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Harlem Moviegoing

By William Quinonez

There are crowds crossing the busy streets to nearby shopping outlets and local street vendors with aromatic incense setting the mood. From fresh fruit to fresh clothes, whatever you’re looking for can be found on the Harlem strip. On the third floor overlooking 125th Street’s nightlife rush is the Magic Johnson AMC 9.

The movie theater is located right on the corner across from The United House of Prayer for All People which has been around since the 1940’s. The festive and spiritual location is a vital part of the community’s scene and pulse. The fabric of the cross streets is made of music and laughter coming from all directions at once.

Magic Theaters in Harlem is one of the two remaining locations. It’s a familiar spot for friends and families to get together and enjoy a wide variety of films. Established in the 1990’s, Magic Theaters first appeared in Crenshaw, Los Angeles to bring a luxury cinematic experience to low-income and under-appreciated areas. The cinemas expanded to New York and Maryland, which would become the last remaining locations with the Magic branding.

Inside you are greeted by the ticket attendee who directs you to your movie. The legendary carpeted floors seem nostalgic like stepping into the movies as a kid for the first time. Burgundy reds and a shagadelic carpet coat the entrance hall. Shining through the massive glass windows from within, patrons can see the red lights of the Apollo Theater.

Epic movie board cut-outs line the room for pictures with your favorite stars including some of the most prominent film icons of color. Currently, for the premier of DC Comics’ Black Adam, families can take photos with a larger-than-life cut-out of Dwayne Johnson.

There is also a twenty-foot-tall collage wallpaper, provided by the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, presenting historic and significant cinema pioneers of today and the past century. From Halle Berry to Octavia Spencer; Denzel Washington and Forest Whitaker, just to name a few.

The AMC also has its own classic posters decorating the walls which include Poetic Justice and Whoopie Goldberg hits.

For the showing of Chinonye Chukwu’s Till, the story of Emmett Till and his courageous mother Mamie Till-Mobley, the theater had on display a donated set of costumes worn by the starringactors. In the final scenes, Mamie Till-Mobley speaks at a Civil Rights rally that takes place in Harlem illustrating the fight for social justice in the community.

In addition to historical and cultural importance, the theater also provides a prime-time movie going pleasure. It’s there for all who want to be swept off their seats and their imagination to be taken into other worlds.

Whether it's for the new Marvel movie or Sonic the Hedgehog there is going to be a huge turnout. The loud fierce speakers roar in each theater and vibrate through each chair. Your fingers will be busy in buttery popcorn and eyes glued to the wide screen world.

If you are a Harlem resident or a City College student or just a fellow traveler on the road, it would be in your best interest to enjoy a film at this historic venue. The history is also made there when you allow yourself to indulge in some Raisinets or a classic Icee.

A legendary evening of fun could happen if you sneak in some of your own snacks like trail mix and ginger ale with a homemade avocado veggie sandwich. No one is going to judge because the evening is meant for you.

The theater is also fun for all ages. And as a fellow expert babysitter with years of experience taking care of all my sisters’ kids, I know children love an evening of film fun. They will be fully engaged in the experience, especially if you pack them their ideal snacks. Their movie is complete with Chicken McNuggets and fries. Plus, dollar store caramel candies of their choosing.

They get so wired up from movie going that they can't help to show their love of the theater but by climbing the seats and running up and down the stairs. Those little rascals love cinema. Many ask themselves, “Why spend money on a movie if you can just stream it on your mobile device in seconds.” Because if you go to Harlem’s movie club you will be a part of something greater than the conglomerate streaming services of the twenty first century. You will get to experience one of the oldest national pastimes since land darts hit the market.

I just want to go to the movies right now. It's a great place to go whatever the occasion. School finals are coming up and you are convinced your professor is out to get you, go to a matinee showing instead of stressing. Or if your best friend is still not talking to you for some reason even though you apologized already for losing his pet chameleon Montezuma at the park, go enjoy the new Lego Batman movie.

Enjoying movies at your local theater is the way to go. But if you want to stay home, that’s ok too. The magical cinema reel in Harlem will be there whenever you are ready.


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