El Salvador – The movie theater

Before we left for El Salvador I made a list of all the things I wanted to do and showed it to Carlos.

Volcano? Okay.
Mayan ruins? Yep.
Eat pupusas? Of course.
Go to the movie theater? … What? Why??

Because I hadn’t been to a movie theater in El Salvador, that’s why… and so we went although Carlos tried to convince me it was exactly the same as the theaters in the U.S., I knew that it wouldn’t be. It’s never exactly the same in El Salvador. Never. Ever.

Besides, our friends were on August break with nothing to do and we could take them with us. Because of the cost, they rarely go to the movie theater, so it was special to them.

First we had to decide which movie to see. I was very insistent that we see Harry Potter. We had already seen it in the United States and I thought that since the boys had seen it in English, it would be good for them to see it in Spanish. Carlos wasn’t crazy about seeing it again, and our friends hadn’t seen a single Harry Potter movie, so they would have been lost.

“He’s so cute, isn’t he?” Carlos’s friend’s wife said to me in Spanish, sighing at a movie poster for Captain America.

I crinkled my nose. “Eh, I don’t really like blonds,” I said.
“I think he’s so handsome,” she said, “I’d love to see that movie.”

That’s when I noticed our friend’s teenage son was wearing a Captain America hat. Clearly they knew which movie they wanted to see.

“Okay,” I sighed in defeat, “We’ll see Captain America.”

We went through the line and when we finally reached the cashier we had to decide whether we wanted to see the movie dubbed or with subtitles, (we chose dubbed.) Then before we could pay for our tickets we were told to pick our seats.

Huh? Pick our seats? Yeah, we’ll do that when we get in there with our popcorn and stuff.

No, you have to pick your seats now.


Our friend’s teenage son showed us the computer screen right there in front of us, where we had to pick our seats as if we were going on an airplane.

Picking our seats at the movie theater.

Assigned seats at the movie theater! “I told you it would be different!” I said to Carlos with glee.

The concession stand had all the usual items you’d expect but also some odd things, like chocolate cake. The ticket and concession prices were outrageous by Salvadoran standards, (just like in the United States), but comfortable for us.

The boys, ready to see their first movie in El Salvador.

Unlike the concession stands in the United States which leave you to juggle all your snacks on your own, in El Salvador they give you a very handy tray.

Carlos carries the popcorn and “Coca.”

We found our seats and were shocked at what a beautiful, modern theater it was. These seats were hands down the most comfortable seats I had ever sat in at a movie theater. The cushions were thick and the seats reclined. The theater itself seemed brand new and really clean… Keep in mind, this theater is at Metrocentro, the “poor people mall” as I heard it called.

Waiting for the movie to begin.

While we were sitting there waiting for the movie to begin, a young guy came up the aisle stairs and called out to his friend before going to the concession stand. “Qué quieres? Soda? Dulces?… Paloma?”

The guy started laughing and I did, too, although the joke was rather inappropriate to make with kids around. Luckily my kids didn’t get it. (In El Salvador, “Paloma” is slang for “penis” … and “Palomitas de maiz” means popcorn, of course. So, what he said was “What do you want? Soda? Candy?… penis/popcorn.”)

The movie, (“Capitán América”) – actually turned out to be pretty good. The audience in El Salvador tends to be more vocal than audiences in the United States. An onscreen kiss or a pretty woman entering a scene elicited a lot of appreciative hisses from the men. (In American culture, a “hiss” is considered a sound of disapproval but Salvadorans have hisses of approval, don’t ask me how, they just do.)

Then after the movie, our friends found it peculiar that we carried our own trash out to the trashcans, (nobody else did.)

All in all, a fun experience, and the best part was that the boys understood everything that happened with no need for translation.


  1. did they have a bottle of Valentina at the concession stand??? that’s my favorite part of going to the movies in Mexico!! I have to carry a small bottle of Tapatio here in the States hehe

  2. jaja! believe it or not, i’ve never been to a movie theater in Mexico either. now i’m curious to check out what i’ve been missing! thanks for the tip… ya esta en mi lista!

    • You should definitely go! The theaters in mexico to which I have been are very distinto depending the city and even the region. I have been in some with leather recliners and waitresses bringing drinks, and others (nearer TX) with folding chairs, bootlegged-shaky films, and tepache. Which is kinda way more fun.

  3. :) your experiences in El Salvador sound fun! I went to a movie theater back in the day in san miguel all they had was plain popcorn in little tiny paper bags and “gaseosa”(lol). We didn’t get to choose seats and my cousin was hesitant about sitting in the front because we would get urine thrown on us :s This was in the mid 90’s!!

  4. Movie theaters in Mexico are a trip too amiga! Juan ven y yo te llevo! There are VIP theaters where you have waiters, leather reclining seats and of course, everywhere you go, la salsa Valentina para las palomitas!
    I do hope people would carry their trash on their way out though. Hmmm….
    Pero que bueno que fueron y les gustó la peli amiga! Ahora toca venir a México, si? :D

  5. SO you went to see Captain America? Y vieron Capitan Centro America? bien chistoso, veré si te mando el link!
    Si, los cines aquí han mejorado mucho; son bien Americanizados (pop corn, candy). Yo preferiría ver “goodies” más locales. Horchata vs Coca, Mini Pupusas vs Pop Corn, Botonetas vs M&Ms, Melcocha vs taffy etc etc!
    Pero me alegro hayan pasado una linda tarde!

  6. I love going to the movies when I’m abroad!

    Theaters are Latin America are always interesting. Most are not yet your typical Superplex and you can see modern movies in a really old theaters. And these seats…! I know!!!

    Singapore had luxury theaters where there are only 20 or so seats and you get “room service” int he theater with champagne etc. I didn’t test it, too expensive (something like US$40 for a ticket).

  7. What a great idea, Tracy! I’ve been to El Salvador so many times — my mother-in-law lives there — and I have yet to go to the movies there. I know she has seen an “Inconvenient Truth,” for example, and other well-known movies in Spanish there. I will have to suggest we go together next time we’re there. :)

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