Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The ordeal that is going to the movies

WARNING: THIS IS ONE OF MY RANTS

Since it’s the holiday season I’ve been going to the movies more often. (I still can’t believe how terrible THOR 2 was.) It used to be you’d take your seat early, the theater was quiet, you relaxed and settled in. It was nice.

Apparently theater owners have decided that wasn’t nice. First came music before the show. That was okay. Non offensive hits introduced by mildly-offensive disc jockey Kris Eric Stevens. Soon the hits gave way to new songs record companies were trying to get you to buy. This practice is still going on in places. Tell me, have you ever, even once, heard a new song at a movie theater that actually became a hit? “Here’s the newest from Sonya Goldschmidt…” “Who?” “…available now on Sony Records.”

And now we have a barrage of video featurettes – featurette being a polite name for blatant commercials. Several theater chains show “First Look,” a pre-packaged mish mosh of making-of clips, trailers, and ads. Michael Douglas effusively waxing on about how great it is to work with Robert DeNiro – like that’s going to make us want to go see a movie that is essentially THE HANGOVER for seniors.

When “First Look” is over they recap. “We took you behind-the-scenes of the great new movie LAST VEGAS, we introduced you to the brand new X-Box, and we met the stars from ABC’s big new hit, BACK IN THE GAME.” As if they were doing us a favor.

Now comes the cutesy “Turn off your cellphones” announcement always featuring adorable animated bunnies or fish or camels or blobs that look like Pac Men. Do they think that by attempting to be funny kids will actually comply? They don’t even turn their phones off during the announcement. How about this: Big black letters on a white screen – IF YOU USE YOUR CELLPHONE DURING THE MOVIE YOU WILL BE DRAGGED OUT OF THE THEATER, HUNG BY YOUR FEET IN THE LOBBY AS A WARNING TO OTHERS, AND YOUR PARKING VALIDATION WILL BE RESCINDED.  THANK YOU.  ENJOY THE SHOW. 

After that comes the flashy logo for the theater chain. We really have allegiance to AMC over Landmark. The truth is WE DON’T CARE. Your theater was close and the show time was more convenient. Period. Plus, someone is going to buy out your theater chain in a year anyway and it’ll be something else.

You think you’re finally getting to the previews, but you’re wrong. There are Coke ads. Mazda ads. In LA there are LA TIMES ads. Then there are commercials for one-night-only operas and prize fights the theater is going to show closed-circuit.

Previews yet? Almost. A thirty-second animated dazzling theater chain billboard announcing the previews.

Then a half hour of previews (with the sound often turned up to pain inducing decibel levels), another announcement reminding you to turn off your cellphones, a quick ad to buy gift certificates, a reminder of safety features, two ear-splitting logos for THX and whatever mega sound system they’re using, a thirty-second elaborate theater chain billboard announcing the feature presentation (for a long time AMC showed a young couple sitting in their seats, then plants and trees sprang from the ground lifting their chairs until they were watching while sitting in a forest. Huh???), and then mercifully the movie (unless it’s THOR).
It’s a constant parade of crap dressed up to look like entertainment and diversion but in reality is non-stop shilling. At a time when theater owners are facing formidable competition not just from other theaters but Netflix, Hulu, home theaters, and some of those shows and products they themselves are advertising – you’d think they’d go out of their way to make the experience special and better. Instead they bombard you with Mazda commercials. Here’s an idea: don’t show anything before the trailers. No one is watching anyway. Everyone is on their cellphones.

In an attempt to maximize the experience theater chains are offering new features. Loveseats in theaters (maybe the worst idea ever unless you’re on a date with a sure thing), cocktails and waiter service during the film. First off they’re distracting to those around them, and secondly, they just inflate the already inflated price to provide these useless amenities. The novelty of sipping a dry martini while watching BAD GRAMPA wears off pretty quick.

