Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Movie-Groaning Experience

I used to love going to the movies. Watching a flick with my friends and a bucket full of popcorn on a gigantic screen in surround sound was one of the best, and relatively cheapest, things to do. Maybe it’s my age (43) but I really think everything about the whole movie-going experience has changed, and for the worst. Read this in the voice of Grandpa Simpson. I know that’s how it sounds to me.

Stadium seating and TXH Surround Sound® is wonderful but what the Hell happened to the patrons? Of the last ten movies I’ve seen in the theatre (yes, the French spelling means I’m sophisticated), and they’ve all been in the past year, none have been without someone there to piss on my parade. I am a magnet for the self-indulgent; people who continually outdo each other in ways to distract me for approximately 90 to 120 minutes.

If I go to see a family-friendly flick like Shrek 1, 2 or 3 or Happy Feet, the more kids the merrier. I love hearing their excitement and laughter. I do not expect a quiet, experience; it’s a party. When I go to see an intense adult flick like Disturbia, I don’t expect to see infants and three year-olds. I understand every parent deserves a break, but putting your kids through the Turkish prison, ball-suspension torture sequence in Midnight Express because you couldn’t find a sitter is freaking ridiculous.

Just two days ago there were three women who came into the theatre after the movie already started (in the row directly behind me of course) and spoke to each other throughout the movie (about the movie!) at conversational volume. So did the couple to the left of me. Then there was the dude checking his blackberry every 10 minutes-it really can’t wait two hours?! And a text-messager in front of me. The theatre is nice and dark and I get white trails in my eyes because of the nuclear glow of a cell phone. I know this is the information age and people can now handle simultaneous streams of input, but I can’t. Not during my stories!

I love the reclining seats in the stadium-style theatres, but that just forces my head into my knees with a side of whiplash when the back of my chair gets kicked every time Lurch re-crosses his legs.

Oh I used to turn around and give them the stare but apparently I’m not very threatening and it just encourages more kicking or talking or texting.

I went to see Hot Fuzz and we were the only people in the theatre. And it was a really nice theatre with individual trays and leather seats. By the time the previews ended and the movie started, there were only eight of us! – all within six feet of each other. Why do you all have to sit next to me, in front of me and behind me? You could have your own section! Why didn’t I move? Once I sit I don’t like to change my seat – call it a neurosis; maybe I’m just that damn lazy. The woman two seats down had a big bag of Doritos®, which she ate two at a time. And she’s the only adult I’ve ever seen who actually chews each bite 32 times. Lucky me. It was like Girls Gone Wild Kingdom. At least she didn’t bray.

Then there are the plot-guessers. I do this when I watch TV so I know how annoying it is, but I don’t do it at the theatre. “Oh it was him. I know he killed her. He knew the code, he was the only one who was at the campus that morning, and he was totally screwing her sister. And he's a Latin professor who drives a Lexus with two worn tires. Can we go now? This was too easy.”

Or the plot-spoilers. Every time I go to see a sci-fi flick, there’s a kid within earshot who’s seen it three times already. And he can’t wait to tell his friend what’s about to happen next. “He dies here.” “He’s really a ghost.” “That's his dad but he doesn't know it yet.”

And my favorite, the play-by-play announcer. “Oh, she didn't like that. She’s getting in the car. She’s slamming the door. She’s driving away. He's running after her! She's getting away...” Excuse me, we're watching this as you are. We don't need audio captioning!

But it isn’t just the young patrons. I take my daughter to afternoon matinees and it’s like a Matlock convention. Just like me, retired folk love the matinee prices (I think they’re only $9.50 now) and they can be home for dinner by 4:00. Problem is, many of them can’t see or hear very well, so they ask their spouse or caretaker for help. Actually, they yell for it.

Grandpa Moses: “What did she say?!!”
Nurse Ratchett: “She said 'I don’t take it up the ass,' Stan.”
Grandpa Moses: “The what?!”
Nurse Ratchett: “The ass, Stan!”
Grandpa Moses: “Oh…shame.”

Regal Entertainment Group, who kindly brought “The Twenty” to my local theatre –

TANGENT: Really? Ticket prices are now $12.50 and everything on the concession menu is eight bucks and I have to sit through advertisements?! Which you get paid for?! If you dropped the ticket price, or even reduced the size of the small soda to two liters, I’d support you, but jeez!

