On Wednesday, November 29, I attended a solemn affair — the second-to-last day of operation for the Enfield Cinema. There were no profound eulogies or patrons dressed in their Sunday best. Instead, all that greeted me was an empty hallway that emitted eerily dormant energy. The skeleton staff meandered aimlessly across the once-hallowed theater halls, slumping out of their sedated slumber only to half-heartedly complete closing tasks before the inevitable transpired (as a former retail worker, I’ve certainly been there before). The dreary atmosphere resonated like an apocalyptic event — an end time for what once stood proudly as a vibrant home for entertainment.
Like many in Western Massachusetts and northern Connecticut, the Enfield Cinemas was a treasured staple. The multiplex opened in 1998 and was immediately entrenched as a prominent fixture of the Enfield Mall (remember when malls were a thing?). Being the movie nerd I am, the Enfield Cinemas quickly became my reliable backup plan in case the West Springfield Cinemas either did not have a showtime I was looking for or was playing a movie that was not showing elsewhere.
The memories are all flooding back to me like a roaring wave. There were festive birthday trips to see an eclectic blend of features, whether it was the video game exuberance of “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” or a stuffy period piece that piqued my interest. I enjoyed many great trips with family, a few uneventful first (and last) dates and countless nights out with friends at the Enfield Cinema.
I also spent numerous high school summer days pulling off double, sometimes even triple feature trips. I would always plan my first showing around 10 in the morning, sneaking in a few McDonald’s breakfast sandwiches for my grand opening act. After that film concluded, I would tip-toe down the hall like an incognito spy carrying a top-secret briefcase, hoping no one would catch me sneaking into my next endeavor. Thankfully, they never actually cared. One employee even joked with me at the end of my day-long excursion.
When I left for college in Salem, my trips to the Enfield Cinemas quickly diminished. Still, I would usually make a pit stop during my weekends home in the same vein as visiting a long-lost friend. This is where my penchant for going to the movies after rowdy nights out began. I loved stumbling into the last showing of the night, often giggling at dopey, B-movie features like “Geostorm” and “Hurricane Heist.”
After graduating in 2020, just in time for a deadly pandemic to sequester all of us into our homes, there were so many horrific realities to face. Amidst the hardships of death, a flatlining economy, dwindling job prospects and countless other harsh truths, there was very little to feel optimistic about in the world.
In August 2020, I received a much-needed distraction when the Enfield Cinemas reopened just in time for Christopher Nolan’s latest globetrotting blockbuster, “Tenet.” It was a joy to lose myself in the elaborate mind-puzzle experience that Nolan often delivers; it scratched that itch for cultural enlightenment I so dearly missed. I returned to the theater several times during the pandemic. The theater was usually empty, but I appreciated the chance to venture back to one of my many homes away from home.
What is the point of relaying these experiences? I hope my walk down memory lane conjures a similarly wistful look back for so many of you. I like to think that every place we collectively frequent stands as a museum. Sure, there are no priceless relics or momentous mosaics hanging on the Enfield Cinemas’ now-empty halls. However, the sights and sounds of the institutions we love will always exhibit the meaningful memories we hold there. I will miss strolling down that notoriously long hallway and having all of these memories surge back into my brain.
Goodbye, Enfield Cinemas.