Traffic, Parking, and Long Lines

Call me spoiled. During the past seven years, when we wanted to go to a movie, we looked at what was playing (thanks, Google) chose something that looked good and if it was starting in less than 10 minutes, we got in the car and drove to the theatre to see the show. We needed an extra two minutes if we wanted popcorn. In the Quad Cities, movies didn’t sell out, rarely were there lines of more than 4 or 5 people at the box office, and parking at the theatre was ample and free.

Last week we went to see Invictus at Oakland’s famed Grand Lake Theater. We walked to the theatre, which took just a shade over 10 minutes. There was no one in line in front of us. We bought our tickets, and since we were seeing the show on a weeknight, the popcorn was free. We found seats in the auditorium, enjoyed the lovely decor, and when the movie was over a couple hours later, we enjoyed a leisurely walk home. We could have stopped for a nightcap at Sidebar but we decided to leave that for another night.

Considering those two experiences, a movie in Oakland had a slight edge over going to a movie in Moline. Being able to walk was the best part, and the free popcorn was a nice bonus. (To be fair, there was a theatre within walking distance of our house in Moline. It also offered free popcorn. But it only showed second run pictures, the theatres were small, the seats uncomfortable, the projectors had underpowered bulbs, and walking was only possible at certain times of the year—sometimes it was too hot and sometimes too cold.)

All in all, if the movie we want to see is showing at the Grand Lake, we’re sitting pretty. Last night, though, we wanted to see a film that was showing at the AMC Theatre in Emeryville. We knew, because we had tried to see a movie there last week, that we needed to allow a little extra time to get to the theatre because parking in the Emeryville area is problematic. Naively, we figured half an hour might be enough time. We hopped in the car, drove down to the theatre, which is next to IKEA. It takes about 10 minutes to get to IKEA, and it takes an additional 25 minutes to park in the garage next door. We might have just made it to the movie, but once we got to the front of the theatre there was a long line for tickets snaking away from the box office. All the self service kiosks that were operating also had lines several patrons long. We checked the time and realized there was no chance we’d make it into the theatre before the feature started. Bummer. (Well, not a complete bummer…we came home, heated up the leftover ginger soup, grilled a slice of Afghan spinach bread we bought at the farmers market this morning, opened a bottle of 2 Buck Chuck Sauvignon Blanc, and engaged in a delightful conversation.)

It’s nice to have a full array of films to choose from—it seems everything you might want to see is playing somewhere around here—and I’m not sure we couldn’t have made it in time to the theatre if we’d decided to ride our bikes. I estimate it would take just about 25 minutes to ride to the theatre from our house, and parking a bike should be much quicker than trying to park a car in the big parking lot next to the theatre. Maybe I should dig up all the flashers and headlights that we need so that we can ride over next time the we get the itch to see a movie on short notice. Or, if we drive, I think we’ll allow an hour to get to the theatre.

Sunday January 3, 2010 — Mark —