Movie-going in the Hurricane Zone — Cinemas as the Air-Conditioned Escapes they used to be


Gather round, children, and let the Old Man of the Movies tell you the way it used to be in the simmering cinematic summers of the Old South.

Movie theaters were the first public spaces, nationwide, to invest in air conditioning, and back in Olden Times, they’d advertise that. It was another way to lure people out of the house (pre-AC) and away from the Boob Tube in those steamy “Body Heat” summers of yore.


AC pre-dated the cinema’s 1950s innovations to compete with TV — wider screens, broader use of color, stereophonic sound. And in a pinch, it’s what draws people back in, even today.

If you live in America’s Climate Changed Hurricane Zones, where “Harvey” rained and rained and “Irma” couldn’t make up her mind which half of Florida to ruin, you know what I mean.

Much of Florida, including where I live, is without power. No ice. No TV. No wi-fi. No AC. Just sultry, humid nights filled with the din of portable generators, groaning under a 24-7 load that is now into its fifth day. I’m writing this in a public library, grateful that their AC works and that my notebook PC hasn’t succumbed to the Deep Sea level of humidity.


So last night, I talked the GF into checking in to our local multiplex, where the one thing I could recommend that she hadn’t seen and I wouldn’t mind seeing again (already seen “Dunkirk” three times, so really — enough.) was “Wind River.”

The movie’s been out for a month. It was a Wednesday night, the second slowest night of the movie-going week. And the Epic Theaters in Deltona (not quite Daytona, not really DeLand), Fla., was packed.

AC. Glorious air conditioning. Cold drinks. With ice. You’d think a state ruled by Gov. Voldemort would be well-supplied by his iciness — and he’s running to become Senator Voldemort, too. But no.

So let’s see a picture set in the frozen wilds of Wyoming. Nothing like ice and snow to make you forget “It’s not the heat, it’s the HUMIDITY.” When actually, it’s both. Worked when my parents dragged me to “Dr. Zhivago” as a child, works today.

“River” is maybe the second best movie I’ve seen this year, even though you never quite get the blizzard the picture promises, even though characters never seem as cold (no visible breath) as they claim to be.

wind2But the action beats are fearsome, the characters fascinating — especially the Reservation police chief, played by the whimsically deadpan Graham Greene — and the dialogue flinty and quotable.

“Luck don’t live out here.”

And over a month into its run, the audience I saw it with? They were more varied than I’ve seen at the movies in some time. People who don’t go out to the movies any more will make the effort when the house is hot and starting to smell like Rocky’s old gym shorts.

Whatever Irma and Harvey did to Florida and Texas when they blew in, I dare say most of the movie theaters that have re-opened in those states are setting records. I’m not even sore that the lunks releasing “American Assassin” and “Mother!” chose not to preview them here. I get a double feature tonight, something to take my mind off “Duke sucks, and not just during basketball season.”

Another theater, a few hours’ respite from the heat, a place to “chill” before that became a thing — just like the old days.



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