How Smartphones Ruined the Dollar Movie

Heather Nowlin
4 min readNov 22, 2019
Photo by Rami Al-zayat on Unsplash

Oh, how I used to love the Dollar Movie.

When I was a kid, the Dollar Movie meant one of two places: The Cinemark over by the local evangelical university, mascotted by Front Row Joe any day of the week, or The Fort a little farther out of the way on Tuesdays and Sundays only.

My friends and I, or my brother and I, or the whole fam-damily and I would head to either of those beautiful strip-mall monstrosities and get lost for hours, afternoons, weekends at a time. The Fort had regular movie pricing most days of the week, but it also had an impressive arcade situation going for it, too. There were seats taped off as unusable in every theatre there, because parts of the no-doubt asbestos-filled ceiling tiles were caved in and dripping liquid onto the floor — but hey, if you just sat on the other side you were (probably) fine. And the snack options at the Fort were far better than Front Row Joe’s paltry profferings.

So I went to the dollar movie all the time — even into college. My roommates and I would look around and after class or work and say, “What should we do now?” “Well, we haven’t seen Pulp Fiction yet today.” “Let’s go!” I think I saw that one about 20 times in the theatre — I’ll let you do the math on that grand total.

But the Dollar Movie has changed. First off, the theatres themselves are pretty hard to find. (Turns out only charging a buck for multi-million dollar endeavors isn’t that lucrative, I guess.) They do still exist in some towns though, and mine is one the Dollar Movie’s glitzy faux-Hollywood aura has deigned to grace.

But I haven’t been there in years.

I know, you’re probably thinking, “Well, Heather, you’re not a kid anymore. No college shoestring budgets for you, you surely successful Medium blogger, you! You can pay more than a buck for your entertainment now.”

But that’s not the reason.

The last time I went to a dollar movie was a bit of a disaster. First of all, it was packed — so no avoiding the inevitable armrest fight for the next two hours (strike one). The floor was sticky; the ceiling was indeed caved in on one corner, and the arcade situation has done nothing but improve since my childhood — so score three in favor of the dollar movie there. In…

Heather Nowlin

Favorite topics: politics, mental health, travel, business/the office, humans, dogs, empathy, pop culture, movies, books, TV, plays, theatre.