This past week I [posted about the change in management] in our local movie theater and the disappearance of the “now playing” movies on the marquee. They were replaced by a note telling me to visit their website for “tix & show times.” This happened a few weeks ago.

I go for daily walks down Main Street where the theater is and one of the things I liked to do was check what was playing at what times during the week. To compliment the list of movies on the marquee there was a list of show times for the whole week posted in display cases on each side of the entry doors. That too has gone by the wayside.

When I posted this to Facebook there was a reply from the owner of the local butcher shop suggesting that I give them some time before I decided to boycott the theater, as she knew their manager had left without giving them much notice and right now they were just trying to hold the ship together. I explained that I didn’t intend to boycott the theater but that I thought they were probably loosing business because the physical building had become less inviting. It felt like the owners didn’t care about me the customer anymore.

I am not entirely proud of the posts I made about this to my micro blog and FB. I was not kind. I made assumptions about the new management that were not fair. The Dali Lama advises us to “Be kind whenever you can” and then advises us that “you always can.” Ok, i failed the good humanbeing test on this one. So, for the record, to the theater management trying to keep the theater running without a manager, I am sorry. Of course I can be patient while you pull things back together. I installed a button on my iPhone home screen that takes me straight to your website for “tix and show times.” We are all good for now.

Still, I hope the movie listings on the Marquee come back. It turns out they were important to me. It may be a simple thing, but it changed the character of the business overnight. It went from being my friendly neighborhood movie theater to some sort of distant corporate entity. A corporate entity that didn’t want to invest in paying real people to maintain its friendly marquee outreach and was now sending me to a website for the information I wanted. Ok, the website is nicely designed and it is pretty easy to get the information I need, but there was something about the analog way that was just better. It was the whole picture at a glance. As I walked by I could be reminded about what was playing which, if something interested me, would compel me to walk up and look at the posted schedule on a single piece of paper which told me, at a glance, all the showtimes for the week. I could note the date and time I thought would work best for my wife and me and we would make plans to go. Having to go to a website means I now have to have the urge to see a movie arise all on its own, check the website to see what’s playing and when, where there isn’t an overview on a single sheet of paper with all the movies and show times. I have to scroll through the listings for the week. It’s not as easy as the analog version even if it is graphically more interesting with little thumbnail movie posters for each listing, etc. No, the old analog system was much more friendly and inviting. I am going to guess that I am not the only one who feels that way.

This experience led me to think about how the brick and mortar stores present themselves to the general walking by public. This in turn has led me to pay more attention to the sandwich boards so many of them put out in front of their stores. Here are a few from a walk down Main Street a few days ago:

Sandwich board in front of a restaurant saying “mama said there’d be days like this”

sign outside our local “Cheers” bar

Sign outside local chocolate shop at easter time saying “Bunny Crossing”

sign outside our local chocolate store for easter

Sandwich board outside local vinyl records store saying “Records, by, sell, trade,”

sign outside the local vinyl record shop


Each one is a little “greetings human!” handshake from the store. They invite you to come in and get to know them. When I shop at Amazon there aren’t any amusing sandwich board signs to pull me into the store.

I love our Main Street. A little overrun with day trippers from New York City and other places on the weekend, but walkable and there is a little something for everyone. There are only three chain stores, Rite Aid, Key Food, and a Subway hero shop. Everything else is a unique mom and pop store.

I have been thinking a lot about local vs corporate national and international lately. About how local depends on a handshake and a smile, sandwich boards, a movie marquee and a Main Street that is pleasant to walk down as opposed to staring at my phone or computer screen and being manipulated by algorithms crafted to drive me to places I may or may not want to go.

Local is a walk down Main Street interrupted by frequent conversations with people you know which are much more satisfying than a text chat on your phone. Local is a coffee shop or a bar or a restaurant where everyone knows your name and you know theirs. Local is friendly and comfortable. Local is a theater on Main Street with a marquee that tells you what’s playing and display cases with a one page listing of all the show times for the week.

Long live local!