Cold at Carmike: Roof leak turns Avatar into water world

news-avatarCarmike moviegoers got a chilly surprise at a Christmas Day screening of Avatar. PUBLICITY PHOTO

Avatar may be known for its cutting edge special effects, but some moviegoers catching James Cameron's latest blockbuster at Carmike 6 on Christmas Day– less than a week after the so-called Snowpocalypse– experienced a not-so-special effect: a partially collapsed ceiling that dumped cold water on at least one unsuspecting patron.

"We heard a weird sound," says Jason Coleman, who'd taken his two kids to see the 4:30pm show after the 3:30 screening was cancelled due to problems with a sound system. At first, Coleman says, they attributed the noise to poor theater etiquette.

"We thought it was some guy being loud eating a few rows behind us," he says. "Then we noticed water coming in."

It wasn't long before the leak turned into a bigger problem.

"That roof," says Coleman, "opened up and poured like a giant bucket on people."

Just 40 minutes into the nearly three-hour movie, Coleman says, he and his 10-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter, accompanied by a friend and his son, immediately left– as did everyone else in the theater.

"We figured if it could happen in that spot, nowhere was safe," he says, noting the voluntary evacuation went smoothly and that after some initial gasps, there was no panic. Once in the lobby, Coleman says, he saw one obvious victim of the roof leak: a soaking wet teenaged boy who, Coleman says, did not appear to be overtly distressed or physically harmed.

Carmike manager Lee Rebouche confirms the leak– only one ceiling tile fell, she says– and says refunds or ticket vouchers were immediately offered,  as they were during a mid-December heating failure, although that didn't satisfy everyone.

"One guy said we deliberately ruined his Christmas," says Rebouche, who adds that while she shares in the patron's frustration, there was nothing the theater could have done to prevent today's problem. She says that the fire department assured her the Carmike– with its flat roof– is not the only building experiencing leaks following last week's near record-breaking snow storm and today's rain.

Coleman says he and his family took the disappointment in stride– noting that they'd already missed out on the 3:30 show because of the sound problems and had spent an hour driving around waiting for the 4:30 show to start.

"We were doomed to not see that movie today," he jokes.

Rebouche says two of the three Avatar theaters will remain closed at least through tomorrow awaiting repairs. The updated Avatar showtimes are available at


We don't get this much snow that often. But it's about 100% likely we *will* get it again. Maybe not next year, but maybe within a decade. Or two.

So why do we still build structures with flat roofs? Doesn't that seem, well, short-sighted?

Nothing surprising here, keep on moving. All the theaters in this village are antiques. For 20 years there have been stories of modern stadium-seating digital-audio theaters, but nothing yet. Maybe this near-death incident will finally get some change started.

You left out nuclear war and dogs sleeping with cats. Lighten up, and be grateful no one was injured in a theater that has had more than it's share of problems.

Nancy - thanks for the kind words for Vinegar Hill. I've loved attending that Theatre since I was a kid, and am now fortunate enough to find myself managing the place. It may not be the newest or flashiest place in town, but we try to do things reasonably and make our customers as comfortable and welcome as we can; I, too, am often frustrated by the non-stop barrage of Ads and the blandly impersonal experience at the chain theaters in town. Of the half-dozen locally owned, smaller movie houses that were here in the 80's, Vinegar Hill is the only one left, and I'm thrilled to be able to help keep it around.

Frostie - you are quite correct; the Owner of Vinegar Hill, who also owns the Visulite and the Dixie over in Staunton, is planning to build a brand-new multiplex in Waynesboro:

Drive ins were so cool back in the '70s. You could load a whole tribe of stoners into a VW micro bus with mirrored windows and pay only the driver's ticket ("why yes, mr. ticket, I am alone this evening -- could I interst you in one of these fine Enchiritos here?"), and then run amok in the parking lot all fried on acid while the week's chop movie played on the ignored screen, all kinds of under-age activity occurred, fights broke out, and deals got done. Oh how I'd love to re-live those days. Not sure I want my kids to, though, in this easy-gun era, nor would I want to pay the insurance premiums for opening up aa new venue. Maybe some things are best remembered through repeated viewings of Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

cookieJar, you seem to be overlooking the Library of Congress theater in Culpeper.

Yeah, the movie theatres here are a disgrace -- one of my very few gripes about Cville. Why is it that nobody has built one that is a bit more up to date? First to do so would likely put all the others out of business.

