At mid-morning on a cold Saturday, the real stars of The Flicks were preparing for another journey into movie madness. Six high profile, Oscar-nominated films would rotate through the Flicks' four theaters that day, luring a steady queue of customers to the box office. Before the doors opened at noon, the kitchen staff slid the first of multiple pans of lasagna into the oven.
"It's our biggest seller; that, and the baked brie. A lot of people even call each day just to see what soup we're cooking up," said Sydney Slighter, standing behind the counter ready to greet theater patrons. (For the record, a pot of pasta e fagioli was simmering on the stove).
"Sydney and I actually worked together at another movie theater before we came to The Flicks four years ago," said Britney Cebada, sliding in behind the counter beside Slighter. "You'll probably hear this from a lot of our colleagues today, but we really consider this our family."
She was right. Both theater staff and volunteers repeated that statement all day, which could, in part, explain the overriding theme from the steady stream of moviegoers (occasionally growing to a tsunami) who walked through the doors: The Flicks experience transcends traditional moviegoing and, for many, it's a personal relationship. The word "love" kept coming up.
"If you love movies, you love The Flicks," said patron Joyce Mateo. "There are actually other theaters closer to where we live, but look at us: We're settled in with a glass of wine, and it's just a lovely way to spend a winter day."
Joyce and her husband, Luis, had each ordered a glass of Malbec and found a table not far from the fireplace, which had just roared to life.
"My grandfather was the administrator of the only movie theater in my small hometown in Puerto Rico," Joyce said. "I went there every day after school. So, my love for the movies has been a big part of my life. I wanted to go to the movies today and Luis asked, 'Where should we go?' I said, 'You don't even have to ask.' So, naturally we're here at The Flicks. We're going to see Manchester by the Sea. We heard it's one of the best of the year"
The Mateos were the first of many couples who would find a fireside table over the next several hours.
"Yes, this is definitely date night," said Courtney Rush, glancing over at husband Jonathan. "We have three daughters—[ages] 6, 4 and 6 months—and Jonathan's mother is in town, so she's babysitting. We're going to see La La Land. Is it as good as they say?" (I assured them it is.)
Michael and Suzanne Bergmann said, "All of our kids are out of the house, so every night is date night"; Quinn and Shirley Van Paepeghem "were just here last week to see La La Land, saw the preview for Lion and had to come back tonight"; and Cathy Anderson and her son Evan "love The Flicks—especially this time of year."
January is like an extended Christmas at The Flicks. While some of the current films have been screening since before the holiday season began, many are just now catching the public's interest due to their coveted Oscar nominations.
"Sorry, I only have one more seat for the next showing," ticket-seller Sam Wonacott told a crestfallen couple at the box office window. As he had on many previous occasions, however, he was quick to tell the couple about other screenings that might be of interest.
"I recommend movies to customers all the time, especially this time of year," said Wonacott, a full-time Boise State University student who works most Saturday evenings as The Flicks' man in the glass booth. Nearby, sat a stack of signs reading, "Next performance sold out," just in case ticket sales reached capacity, which a number of showings did that day.
Meanwhile, lasagna, baked brie, popcorn, wine, beer and soda were flying across the counter as quickly as customers were streaming through the door.
"I'll be here until midnight, cleaning up and getting ready for another day at The Flicks," said 10-year employee Jessica Means. "But we love it, we really love it."