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Friday, January 31, 2014

SunRay: Movie Maven’s Quirky Haven

cruiser destinations on the ics

Inside Jacksonville Florida's SunRay Theater.

As you pass under the marquee entrance through SunRay’s front door, you’re instantly enveloped by the swirling, otherworldly work of talented local multi-media muralist Shaun Thurston (click www.ShaunThurston.com to see more of Shaun’s work).  You’ve entered another zone, where art becomes more real than life, and anything can happen.  SunRay’s touchable, 4-foot fuzzy moth unfailingly triggers my flight into fantasyland.

What could be more fitting for an indy house?  Rather than a Regal or AMC replete with the latest audio-visual experience, SunRay is a throwback, a retro renegade, an indoor version of a drive-in, complete with vintage commercial and cartoon clip kickoffs. 

sunray theater jacksonville fl
Kombucha, beer, and popcorn in a stainless steel bowl at SunRay.
I’m always a sucker for mini-movie theaters, scrappy resistors of franchise fever.  They remind me of home, and quintessentially Portland’s McMenamin microbrew moviehouses (click here to see my favorite of the bunch, the Bagdad).  We sought these funky flimhouses out in a variety of places (click on each locale to explore each), including Kiggins in our hometown Vancouver Washington, Concrete, Port Townsend, and St. Helens.

For Wayne and me, the most memorable travel experiences are not the big “must sees” guidebooks and glitzy websites tell you about.  The hidden little neighborhood gems charm us most.  The “Cheers” before there was “Cheers” (click here if you don’t remember “Cheers”) kinda places, except, since we’re just passing through, we don’t expect anyone to know our name.  These are the places locals love; sweet unique escapes, that at the same time reinforce why they chose to call this particular place “home.” 

cruiser destinations on the icw
SunRay's appropriately retro logo.
That lack of indy theaters is part of why Everett WA didn’t touch our heartstrings, though I did watch an environmental documentary at the sometimes-showing one in town, which normally showed Casablanca-like classics and old fashioned horror flicks, neither of which are my thing.  Largely Everett’s lack is what propelled us to go vagabond, so in a way I’m grateful to it.

Back to SunRay…. What makes it special?

Settle in with a beer, a wine or even some locally brewed kombucha (click here if you want to know what the heck kombucha is), alongside your stainless steel bowl of buttered popcorn.  Or, eating in movie theater darkness, instead you might attempt to not wear the nachos you ordered from SunRay’s diverse concession stand nummies.  Our nocturnal eating finesse was decidedly lacking in that department.

cruiser destinations on the icw
Don't you want to touch this cool moth at SunRay Cinema?
We saw several flicks at SunRay, mostly indies, concluding, appropriately enough as cruisers, with the more mainstream “Captain Phillips.”  Yeah, Mom, we are not planning on making Somalia modern-day piratesville one of our cruising destinations.

“Captain Phillips” was probably the last flick we’ll see on anything larger than Wayne’s 15” laptop screen until we return to the States in June.  No wonder I no longer recognize the magazine cover celebrities at the grocery store anymore.

Even though we’re in Nassau now, “the big city” of the Bahamas, it’s not a safe place to toodle after dark.  Our next big film will be re-watching “Trading Places” again on Wayne’s little laptop from his hard drive stash of 200+ movies. 

We challenge you to set your guidebooks aside, ask the locals what they do for cheap thrills, seek out and share the small surprises you find!


As they say in Trading Places’ conclusion, on their sailboat, “Looking good!”

Location, Location
Jan 31th 2014. BAHAMAS. By the time this posts, we'll be in Nassau.  (This was pre-scheduled to run from the Berries).