My friend, Jeannie Mozier, and her husband, Jack, own the Star Theater in Berkeley Springs. The opposite of a big, chain-run multiplex, the Star is an individual property, run by the people who own it, that shows movies just slightly past their first run. The couch that long-ago replaced a section of theater seats is a prized destination, and the Star's popcorn is adorned with actual, from-the-cow butter.
Owning the theater gives Jeannie access to an insider world of movies, to be seen and booked before they are released generally. It means driving from the quiet West Virginia hills to the snarled traffic of Washington, D.C., and enduring rush hour backups to get to the screening on time, but this is how theater operators make decisions on what they will book. And most of them aren't coming from two states away.
Jeannie calls the whole thing a treat - from the at-dawn wake-up call, to the drive into Maryland afterwards to return one film and pick up another at a warehouse on a nondescript, flat-roofed strip, where shelves to the ceiling hold nothing but reels of movie prints; and then to the warehouse store to stock up on Hershey bars, gummy bears, M&Ms and other concession-stand fare, as well as a 50-pound sack of raw popcorn that Jeannie says will last, probably, a week.
Depending on the movie.
There are movies that movie buffs call "popcorn movies," such as adventure dramas and action thrillers. Summer movies often fall into this category. But the movie that Jeannie took me to see would be called a chick flick.
We had to be in Georgetown on a June morning at 10 a.m. to see "The Help," an upcoming release based on Kathryn Stockett's 2009 novel of the same name. Set in Mississippi at the dawn of the Civil Rights movement, the novel's title refers to household help, maids - black women who worked for white women and raised their children. The novel blew me away, and I was wary that the movie couldn't possibly live up to what I had read.
It does. My prediction is that a raft of Academy Award nominations will be headed toward this film, and deservedly. According to the production website, the movie comes out this month. What a treat I enjoyed, to see it in a theater nearly devoid of patrons, by invitation, before practically everyone else.
The treats continued, as Jeannie piloted us around the Beltway just before rush hour's main wave, back toward the western hills. Starving, we stopped in Great Falls for burgers. Mine, loaded with blue cheese and Buffalo sauce-soaked fried onion rings, was a messy, delicious diet disaster. But so good.
So, I was nearly immune to the siren calls of the gourmet grocery which was the final stop, so Jeannie could load coolers with items not found at the Berkeley Springs Food Lion. For myself, a jar of kosher picked tomatoes, not generally found outside of a metropolitan area and really best enjoyed from a pickle barrel at a New York deli.
Also, a couple of bottles of wine, and some carryout sushi for my sweet husband, who, after all, would be wanting dinner when I got home, even on a day that I had completely gorged on treats.