When curt schilling took the mound on June 22, Fenway Park was, as it has been for Boston's last 103 home games, sold out. So 297 fans in West Springfield, Mass., did the next best thing to watching the game in person: They packed into a movie theater to watch it in high-definition on a 58-foot-by-25-foot screen and cheer and boo with the Fenway fanatics. "The sausage isn't as good as Fenway's, but the seats are more comfortable, the AC is a definite plus, and the picture is so clear that you can almost smell Pedro's Soul Glo [hair gel]," said Joe Dorazio, 28, an insurance executive from West Springfield who came to the showing with his girlfriend, Jessica. "For five bucks this is as close to the real thing as you can get."
The Red Sox are the first team to regularly show games in movie theaters, an idea that came to Shari Redstone, president of National Amusements' cinema chain, last fall when she helped organize a contest to win seats to a game in a theater in Randolph, Mass. After receiving more than 25,000 requests for 400 seats, she got the Sox to allow her to pipe the team's broadcast feed for seven midweek night games into four of her New England theaters. "Coming to the theater gives fans a sense of community," says Redstone. "It creates excitement that you wouldn't get sitting on your couch."
The theater donates a portion of ticket revenue to charity, but just as at Fenway, vendors roam the aisles selling hot dogs and, at all but one location, beer. Theater fans struck up chants—including the old standby "Yankees suck," even though the Sox were playing (and beating) the Twins that night. And a group of kids tried to start a wave, but ushers told them to stop because they were jumping in front of the screen. Jim Shea, 48, of Northampton, who brought his daughter Cacie, 14, said he's just about given up on getting into Fenway. "I wait until they're playing the Blue Jays and bring my family to Toronto," says Shea. "It's a seven-hour drive; for only a 20-minute haul down here, this is a nice alternative." If he wants to go to the next broadcast, on July 6, he'd better get tickets soon. Judging from the people sitting in the aisles around him and the fans turned away at the door, the Red Sox, even in two dimensions, are a big hit.