Last I read, there were plans for a new stadium-style movie theatre in Waynesboro! Anyone know if or when that will happen? Pick any decent-sized city in VA, and they almost always have newer, better movie theatres than Cville. Wmsburg has two new, state-of-the-art stadium theatre complexes, each offering 15+ movies, and the population there is tiny by comparison.

Who cares about stadium seating and modern sound systems? Do you actually go to first-run Hollywood films? Why?

I went to a showing of "The Brother from Another Planet" at the National Gallery today. It was quite enjoyable, if a bit stereotypical.

The old school Jefferson was my fave. Two bucks and you’re in.

Exactly. I saw "O Brother, Where Art Thou?", "The House of Mirth," and "You Can Count on Me" on successive weekends there in the summer of 2001.

quote: "Does anyone recall the name of that that place on the corner?"

University Theatre.

Oh, and I forgot the best part of viewing at Vinegar Hill--NO advertisements !

Boon1980, Avatar appeared to me to be an anti-corporate movie. The fact that you would equate corporate interests with American interests indicates to me that you have internalized corporate media propoganda.

Sadly, you are not alone in this internalization of what is ultimately a harmful mindset.

It's true, Repertory theaters are increasingly rare -- the home video market has pretty much killed that possibility outside of major cities. The Library of Congress Packard Theater is pretty darn phenomenal, though -- just caught a show there for the first time a few weeks ago, and I definitely intend to go back soon.

It's sad that people here are more concerned with the quality of the seats in the theaters than they are with the quality of the movies.

I would be tickled pink if Kroger fell to the ground tonight and was replaced by the drive-in theatre that was originally there at Hydraulic and Emmett.

I bet some of you guys and girls have never even been to a drive-in theatre?

My friends and I used to pick up steak and cheese hoagies, chili dogs, burgers, fries, beer and soda, and whatever else we needed to survive for 3 1/2 to 4 hours. And we didn't need a $3 million dollar sound system to enjoy whatever was playing.

You have lived some of the good life then, Sharon. Those days seem to be gone forever.

I bet if somebody was able to buy some property and build a new drive-in theatre, they could and would make a fortune. Good quality speakers, good food in their own refreshment center, snacks/popcorn, and beverages... I would pay just as much (or more) per person as the buildings charge currently charge.

And it's a simple fact, there's most likely quite a few people in this area that were conceived in the rear seat of a car at the old Ridge Drive-In! :)

S'ville - in addition to Vinegar Hill and the Jefferson, I'm thinking of the Terrace Triple, the Greenbriar Theatre, and a single-screen place on the corner whose name I can't remember (it was replaced by Plan 9, before they moved a block away -- I believe the place is now a tanning salon or something; it's between Baja Bean and Mellow Mushroom).

Does anyone recall the name of that that place on the corner? I vividly recall going to see Raoul Dahl's "the Witches" (starring Angelica Houston) there right before it closed. I'm sure I saw plenty of other things there too, but I was too young to remember. You could still see parts of the old theater's sloping concrete floor when it was a Plan 9.

So I guess that's five theaters, and not a proper "half-dozen;" although there may have been others I don't remember or missed entirely (I moved here in late '86).

I'm not sure if they were all truly locally owned, but I don't recognize any major chain brands in the names there; several of them became second-run theaters before shutting down for good (like the Terrace Triple -- it was once prestegious enough to snag a 3-month run of "Home Alone.") I'm sure other started out as either independent theaters or smaller chains, before being bought out by the major chains (like the Seminole 4 behind K-Mart, which is now a Regal, for instance.)

Would love to have my memory corrected by someone who was here in those days a remembers it more clearly (I was a little kid.)

Dude, Spicol!

I grew up in Charlottesville now live in Richmond. Charlottesville hasn't added a new theater in what? 15 years since the theater on the downtown mall. Richmond has at least 4 new theaters all in the last 8 years with Stadium seating, and two within the last 18 months. And yes after loving the Regal Cinema Four and the Carmike when it first opened I got to admit the stadium seating is far far better! Go to the Movieland near the Diamond to see both old movies and new ones.

Avatar is an Anti-American it close.

