Behind the scenes at the cinema

Behind the scenes at the cinema

When "F9: The Fast Saga" opened the last weekend of June, the cars on the screen weren't the only things going "fast and furious" at Camana Bay Cinema; the popcorn makers were as well.

"The popcorn we use comes in 35-pound bags and we went through 12 bags of popcorn that weekend," says Corey Randolph, the cinema's general manager.

Doing the math, that's 420 pounds of popcorn, enough to produce about 23,500 cups of popped corn from more than 1.3 million kernels — all in one weekend.

Although popcorn remains a strong element in the experience of going to the movies, sales of other foods the last weekend of June more than tripled that of the cinema standard, with chicken wings, mozzarella sticks and nachos being crowd favourites.

"Nachos have always been one of our highest selling items by volume," Randolph says.

Candy is also a traditional part of the cinema experience. Here on Grand Cayman, there's one type of candy that outsells everything else.

"Anything sour," says Randolph. "It changes from time to time, but right now Sour Patch Kids is our biggest seller."

Two other candies aren't far behind: Twizzlers and M&M's.

When it comes to beverages, more water is sold than anything else at Camana Bay Cinema.

"That's unique to Cayman," says Randolph, who previously managed or helped open up cinemas in numerous states in the United States. "It was always soda of some sort in the U.S."

Since Camana Bay Cinema opened in 2007, the method of receiving — and showing — movies has changed dramatically.

For the first couple of years, the movies were shown from reels of film that had to be delivered to Grand Cayman. After that, most films were provided digitally on hard drives that were delivered, requiring a different type of projector. More recently, partially because of transportation issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, films are delivered digitally over the internet and downloaded at the cinema.

"COVID really pushed the studios forward on this type of delivery," Randolph says. "I hope it's one of those changes that stick after COVID because it's more expensive for us and a lot riskier to ship a film hard drive. In the past, we've had some hard drives that arrived damaged or didn't contain the right content."

Several of the most attended films at Camana Bay have been part of the Marvel cinematic universe, led by 2018's "Black Panther." The rest of the top 10 includes, in order: "Furious 7," "Jurassic World," "Avengers: Endgame," "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle," "The Avengers," "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," "Aquaman," "Skyfall" and "Avatar."

"'Avatar' was one of the last movies we had on film," Randolph says.

cinema manager holding popcorn bag
Camana Bay Cinema General Manager Corey Randolph with a 35-pound bag of popcorn. Twelve of these bags of popcorn were used during the opening weekend of "F9: The Fast Saga." Photo: Bobby Hulse

Choosing the films that are shown at Camana Bay Cinema isn't difficult and the length of a movie's run generally depends on how well it is attended.

"If a film is available, we're going to show it," Randolph says, adding that not all films are made available for showing in the Cayman Islands market.

"We're lumped into the international market and have to abide by what the studios decide," says Randolph.

As a result, some films that are popular elsewhere aren't available here, such as the 2019 Oscar-winning best picture, "Parasite," or the 2015 comedy-drama "Magic Mike."

Although the release dates for films in the Cayman Islands often mirror closely the general release dates in the U.S., the international release dates can be different, sometimes significantly so.

"We got the film 'Taken' four to six months ahead of the U.S.," Randolph says, noting that it actually worked against the success of the film in Cayman because there was no buzz created by critics and audiences in the United States.

More recently, the difficulty has been receiving many films because studios delayed release dates while waiting for COVID-19 pandemic restrictions to end and cinemas to open to full capacity. As a result, Camana Bay Cinema didn't have many films to show and the ones it did, had longer than usual showing runs.

"Liam Neeson was the star of COVID for us," says Randolph, noting that his film "Honest Thief" ran from October 2020 through February 2021 and "The Marksman" ran from February through May this year.

The longest running film in terms of the length of run in the history of Camana Bay Cinema was "Bad Boys For Life," which opened in January 2020 and ran through August 2020.

"It was running when we closed for COVID in March and since we still had it, we reopened with it in July and it ran for several more weeks," Randolph says.

Finally, however, the wait for exciting new releases is over. The release of "F9: The Fast Saga" follows "A Quiet Place Part II" and precedes such highly anticipated films as "Black Widow" this month, the new James Bond film, "No Time to Die" in October and "Top Gun: Maverick" in November, plus new instalments in the "Matrix" and "Spiderman" franchises in December.

This article first appeared in the August 2021 print edition of Camana Bay Times.

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About the author

Alan Markoff has worked with Dart as the editor for Camana Bay Times for four years and has been writing professionally since 1997. Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Alan graduated from the State University of New York at Albany with a degree in English, and first moved to the Cayman Islands in 1982. He has 17 years of experience in the real estate industry and previously worked as a journalist for the Cayman Compass before joining Dart to relaunch the Camana Bay Times monthly newspaper. Alan is passionate about food and wine and he loves to write about both those subjects. He is also the leader of Grand Cayman’s Slow Food Chapter. One of Alan’s favourite ways to relax is to catch a film at Camana Bay Cinema. It was at one of these movies that he met his wife, Lynn!

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