What's new at the movies? If you're thinking about what's on the screen, not a whole lot.
But on the subject of fare, there is something new and it's a real bargain: Morning movies for $1, and not last year's losers, but current features.
February offerings included "Ordinary People," "The Tribute," "Stir Crazy," "Popeye," "The Jazz Singer," "Seems Like Old Times" and "Private Benjamin."
The popularity of the scene can be attested to by the growing selection of movies, locations, longer lines, and empty coffee urns. Yes, they even offer free coffee.
While some movies are definitely more popular than others, recent encounters reveal that quite a few viewers don't even know which movie they've come to see. As we waited in an appropriate line, we soon learned that many in our line didn't realize that "Agatha" and "Mirror Crack'd," a film based on an Agatha Christie mystery, were separate shows, separate lines, separate theaters, etc., and what really surprised us was that no one seemed to care.
Just let the show begin -- any show.
But first a word from the announcer (often the theater manager). His remarks bear a striking resemblance to pre-show audience warm-ups for live television tapings. The audience reaction is right on cue, applause for promotions, sympathetic sighs for dental work, and cheers when learning that he is not being transferred.
And it's worth the dollar admission just to watch the antics in the aisles. Since this is bargain day, mothers are apt to bring young children. If they pay a baby sitter, there go the savings. But they come prepared -- strollers, bottles, juice, and all manner of munchies. Every time a child opens his mouth, something is popped in.
Kids aren't the only ones eating. In addition to the coffee, the theaters offer donuts for 30 cents and, of course, buttered popcorn, still the preference even at 10:30 in the morning.
Finding a seat can be a problem. Once desperately seeking two seats together, we spotted a likely prospect, although there was a coat and some belongings on one seat. We asked and were given a careful scrutiny before the woman moved her things. She only lets small people sit next to her, she confessed, or she gets claustrophobia.
When one hapless gentleman, out for coffee and donuts, returned to the darkness, he couldn't find his wife. His low "Mildred? Mildred?" was answered by at least six Mildreds.
The audience does shift as the movie ratings change, but the crowds are a disparate lot: besides the expected housewives and senior citizens, college students, night-shift workers, independent contractors, and the self-employed on an extended coffee break.
And don't be surprised when the movie ends and everyone stays. There is still another bargain, or at least the possibility of one, with door prizes, such as evening theater passes, lunches at adjacent restaurants, sound track albums, and even haircuts and stylings.
And if all else fails, some merchants offer "specials and discounts" on many items and services. The only requirement is that you attend the morning feature.
As one 9-to-5 working woman said recently, "The only reason I'd ever consider giving up my job would be the $1 movies."