A holiday popcorn bacchanal

There’s an old joke about Jewish Christmas, with the punch line involving something about Chinese takeout and a movie.

I was housesitting for friends who live near the Tower Theatre while they were away for the holidays. Almost went to a movie on Christmas Day. But after dithering for hours, I flipped on my friends’ big-screen TV instead; two UFO shows, a Larry the Cable Guy Christmas special and a Tom Cruise cameo later, I snoozed.

The next day, I rode over to the theater around noon. A post-holiday throng of moviegoers had yet to materialize and, to the ushers, it was the day after what was just another workday. One even ordered Chinese takeout, at Fortune House up Broadway. “It was the only place open,” said James Angello, who goes by the name of James Knight when he’s fronting Candy Bullet, an electro-rock trio.

Angello was quite forthcoming about his band, once I mentioned SN&R. You take your free publicity when you can, so moments later I knew that Candy Bullet’s new album, Black Clouds and Rainbows, will be up on iTunes this January (and you can check it out at www.candybullet.com). “We’re like a cross between Depeche Mode and new Nine Inch Nails,” Angello explained.

Angello’s co-worker Trent Liddicoat seemed slightly less show-biz; he’s a full-time student, and he doesn’t play music. Another usher named John plays bass in a band that isn’t gigging yet. But he lost interest in talking and vanished behind the snack bar. Angello pointed out the theater’s maintenance guy is Mike Cinciripino of Bananas, Elves, Horny Mormons, Knock Knock, No Kill I and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Davenport fame. And former theater employees include members of Knock Knock’s bitter rivals, the Ancient Sons.

According to Angello and Liddicoat, working at the theater tends to bring out the film buff in employees, and it serves as good common ground. “It’s like the easy icebreaker, a way to get to know somebody you don’t know that well,” Angello said.

“Even with certain co-workers you wouldn’t normally get along with, you can talk about movies,” Liddicoat added.

But this year the holidays seem much more subdued. “Probably just another testament to the economy,” Angello said.

One counterpoint to a downbeat holiday: “It seemed like people were more reluctant to throw away their trash; they just dumped it everywhere,” Liddicoat said.

“Yeah,” Angello added. “It was just an attitude of gluttony and consumption.”

“When we were going in afterward and cleaning up, there were just piles of popcorn,” Liddicoat recalled, a statement that made both of them break out laughing.

Then Angello’s tone got more serious. “I think it’s really interesting that people will clean up—I mean, you’re relatively clean when you go to a restaurant,” he said. “Maybe you’ll drop some food on the floor, but generally people will even pick that up. In theaters, people are like, ‘It’s dark—nobody knows it was me!’

“I think people think it’s built into the price,” he concluded.

To the contrary, most of the money you pay for a ticket goes to film studios or distributors, with snack-bar sales paying for the lights and the ushers. And if you dump your trash everywhere, some minimum-wage employee will have to pick it up.

A little respect, maybe?