Have the pandemic and two years of social isolation left you with pent-up energy you’d love to get rid of? Do you spend too much time sitting in front of a computer screen? Do you miss going out with friends and doing something different and just, well, fun? Throwing things might be just what you need.
Welcome to Mattituck’s Axe and Smash. Even the name is fun to say — words you don’t usually hear in professional adult life.
“That was so much fun!” agreed three friends who recently engaged in some friendly axe competition.
The staff is used to hearing that. While the pandemic may have sped up the closing of the Mattituck movie theater, it is also the inspiration for its new transition to a multi-venue entertainment spot. And while there is one theater remaining for laid-back entertainment, the other theaters have been carved out for more active fun. The first to open is axe-throwing.
“The energy and the vibe in the place is incredible,” says an employee.
You can feel the anticipation in the waiting area, as visitors sign in and watch the safety video. Most put off food and drink until after the session, though guests are welcome to take it to the throwing area. A recent Saturday saw a group of friends attending the new axe-throwing venue for the first time.
What led the axe-throwers to give it a try? “It’s something different,” said Barbara McNally. “It intrigued me. Throw an axe — sure!” she laughed.
The session you sign up for — 30, 60 or 90 minutes — includes a safety video and lesson from an axe coach. The stalls — a cross between a horse stall and a bowling lane — are separated by walls and chain-link fences, and throwers stand in a box to throw the axe. Each lane has one axe and an axe box for the transitions from one thrower to the next, to avoid handing the axe to each other. The axe coach is nearby to give tips, answer questions and cheer you on.
It’s pretty simple, really: You stand in the designated box and hurl an axe at a target. The axe coach provides a short lesson and demonstration, then gives you pointers during your practice time. The directions were clear, concise and helpful for all levels of player.
There are two basic throws — one-handed or two-handed over the head — and you will discover quickly which is more comfortable for you. Most beginners find it surprisingly easy to pick up.
“Wow!” “Yay!” and “I did it!” follow the satisfying “thwack” sound as the axe blade sticks in the wooden target.
Once you are comfortable and hitting the general area of the target — and that took just five to 10 throws for us beginners — it’s time to play. After that, it’s just a matter of fine-tuning your aim to get more points on the target.
“It’s all about the release,” says veteran axe thrower Laurie Robinson.
Axe throwing isn’t just throwing at a set bulls-eye target. The targets are laser-generated and automatically change the basic bulls-eye to different bulls-eye layouts, so it stays interesting and challenging. Each lane tallies the individual’s score with a click of a mouse and also keeps a team score for all players in the lane.
“That is so lanes can play each other in league play,” says axe coach Anastasia.
Once you master the basic bulls-eye game, there are six other games to choose from, including Zombie Hunter, Duck Hunt, Tic-Tac-Toe and the popular Bottle Axe. With so much variety, the time passed very quickly, with friendly banter and laughter filling the lanes. Part of the appeal is that it is easy to learn, and anyone can do it — male and female, young and old (though the minimum age is 12).
Team play can even out any disparities among players. A recent group included three generations, including a young man teamed with his grandfather.
Asked what they enjoyed about it, one axe thrower said, “It’s different, a fun outing to do with a group of people.” “And it’s competitive!” chimed in another. No wonder this fun social activity and overall stress-reliever is called “axe therapy.”
Owner Marc LaMaina began as the owner of Lucharitos Burrito Bar next door to the theater. When the opportunity to take over the theater arose, he was full of ideas. Guests can order “Lucha Express Eats” such as churros, quesadilla, chips and queso, or popcorn chicken and eat in the concession area, at the tables near the axe stalls or in the outside area in warmer weather.
The venue also has a full bar, though it seems safer to wait until after throwing axes to imbibe.
One theater will remain open to show vintage movies specially selected for the season. For its Valentine’s weekend opening, the theater showed Sleepless in Seattle and, for the young and young-at-heart, The Little Rascals.
Showing second-run movies gives the theater more flexibility. New release movies are expensive and have strict requirements for how long they must be shown, so it is more difficult to make a profit.
If you’ve ever seen the 1990s commercials with Andre Agassi whacking paint-splattered tennis balls, you have some idea of what the owners have in mind for the Paint Smash rooms opening soon. These square rooms will hold a canvas or T-shirt, while a guest donned in jumpsuit and goggles will throw or whack paint at the “object d’art.” Talk about stress release!
Two theaters are being converted to an expansive indoor miniature golf venue, which will be open for viewing from the lobby. Plans are for a 1980s theme with nods to MTV and Pee Wee’s Playhouse in the décor.
With so many activities to choose from, the staff hopes people will linger for hours. Children can be playing mini golf while adults throw axes and grandparents watch it all, sipping margaritas in the viewing area.
Axe & Smash axe throwing lounge is at 10095 Main Road, Mattituck. Open Thursday to Friday, 4–10 p.m.; Saturday, noon–10 p.m.; and Sunday noon–8 p.m. For reservations, call
631-292-0020 or visit axesmashli.com.