whispered anticipation and the moment of free-fall when the lights finally dim. I love being in the dark with strangers as a luminescent wall transports us to another time and place. I love the ride, with all its inconsiderate cell phone talkers, loud snorers, and inappropriate laughers. Watching a movie at home is not the same thing.

The multiplex had a large marquee and posters in the windows along the concrete front wall advertising all the summer blockbusters. So far so good. The ticket booth was empty but I had too much experience with the workweek matinee to be deterred. One just buys their ticket inside at the concession stand! It was when I went to push through the front doors that things took a turn. They were chained.

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Not just locked but actually chained with an enormous steel chain. The kind used to secure condemned wharf-side factories recently implicated in ritual teenage murder rings or abandoned psychiatric institutions shut down after rashes of suspicious deaths. It was so unexpected I spent a good few minutes testing and retesting the door as if the chain were decorative. I checked the movie times posted on a paper printout taped to the inside of the door. Minions should have started five minutes ago and Selfless had only been playing for ten. What kind of movie theater chained their patrons inside? What kind of movie theater shut out people running a few minutes late?

After a few more desperate tugs, my girlfriend gently pointed out there were no lights on inside. The theater was closed. Dejectedly, we walked away, checking our phone to see if it was some kind of holiday. But I refused to give up. I pounced on the first authority I could find – a young woman working in the nearby pet shop.

“The movie theater has chains, like really heavy thick chains on the door!” I shouted like it was a national emergency.

The kind young woman looked at me strangely and nodded her head. “Yeah,” she said, “they keep chains on the door when it’s closed.”

“But why is it closed? Minions and Selfless should be playing right now. It says so right on the door.” My hands flew around my face in frustration.

The woman shook her head slowly. She told us she didn’t think the theater opened until 6 o’clock on a weekday. I thanked her with what grace I could manage and stomped back over to the theater to prove her wrong. But she was right. Closer inspection of the movie times showed only evening showings on the weekdays. And when we came back that night, sure enough, the chains were off, the lights were on, and an eager crowd was already lined up in front of the ticket booth.

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That might seem like a good place to end this story. Earlier thwarting of hopes and dreams ended in satisfactory outcome for all. But I can’t end the story here. Because, beyond my wildest imaginings, my movie-going experience was about to get better. As I stood in line behind a young man paying for a ticket to Ant Man in 3D, I happened to notice he paid for his ticket with a ten dollar bill. Then I happened to notice he got back CHANGE.

“How much was that?” I tried to contain myself.

“$8.75,” he said, stuffing the $1.25 back in his wallet.

The ups and downs of the day were almost too extreme. With shaking hands, I received change for my twenty for two tickets to Ant Man in 3D and, after promising the ticket lady I’d let her know if I liked the movie afterwards, I dazedly walked into the theater. And if that wasn’t good enough, there was an extensive selection of arcade games. And if that wasn’t good enough, the theater was large with comfortable seats, great sound, and a huge screen. And if that wasn’t good enough, there were enough previews and commercials to accommodate the tardiest of movie goers. Needless to say, Ant Man was one of the great movie experiences of my life. And I did let the ticket lady know. I would have hugged her but it was hard to get my arms through the tiny hole in her window.

So it’s with some surprise I’ve come to realize it’s not the magnificent turquoise waters and palm tree studded beaches, or the rolling green mountains filled with exotic flora and fauna that make living in the Virgin Islands so extraordinary for me. It’s a concrete building at the end of a slightly forlorn strip mall where, for half-price, I can sit in the dark and let the movies take me away.

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Jennifer Walker

About Jennifer Walker

Jennifer, her girlfriend, and their two French bulldogs decided to move to St. John after significant soul searching, careful financial consideration, and impeccable planning. As if! Instead, they made a crazy offer on a house while on vacation, were shocked when the mortgage came through, and left everything behind to come to a 7-mile long rock in the middle of the Caribbean with no plan. They still have no plan, but all the intoxicated people Jennifer keeps meeting assure her she’ll figure something out. In the meantime, she’ll be transcribing her adventures in island life where previously mundane activities – like going to get the mail – can have the dramatic arc of a great Russian novel. To follow more of her adventures, check out her blog


ISLAND GIRL SINCE: February 2015


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9 thoughts on “My Version of Paradise

  1. I have found movie-going in the VI is more of an interactive experience. Attendees comment, yell, clap and warn the girl “do’an go in de closet mon!!!”. It’s hilarious and is one of those things that makes going to the theater in the States just a little disappointingly subdued now. For a super popular movie, they’ve also been know to sell more tickets than seats, so I watched Terminator sitting on the floor in front of the first row.

    In St. Kitts, they have an intermission…where the movie reel may or may not melt to the projector bulb. It’s a nice break to spend a small fortune on popcorn, candy and drinks.

  2. Back in the ’80s, they showed movies outside on the top floor of The Backyard, a popular bar in Cruz Bay. We were half way through one of the best films of the decade, “Terms of Endearment “, when the “Current ” went off! Accustomed as we all were to power outages, we all went home and returned the following week to see the rest of the movie!
    I’ve heard tell that in the 60s when the local TV station had a movie stop before the end, The manager came on live and said “don’t worry I’ve seen the ending, and here’s what happened “, and proceeded to tell end of the story himself! Life was so different back then! Or not!

  3. Awesome slice of life! Sometimes it’s the little things from home we really miss. Like buttery popcorn and the magic of movies, even if they are usually 4 months out of date (on both counts).

  4. I totally wanted to see Ant Man, but I wasn’t sure your sister would be into it. Thought about going to see it solo, but it was out of the theater in a hot minute. Glad you enjoyed and nice to see another post from you!

  5. No movie theaters on our island, but now I might try the REAL MOVIE THEATER on Tortola and take a late night boat home.I have always gone to the theater because of a certain movie I wanted to see, but now maybe I’ll go for the audience. seats and cold air. But first–has anyone in the BVI been to the theater here?Is it as good as the one in St.T?? and on what criteria do you base your ratings ?

  6. Pingback: 7 Island Trade-offs To Treasures | the tanki flip settlement

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