Watching the Debate in a Gallery Place Movie Theater

"It was more painful than I thought it was going to be.”
Watching the Debate in a Gallery Place Movie Theater
Popcorn and politics. Mmmmmm. Photo: Pexels

About 100 people were at the Gallery Place Regal Cinema Wednesday night to watch the final presidential debate. Many were millennials lured by comfy seats and a concessions discount: buy a popcorn, get a free soda. Others went because they don’t own TVs and didn’t want to burn data on streaming. Most wanted to see which way the opinion of their city was leaning.

“DC is very diverse: a lot of different backgrounds, different perspectives, different ages,” said Jacklyn Wilson, 39, who went to the free screening hoping it would energize her. “I feel like this is a good microcosm for what the voting public is like.”

The crowd was for Hillary, overwhelmingly. Viewers—minus a lone Trump supporter in a red hat and T-shirt—reacted to the Republican nominee the way one might a montage of people getting hit in the crotch. He got laughs for his very first answer: “Supreme Court, it’s what it’s all about.” People groaned when he mentioned Chicago, and the group let out a collectively horrified “Oh!” when he said there were “bad hombres” entering the country illegally. Later, when Trump brought up inner cities and the black and Latino communities, a woman called out, “Stop talking about us!”

The audience at the Gallery Place Regal Cinema filtered in before the last presidential debate started.

Clinton got a murmur of admiration when she walked onstage in her cream-colored pantsuit. The most sustained applause came after she condemned Trump’s graphic description of late-term abortions and defended Roe v. Wade. 

After closing statements, people lingered to process what they’d seen.

Luis Medina, 48, originally from the Dominican Republic, watched on the big screen to better focus on what the candidates said.

“To make a decision, you have to be informed,” he said. “I felt emotionally compelled for Hillary, but I wanted to use reason, too.” After hearing their arguments, he’s sticking with Clinton.

Dupe Bakare, 37, came for the camaraderie.

“It was good to see other people’s opinions and reactions,” she said, adding that most of the responses she heard matched her own.

Rand Anderson, 56, went with his wife and two college-age sons, hoping to get a read on the DC voters’s vibe, rather than just their family members’ opinions.

“It’s different when you have a whole theater backing you up,” he said.

Anderson’s 23-year-old son Max Anderson wasn’t totally convinced.

“I’m going to go take a shower now,” he said. “It was more painful than I thought it was going to be.”

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Editorial Fellow

Andrea is a fall 2016 editorial fellow at Washingtonian. She graduated from Columbia Journalism School in May and has written for Eater, Outside, and Vice. She lives in Bloomingdale.