I’d checked the movie listings over the past months, surprised to see “Canal Place” type titles listed at Chalmette Movies. I almost made it out to see Meek’s Cutoff, but Chalmette seemed too far, and I assumed I’d be watching the film in some lo-fi bombed-out theater.
I eventually went to see Yes Ma’am.
I borrowed the camera to document the undoubtedly shady looking strip mall cineplex I expected to find out on Judge Perez. It was an SLR that I’m woefully under-skilled to operate, but it was all I could muster. There would be, I decided, a desolate parking lot in front of a past-prime strip mall. The photos would show Chalmette Movies as a nobly doomed business screening films no one cares about to an audience that doesn’t exist.
I didn’t take any pictures.
The strip mall is there, but it’s brightly occupied. It could be anywhere in the country and we’ve all seen it before. There are twin beaming red signs reading “Chalmette Movies,” and you walk through the doors to sterile cold air and posters of Romeo+Juliet and Rio Bravo.
The theater is clean, conventional, and crowded enough. They play blockbusters and movies in 3D. It’s bright, crisp and what you would expect from a modern theater: digital projection, stadium seating. The still-exorbitant popcorn is good, if a bit salty, but they also play movies you can’t see anywhere else in New Orleans.
I’m excited that there’s a place for these sorts of films. And it’s a pleasant, semi-meditative drive down the river. The 20 minutes in the car give you plenty of time, there and back, to talk about Scientology, Gap Toothed Women and what you just watched.
In The Moviegoer, Walker Percy describes some theater out by The Lake. It’s a stark cinderblock building that gets buffeted by howling wind and rain where he shelters to watch a film. I never finished the book, and don’t remember much about it besides the protagonist going on about “The Search,” but that illustration of the cinema stuck with me; a black box surrounded by a bunch of nothing. I expected to see something similar in Chalmette.
Instead, I saw a theater adjacent to a plasma TV filled, fluorescently lit frozen yogurt shop with free wi-fi.
Perhaps I should have taken pictures.
Kyle Shepherd writes about New Orleans experiences for Nolavie. .