Today on the blog, Emily Franklin writes about her real-life inspiration for Last Night at the Circle Cinema, her upcoming Carolrhoda Lab novel that follows three friends as they spend a final, fateful night at the Circle Cinema. Enjoy!
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off—6 times. With a group of older friends. With my older brother. With my little brother. With my parents. With the neighbor boy I used to make out with while we walked our dogs. With a friend I saw tons of movies with and who is now an ex-friend. So many evenings, rainy afternoons, summer sweaty sun-soaked crush-filled days at the Circle Cinema.
As in my novel, it’s an ugly building, with odd oversized pillars that suggest a sad grandeur that never was and huge windows that always had palm prints and lip outlines from people making faces at you in line. There were townies and prep schoolers, suburbanites and city folks—it was in a great location, partway between everything, across from the subway/trolley, and with lots of terrible, inconvenient parking. The kind of lot where you nearly got hit each time, where spaces were too small and oddly angled, where college kids back for the summer would take up two spaces, and where girls in bleached jean jackets huddled under the overhang to smoke, even in a downpour. So many memories housed in one place.
They’d expanded over the years, branching from one main theater to strange, tiny rabbit warren rooms off of tunnel-like corridors that were creepy even in the daytime. But the matinees were cheap, they showed everything, and sometimes my now ex-friend and I were the only ones in the cinema and we could talk all the way through a show. Or I could sneak into the unused balcony of the main theater with my older brother and chuck Jujubes on innocent moviegoers below and not feel guilty because it was dark and summer and he was leaving for college and my family was beginning to break apart, move abroad.
The real Circle Cinema shuttered years ago right when I moved back to Boston in my adult form. I wouldn’t be taking my children there or reconnecting with old friends in line. The huge, stained windows revealed a decaying interior—sheet rock hung from the ceiling. The Ground Round restaurant next door barely stayed open, and pretty soon even commuters didn’t want to go near the place even to park for free. But those letters spelling out CIRCLE on top remained. And, when I went for a closer look one day, I saw a potted plant in the upstairs window. Who had left the spider fern? I used my hand as a visor in the winter sun and could have sworn I saw someone looking out at me, waving. It could have been nothing. It could have been my old selves. It could have been any number of people gone to me now. I thought about landmarks—physical places we count on being there as the house for the memories—and how they get knocked down, and it’s up to us to keep the memory—the story of what happened—whole. And so Last Night at the Circle Cinema was born, right as the movie theater itself died.
Emily Franklin is the author of more than a dozen young adult books. She lives with her husband, four kids, and an enormous dog outside of Boston, Massachusetts. Look for Last Night at the Circle Cinema at your local bookstore or library on September 1, and follow Emily on Twitter (@efranklinauthor) for Last Night updates.