The Fountain Theatre, 2469 Calle de Guadalupe, has been a Mesilla staple for 27 years, giving a venue to independent and art house films that might not get top billing. It also binds a community with a group of dedicated volunteers who strive to create an experience that goes beyond binging and streaming — prevalent in the blockbuster-thirsty industry. To hear their stories, I went for a tour of the theatre on a Wednesday night.
Rob Felt, president of the Mesilla Valley Film Society, greeted me and showed me around. The MVFS organizes the programming and volunteering at the Fountain Theatre, but the location is an entity unto itself. The boards creak and shift, the murals on the walls of a desert setting are aging, and the seats are well-worn. There is more than just subtle charm to the ambience that enhances the film-watching experience.
Carol McCall, board member and that night’s host (a coordinator/manager of the theater), explained how the Fountain Theatre is a community asset.
“Watching movies in a social setting is different than hunkering down on the couch by yourself,” said McCall. “Storytelling is part of our nature and rarely is it done alone.”
Shari Glassman was the volunteer money-taker that night.
“I want to support independent films,” said Glassman. “I’ve always been good with money, but I love greeting people – either the regulars or those just finding it for the first time.”
I nodded along to the details Felt gave about volunteering – sign up in-person or online to be a concessions vendor, a money-taker or a projectionist – but I didn’t give him the whole story. I remembered the details back from when I volunteered as a concessions seller at the Fountain Theatre.
Felt and McCall are correct about being charmed by the place and that it sucks you in. Walking with Felt behind the curtain, all the tricks of the concession trade came back — how to pour the real butter at the half-way mark and shake the bag to coat the popcorn before filling the rest; how to multitask cutting cake while grabbing a coffee.
Back when I worked years ago, visitors didn’t have access to the door to La Posta to buy a wine or beer to enjoy during the movie. But, the prices for their concessions – popcorn, cakes, ice creams – have stayed the same: wildly low.
What I loved working the concession were the miniature stories I got to see play out in front of me as I served them a drink or a slice of cake. I got to see the torpid shuffle of a quiet man who would whisper his order. I would see a young couple on their first date, awkwardly interrupting each other. I would see the octogenarian couple, who brusquely called each other “coots,” be dismissive with each other until the end of the movie when the man would reach to help steady his wife (her back sore from sitting).
It’s those slices of humanity that you come to share in while taking part in the human need for communal storytelling. Locally, that’s something you find with others at the Fountain Theatre.