BAXTER -- It's Friday night and the Warriors are playing a road game. Do you know where your kids are?
Perhaps they are at the Westgate Mall. Or they might be bowling or shooting pool, if they're lucky enough to get a lane or table. Go with door No. 3: They're catching a flick at Movies 10 at Westgate in Baxter.
"Every Friday during the 7 o'clock shows is when we have every sixth-grader through high-schooler in Brainerd," Movies 10 general manager Amanda Bachman said, exaggerating only slightly. She said a typical Friday night draws at least 200-300 teens. "Any PG-13 movie will draw a lot of kids in here."
You might think the fact that Hollywood honchos are counting a lot of the green from area youths would make an owner of a local establishment green with envy. But this has been going on for a long time. In the Brainerd lakes area, Friday is Movie Night, and there's not a darn thing any of us can do about it.
Eclectic Cafe owner Matt Taylor, 32, who grew up in Brainerd, was part of the moviegoing madness in the 1980s.
"There really wasn't an entertainment option other than going to the movies," he said. "I think I went to the movies every Friday and Saturday night when I was 16, 17, 18."
There are more entertainment options today, including live music at Taylor's downtown Brainerd coffee shop, but none the area's youth love more.
"We go almost every Friday," said Kelley Bevans, 14, Brainerd. She was at Movies 10 recently to see "The Wedding Date" with her moviegoing pal, Kelly O'Reilly, 13, Brainerd. "Sometimes we go with a big group of friends and go to whatever movie they're going to, but usually we go to what we want."
That's actually a bit of a rarity. Friday-night moviegoing tends to be more about hanging out with friends than the movie itself.
Carissa Schmidt, 16, Brainerd, and four friends settled on "Are We There Yet?" She admitted: "I don't even know what it's about." The group goes to the movies about once a month, primarily as a social outing.
Hollywood knows where the money is. On Friday, the marquee outside Movies 10 showed that 11 of the 12 films playing there were rated PG-13, PG or G. In other words, a moviegoer of any age could buy a ticket. The R-rated thriller "Constantine" is open to those 17 and older or, if younger than 17, those accompanied by a parent or guardian. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls
"I hardly ever watch a movie alone," said Justin Tyner, 15, Brainerd.
"It's kind of boring by yourself," added Giles Radtke, 17, Brainerd.
Although Schmidt and her friends are no doubt a well-behaved bunch of moviegoers, the emphasis on socializing over movie watching can make for an interesting (read: loud) experience for older patrons. This reporter discovered that awhile back at a screening of "Scary Movie 3." Most area movie buffs quickly learn their lesson: If you want to see a PG or PG-13 movie in peace, don't go to the 7 p.m. Friday screening.
"Parents generally will drop (their children) off," said Bachman, 24, who has worked at Movies 10 since 1997. "Most of the adults in town know if it's a big PG-13 movie to go to the 5 or the 9. They know at the 7 we have a lot of kids here, and they generally are not quiet during the movie."
But that's not to say it can be just any old movie unspooling on that big white curtain. Horror is king, and Hollywood knows it, which is why a new scary movie opens almost every weekend at Movies 10. Comedies are also big draws, and when the two genres merge as in the "Scary Movies," well, that's when Bachman might want to consider scheduling extra staff for the weekend.
Go ahead, accuse Hollywood of being dumb, but you can't fault its business savvy. "Alone in the Dark," a mildly-hyped R-rated horror flick, had a one-week run last month at Movies 10. "Hide and Seek," a heavily-hyped R-rated suspense film, did decent business. But "Boogeyman," rated PG-13, really packed them in.
"Boogeyman" was poorly reviewed, but among young moviegoers, "PG-13" carries more weight than "one-and-a-half stars."
Brittany Stuart (left), Jamie Welle and Sarah Handorf waited in the concession line Friday at Movies 10 before seeing the hit Will Smith comedy "Hitch." Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls
"With 'Hide and Seek' we drew a lot of the 17-plus people from the high school and around town because they could go to it; whereas the kids under 17, we didn't have too many of those last week," Bachman said. "But with 'Boogeyman' being PG-13, we've had a lot of them here."
Jade Perry, 16, Pequot Lakes, went to see "Boogeyman" with Missy Hammer, 16, Breezy Point. Both are big fans of scary movies.
"There's tons of them out I want to see a lot," said Perry, a fan of last fall's "The Grudge."
Perry and Hammer catch a flick about once every three weeks and describe themselves as casual moviegoers. If they miss a movie in theaters, they are likely to catch it on DVD.
This issue: Movie Night is a long-running tradition in the Brainerd lakes area.
Next week: But there's more to the area entertainment scene than movies and TV. In fact, there are as many scenes as there are types of teens. Of course, a few more options wouldn't hurt. Area youths weigh in on what the Brainerd lakes area has -- and doesn't have -- to offer.
On the Web: Check out the Dispatch Interactive forum at brainerddispatch.com and share your raves and rants about the area scene.
"We're probably (more likely to) wait for DVD," Perry said. "We have a movie night. It's a lot cheaper, too."
Radtke also enjoys watching movies outside the comforts of a theater. In fact, he likes to combine Movie Night with another Brainerd lakes area pastime.
"You can watch DVDs in a fish house," Radtke said with a laugh. "If you've got a generator you can watch TV. That's what we do."
For young fans of Oscar-level fare, "wait for DVD" and "drive to the Cities" are common parlance, although Movies 10 (which is booked by a Texas-based company) has screened four of the five Best Picture nominees. "Finding Neverland" hasn't found its way to Brainerd/Baxter yet.
Jesse Delaney, 22, Brainerd, caught "Sideways" during its all-too-brief two-week run last month.
"That was a lot different from most movies there," he said. "It was pretty good. I liked all the on-location footage."
But whether it's a film about wine-soaked buddies or fear-drenched teenagers, it all boils down to the same thing for the regulars at Movies 10: escapism.
"I just like to go to the movies," Delaney said. "It's always the same feeling, the big screen. It takes you out of here."
But don't even try to escape "Boogeyman."
JOHN HANSEN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5863.
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