– is testing out a Guest Response System. Movie-goers can alert management of any disturbances with an in-theatre paging device. If they picked me, I’d be buzzing in on that f'ing clicker like Rush Limbaugh on his morphine drip. The theatre would be empty and I could enjoy my movie without ring tones, the blackberry glow, conversations, cud-chewing/lip-smacking/bag-diving gluttons, plot guessers, pivotal moment-spoilers, Marv Albert, or seat-kickers.

Guess I should just stay home next time, huh?

I do have to admit my favorite part of going to the movies is the “In Case of Emergency” clip they run before every movie. It’s about 30 years old and has tons of lines and black spots and a really crappy soundtrack (like an old driver’s ed film). The voiceover says:

“In case of emergency, please walk, do not run, to the nearest emergency exit.” [PAUSE A BEAT] “This notice required by law.”

Cracks me up every time. Why do you tell us this notice is required by law? Couldn’t we just for a moment pretend that you care about your patrons, your fellow human beings?

“We actually don’t care if y’all die in a fire, flood or stampede. We left 20 minutes ago. But we had to tell you. It’s the law.”


Anonymous said...

I take my daughter to the movies often, and experience the same thing. I'm a freak magnet, with a target on my back and beacon on my head drawing them in.

The last movie was Ratatoulle (sp).

This time it was it was the deraded "Teeth Suckers" Uggh.

Anonymous said...

I agree with most of your points.... but there's a simple way to avoid the seat kickers: don't recline your seat so damn far.

My biggest pet peeve are the folks who recline their seat all the way in a crowded theater, forcing me to choose between being a seat kicker or suffering through the entire movie in discomfort because some douche feels the need to lie down and take up all my leg room. It's really bad if I'm in the back row, because I can't recline my chair at all back there to get away from the obnoxious bastard in front of me.

Mike Morucci said...

I hear ya. I have the same pet peeve on airplanes, when I'm trying to eat my microwaved chicken cordon bleu and the guy in front of me basically has his head in my lap. I also learned the hard way that seats in front of the exit row don't recline at all, so there's no escape!

macsmom said...

I only go to the Sensory-Friendly showings these days, which are much better than ordinary showings. They keep the volume at a reasonable level, and no trailers! However, you have to be prepared for all the wonderful special needs kids who make up the audience. The showing is really for them, of course. I just love the low-volume. Movies are just too darn loud these days!

Mike said...

I love that idea! And I'd be totally cool with the special needs kids. I'll have to check that out.

One Wink at a Time said...

While I have not done "the theater experience" in over ten years for a host of reasons, not the least being that my husband has Meniere's disease and would LOSE IT in a theater due to the lights and sound... AND I didn't even know you could get reclining seats AND the last time I was there it was, like $5-7 to get in AND I don't remember the emergency warnings... I can totally imagine how very annoying all these things can be. I think people were more considerate once upon a time and now, the cell phone use (alone!)would be extremely distracting. But this was very well-written (no surprise there) and I felt your angst the entire two-plus hours.
The hub and I rely heavily on rented (and purchased) dvds in the comfort of our own home. Sure, some of the action and effects suffer on a small screen, but judging from your experience, we are much better off on our own furniture.

Mike said...

Hi Linda. I had tinnitus and the whole tube in my ear thing when I was a kid, both nothing like Meniere's. I can understand why theaters and Disney World wouldn't be at the top of his list. Admittedly, I have a very difficult time with multiple streams of information - if multiple people on are talking, I can't zero in but I try on all. I was never able to study with the radio on - it's not background for me, I need to sing along, even in my own head. I remember Al Franken's skit on SNL in the 80s about the Me Generation. It's back, and in full force, and I think mostly because of how generations change the way they raise their kids - always with the best of intentions, but hard to balance love, nurturing and protection with respect and empathy for others - especially if one is taught "you are special; fear others; etc." A cell phone is personal, but it's use in an elevator, theater or the line at McDonald's is not. I watch most movies at home now and go off-peak times for flicks I really want to see on the big screen, like Avatar. I was going to the movies regularly when I wrote this and was super frustrated. So I would attribute half to the loss of civility (which can be brought back without infringing on personal freedoms if people would just look up at people around them once in a while) and my instant emotional reaction to selfish acts. Luckily, I'm Zen behind the wheel. :-)