When the Movie Stopped

- June 23, 2011

"2-D or 3-D?"

"2-D or 3-D?" asked Scott Brewer, leaning on the counter of the Regal Stadium 14.

"2-D," I replied. He handed me two tickets. They weren't your standard ducats, but "Readmission Tickets," an exhibitor term for passes. And we were leaving the theater, not going in.

For Scott wasn't running the box office. He was at the customer service center, servicing customers who were suddenly, sadly, without movies in their lives.

The power had gone out only a half-hour before on this blustery May 17th.

Too bad. This was my first time seeing a movie projected digitally. Earlier I'd called to find out if there were any difference between the regular FAST FIVE presentation and the digital one.

"Better picture and sound," replied the ticket seller. "No extra charge," she added. Of course, we went for it.

Here's the thing: Lisa just loves the FAST AND THE FURIOUS  movies and gets droolingly envious when Vin Diesel guns his '69 Challenger. In Dolby Digital.

Lisa herself is a super driver. We once considered enrolling her in a Skip Barber Racing School course in Phoenix, encouraged in her moxie by no less than that local legend of international raceway fame, Denise McCluggage.

Until, that is, Denise mentioned that all racers have to know how to handle a stick shift, and Lisa had ever driven anything but an automatic. "Too late now," sympathized Denise, explaining that manual transmission responses for professionals must be ingrained practically from birth.

So that was that. Now here we were, a scant 30 minutes into the noisy franchise's fifth installment, when the movie suddenly, inexplicably stopped. As the emergency lights blinked on, we the audience sat wide-eyed in bewilderment.

"Some system, this digital," I thought, assuming the software file running the film had crashed. Like a Dodge into a brick wall.

An usher came in to say the power was gone throughout the megaplex, but would probably be back on in five minutes. A bit later, a fellow left, came back, and told his seatmates, "They said PNM told them a car hit a transmission box on Airport, and the whole neighborhood is out."

And so it was. Not just our screen, not only the Stadium 14, but what would turn out to be an outage affecting 1,300 customers in a swath across southwest Santa Fe, instigated not by a car but by those terrible, taxing winds that have been our staple this spring. But we didn't know that yet.

Eventually, like everyone else, we gave up, got up, and strolled down the dark, silent hallway into the sunlit lobby and its shut-down concession stand.

A few people stood patiently in a line. Scott Brewer was his usual cool, calm, collected self. This is a guy who's smelled popcorn most of his life. He's been a fixture since the 1970s, when he was the city manager for Commonwealth's Lensic, Movies Twin, Coronado Twin, and the Capital. I've seen him weather ice and sand storms, lightning strikes, late employees, leaky roofs, busted plumbing... nothing fazes him.

"How you doin', Casey?" he said. "2-D or 3-D?"