Choosing Kindness Over Profit

by Tom Magliery
British Columbia, Canada

 Choosing Kindness Over Profit

Wow! “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace” was out! Shortly after it launched, five of us guys decided to drive an hour north of Champaign, Illinois, to see the movie in Hoopeston, population 6000ish. Why drive so far? Because the Lorraine Theatres had a widespread reputation as having the best sound system anywhere in central Illinois.

We caravanned in two cars, headed to a 4:30 p.m. showing. It was a beautiful day in May, 1999, with clear blue skies — a great day for a drive. We found the theatre, a stand-alone building on a small-town main street. Arriving at 4:20 p.m., we pulled up and parked in the angle parking across the street from the theatre.

We wondered, “h”Hey, shouldn’t there be some other cars parked here on the street already?” There weren’t any, but we thought maybe the matinee business was slowing down since the movie had been out for a couple weeks.

Crossing the street, we found the ticket window empty and the front doors locked. Uh-oh.

Just as we finished trying the doors, out came the owner of the theatre, a fellow in his 40s with light brown hair, glasses, and a beard. He told us that the theatre had stopped their 4:30 showing three days before.

Someone mumbled something about the webpage, and he said he hadn’t had a chance to update it yet because his laptop was in for repairs. He asked us where we had come from, and we told him. After another minute or two of small talk, I said (half joking, half hopeful), “So you wanna show it anyway?”

He looked at his watch, thought a bit… and then said, “OK, sure,” and showed the movie to just the five of us!

We paid him the regular price, and he even let us buy pop and snacks from the concession stand, although it was lucky that we managed to find correct change for everything because he couldn’t get into the cash register.

It struck me that the theatre owner could just as well have said “Tough luck, fellas”, wished us a pleasant drive, and sent us on our way back home. It would have been perfectly reasonable for him to do that. Instead, he chose to open his business, start up his equipment, and show us the film we’d driven so far to see.

I’ve no idea of the operating costs of running a projector and a full-scale movie theatre for a showing of a film, but I’d be surprised if the profit margin of five tickets and a few candy bars and sodas would be enough to cover it. I’ve always remembered this experience because we were treated so kindly by a total stranger.

Originally published as HeroicStories #778 on Aug 5, 1999

2 thoughts on “Choosing Kindness Over Profit”

  1. This is a lovely story with a disappointing ending. It sounds as though the author and his friends rewarded the owner for his kindness by hunting for exact change for their snacks rather than saying “keep the change”. Could we have a follow up to learn if any of them continued to patronize the theatre? It would be nice to know if they ever made any efforts to return the kindness he showed them.


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