"One guy said we deliberately ruined his Christmas." ?!? What a pathetic, whiny baby. A *grown man* whining that the theater *deliberately* did *ruin* his Christmas. How pathetic, illogical, insane and immature is that? Yeah, the Carmike staff sat around this week plotting ways that they could "ruin" people's Christmases on Friday.

"Ooh! Ooh! I know!! I know!! Let's have part of the roof cave in and dump water on people in the middle of a movie! mmmwwahahahahah!! That'll get 'em!!"

"Great idea buddy, I'll get up there right now and loosen some tiles...."

If that's all it took to "ruin" that guy's entire Christmas I hate to see how he reacts when something real actually happens. He needs to get out into the world and get himself a reality check to see what other people are going through not only during this holiday season, but in this time period in general in the U.S. with the tumbling economy. Loss of jobs, unemployment at the highest rate in decades, rampant foreclosures, rampant homelessness, pets getting abandoned, food banks can't keep up with all the people going hungry, tent cities sprouting up, welfare and food stamps at an all time high, etc. Etc. Etc.

One more important point: The mere fact that this guy was able bodied enough to make it down to the theater and *could* afford to throw away money on a movie instead of being down to his last $8 and needing to use it for food while he tries to find a shelter that still has some empty beds for him to sleep in tonight shows just how NOT ruined his Christmas actually is.

Pathetic, spoiled baby. boo!

First, this discussion is great. I am the developer and owner of Zeus Digital Theaters which will open September 1 in Waynesboro. We are under construction now. I am putting in stadium seating, 2 Dolby 3D screens. All 8 theaters will be digital. I know this doesn't help the mess that Charlottesville theaters are in now.

However, I have no problem with telling people that if someone doesn't do it first, I plan to build a theater on 29N between the river and Ruckersville in 2012. Essentially, it will be the same plan that I am using in Waynesboro, but we might add 2 screens. I have a number of locations in mind, but none selected yet.

Wow, nobody wants a rerun of the Knickerbocker Theatre roof collapse in the famous Knickerbocker storm.

Hey boo tell your husband to let you out of your cage now.

@really? I've worked in a lot of customer service capacity jobs in my time and that's why that comment got to me about the guy's supposedly "ruined" Christmas. You see so many of these spoiled, whiny pathetic types when you work in restaurants and hotels and the like. No grip on reality, no basis of comparison of what true suffering is, the littlest thing goes wrong and the littlest thing that doesn't go their way and it's the end of the world for them. And then you're supposed to coddle them and play into it. The guy who thought his Christmas was completely ruined because his screening of Avatar was interrupted needs a swift kick in the pants.

Alright time to go back in your cage. No more screen time for you.

I went to the Carmike today and saw "Avatar." It had been showing in three of their auditoriums, now it's showing in just one.

Before the show, I peeked into the two closed auditoriums. In one of them, two seats are covered in white plastic, and you can hear the water continue to drip down. In the other closed auditorium, there's no visible defect in the ceiling.

I used to work at the carmike. When I was there I did concessions and one day cleaned the windows and bathrooms. I also took tickets. i was never at the front. The carmike in cville is a local joke there. one of the rules there was that on a day of a staff meeting did not show up you didn't work for two weeks and was written up. also if you were short in your register you were written up. When i was working there There manager at the time was very rude to the patrons and to the staff. she would come down and try to do my job instead of having some come in to work another register. I was written up twice for walking out and not having enough money. my reason was very justifed. i had to leave because of me getting a ride home and the manager knew i had to leave. I was fired the next day for telling this manager that i can do her job better. I would have done a better job than she would have anyway. The carmike in cville is a sad joke. Why don't they close it down? besides any movie goer can come to lynchburg and see a new movie at a new theater at the ruver ridge mall!

It's a great film in a good theater. We were getting a new theter till the Albemarle Place came to a halt. It was the stadium type design that would have killed the Carmike 4 off, which would have been taken down for the new road to the new whole foods
it's the recession's fault everyone!!!!!!

I saw "Wanda Nevada" (with Brooke Shields) at that drive-in. We sat in beanbags in the back of a pick-up and brought the family dog. It was awesome.

Forget C' to Richmond, nicer seats, cleaner auditoriums, better popcorn, great sound...if you are going to spend the money, get your monies worth!

Saw Avatar at the Commonwealth iMax...AMAZING!

mom says i was concieved in the fork union drive in. dad says he was drunk so he doesn't know. anyway, who needs stadium seats? we've got much better and sometimes crop circles with the farms here instead of the city things. take it or leave it alright?

