Getting it done at the Carolina
Kristen “Pally” Hrncirik probably stood out that day in Canal Winchester, Ohio, when she watched Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” in a movie theater with a bunch of her sixth-grade girlfriends.
It wouldn’t have just been because of how young she was at the time, in the audience for a movie based on Stephen King’s story of a winter caretaker going homicidally insane in a Colorado hotel.
No, it may have been the giggling.
“I had to laugh all the way through it so I wasn’t scared,” she recalled.
Pally, as everyone who meets her calls her, joined The Carolina Theatre as a house manager in January 2011.
Madeleine McBroom, a volunteer at Durham’s downtown cinema, described Pally as refreshing, with a tough country-girl charm.
“She’s loud, outgoing, colorful and has a ‘get-it-done’ mentality,” McBroom said.
Previously, Pally worked as general manager of the Blue Bayou Club in Hillsborough. The owner put that business up for sale, but Pally couldn’t afford to buy it. She collected unemployment for a few months before taking the job in Durham.
“I basically went from a 100-seat venue with over 6,000 members over the course of eight years to a 1,500-seat venue with three theaters,” Pally said. “I see a lot of the same faces from the Bayou days that come to see some outstanding blues and rock performers.
“It’s nice to hug as many of them as I can when they walk through the doors, yelling, ‘Pally, where have you been? We miss you!’”
She devises schedules and leads pre-event volunteer meetings.
Sometimes, Pally finds herself struggling to be everywhere at once.
“I usually have a half dozen people yellin’ my name at the same time,” she said. “Pally, I need this or Pally, I need that. Pally, where is this? Pally, Pally, Pally!”
On occasion, she handles bouncer duties.
“If there are no security personnel on duty for a show, she skillfully and fearlessly handles ‘delicate’ audience situations herself,” McBroom said. Pally gets it done, often with a disarming laugh.
Her favorite moment working at the Carolina – so far – would have to be from the 2012 performance of Buddy Guy, when he came off the side of the stage, guitar in hand, and proceeded into the lobby toward the concession stand, where he asked: “Can I get a beer?”
“How in the hell are you going to hold it while you’re still playing?” Pally countered.
He chuckled, nodded, then roamed up to the balconies to play for the nosebleed seats.
“Unforgettable,” she said.
In the age of on-demand and DVR, Pally still thinks it’s a prime time of opportunity for cinema houses like the Carolina. That Blu-Ray player won’t greet patrons with a smile and a “How ya doin’, sweetie?”
“No one wants to go to a place where the staff is miserable and not absolutely approachable in every way,” Pally said. “I personally say hello to everyone I see with the biggest smile on my face.”
Wes Platt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-419-6684. Follow on Twitter at @HS_WesPlatt. Connect on Facebook at facebook.com/wesplattheraldsun.