The old school Jefferson was my fave. Two bucks and you're in.

Personally, I still like Vinegar Hill the best. The trailers in all the other movie theaters are so awful, and added to that, the blast your ears out advertisements, that I feel assaulted before the movie even begins. I try to arrive after all this is over, but during the holidays the crowds make this difficult, so I avoid these theaters altogether. On the other hand VH is clean, comfortable, and not to loud. Thoroughly enjoyed " The Young Victoria", last night.

damn talk about cheap fun ahh yes the summer of 01...

I miss seeing movies at the Jefferson. The price was right. The atmosphere was right. It was simply enjoyable. Now all we have are leaking theaters with little to no heat. I recently went to see Avatar, which I enjoyed, but does anyone else see something wrong with the "surcharge" for a pair of 3D glasses? Why can't we reuse the pair we already have?

And remember when there were two screens at Jefferson. I spent the mid-seventies watching X-rated films in the high bleachers--wonder if that would even be allowed these days, in our world class city ?

Vinegar Hill is great, too. I hope that they're still getting the likes of "Amelie" and "Y Tu Mama Tambien" that can fill the theater for extended runs.

I will say I am glad the Jefferson was properly renovated back to it's original charming self and not turned into an overpriced made in china yuppie outdoor $70 pair of daisy dukes clothing store.

If we could only have the late 80's early 90's Vinegar Hill back. The schedule changed weekly with lots of very short runs of great movies. That was before it turned into a middle brow sort of arthouse with seemingly endless runs of mainstream crap like Amalie. That was a cute movie, but really do we need weeks of that? The business has changed, but unfortunately, the people that used to make this a vibrant town seem to have been pushed out and replaced with people who are satisfied with movies that are nothing more than schlockie romance novels brought to screen. E-street in D.C. is the closest good theater.

And repertory programming doesn't exist anymore unless you live in NYC (Film Forum, etc), Los Angeles, Chicago (the Siskel Center), or San Francisco (the fabulous Castro Theatre).

I like Landmark Theaters but how are they different from Vinegar Hill apart from having multiple screens at most venues?

Where were "the half-dozen locally owned, smaller movie houses that were here in the 80’s." I know Vinegar Hill and the Jefferson/Movie Palace, but do not recall any others?

I also do not like setting through the commercials at Regal and Carmike, but that is the price you have to pay if you want to see the movies they are playing. And they have the movies I want to see.

My last drivethru was at the old Kroger spot. I saw "The Rescuers" and that was the day Elvis died. I was too young to remember but my moms really loves some elvis.

James, i remember all of those too, but cant remember the name of the one on the corner. I believe you can still see the display box on the wall where they used to put the movie posters in the alley between the tanning salon and baja. I remember seeing Home Alone at the Terrace Triple and RoboCop 2 at the Greenbrier

North Wing Barracks Road had a movie theater, about where Shenangians is now. Lots of midnight showings of The Song Remains the Same (Led Zeppelin), or was it just once?

This discussion is typical C-Ville. Stick with the old. Never advance. Live in the past.

Get with it people.

I remember well seeing movies at the University and Barracks Road Theaters as well as the Paramount. I would not have classified them as independents in the same way the Vinegar Hill Theater is. They were allied with one of the major film distributors. I think it is great that so many people recall these places.

Yes, my recollection of at least the Terrace Triple and Greenbrier was that they were relatively small (2 or 3 screens) and probably owned by a small chain, but they showed mainly mainstream Hollywood fare.

I think that the Hook should write a story of some length about the guy behind the Visulite and his growing independent movie theater empire.

I thought Avatar just showed that we should not have killed all the native-American Indians and taken their land. It was a very pro-Indian movie.

Thanks, Gasbag. It was right on the tip of my brain.

Flats - to my knowledge, the Hook has covered Adam and the Visulute mini-"empire" twice, although not in the past year or so:

also, I haven't seen "Avatar" yet, but it appears to look an awful lot like "Dances with Wolves" remade in the style of "ThunderCats."

So is Greenbaum independently wealthy or has a found the secret to renovating and running a place such as the Visulite and making a profit?

'cause ace businessman and snowstorm chaser Hawes Spencer ran the Jefferson for years, but I think that it basically only broke even and that didn't include extensive renovations.