I don’t need espresso bars, I don’t need seventeen varieties of popcorn salt, I sure don’t need loveseats – I want clean theaters, clean rest rooms, unobstructed views, decent sound, the air conditioning not turned up to 30 degrees, screens that aren’t smaller than my iPad, convenient parking, real popcorn, and ushers to monitor the house and toss out cellphone users. I’ll liquor up after the show.

The big question is how to present this to theater owners so they’ll really listen? I know! Do an animated film with bunnies.

66 comments:

Mandy said...

I could not agree more on every. single. point. The deafening volume on previews, the horrific ads, the overpriced $4 bag of M&Ms. And they wonder why we lose interest.

Matt said...

Get off my lawn!!!!

Jeff Hysen said...

We saw Catching Fire, that's 2:26. From the time the movie was supposed to start, we had to sit through a half-hour of ads, reminders, and trailers. That's 3 hours of sitting. At my age, that's not going to happen without an interruption so I had to miss some of the movie (rude of them not to stop for me!). If I waited until it was On Demand, I would save the half-hour of nonsense plus I can stop it to "take a break", not to mention how much money I would save. It can be fun to go to the movies but the movie operators are taking some of the fun out of it.

ScottyB said...

I didn't think this was a rant. It's probably THE reason I don't go out to the movies anymore -- and pretty much the same reason I dread clicking on Internet/YouTube video links.

It's like the world has become all bullshit all the time.

Pete Grossman said...

Right the fuck, on!

Carol said...

That is exactly my thought process when I go to movies, which is rare anymore.

Where I live, taking myself and my son to a matinee is $20 just for tickets. One popcorn and one soda to share jacks the price up even more. And then I still have to sit through advertising. (I comfort myself by thinking the movie price would probably be even higher if they didn't do the advertising, but it's cold comfort.)

Best 'turn off your phone' thing I ever saw was in front of the 3D showing of the recent Doctor Who 50th Anniversary special, but you'd have to be a 'Whovian' to appreciate it.

Richard J. Marcej said...

Ken, I go to 60-70 movies a year. No I'm not in the business, no I'm not a critic and no, I don't get in for free. I just prefer seeing films as they were intended to be seen. On a large screen and in one setting. No commercial breaks, no tiny screen, no edited for TV.
That being said…

• Yes, I find all that crap they stick in the time before the film begins annoying as hell, but I've gone to enough films that I just ignore it. Yes, it's loud and obnoxious, but it's all white noise to me now. Not only that, for mid week, less attended films I can time it so that by the time I get my seat, all that stuff is finished.

• Wait, Ken, KIDS and cellphones???!!! Really, JUST KIDS? Are you nuts? The adults are more obnoxious, more clueless and REALLY RUDE when it comes to cellphones, especially in the theater. Yeah, thee are kids using them, but it's many, many more adults who don't give a damn to those around them.

• I kind of disagree with you there about the theater chain. I see most of my films at the Regal Chain and because I have one of heir cards I get a free movie pass for every 4-5 films I see. So for this avid moviegoer, I appreciate any perks I can get. Oh, and the card doesn't cost anything.

Swinefever said...

While I agree with pretty much every point you make Ken, I finally got to see Gravity last night and I cannot imagine seeing that movie anywhere else except at the IMax in 3D. Admittedly the story is pretty thin, but the visuals are so sumptuous and so stunning that to wait and watch it at home just wouldn't have done it justice.

I have to wonder, if it had been made 10 years ago, it might still have been an exciting, tense, dramatic movie, but would it have made such a big splash?

Anyway, having waited 6 weeks or whatever it was to go see it, I watched it in a half full theatre with only other middle-aged adults for company and there were only a few adverts - presumably because us latecomers don't buy stuff - so maybe that's the solution, don't go in the first week or two?

Personally I'd pay a premium to go to an ad-free screening. I'd also pay extra to go to an over 40's only screening. If I owned a cinema (in this day and age, fat chance) I'd seriously look at doing stuff like this to encourage more people to go to the 'empty' slots.

Mike Barer said...

I would trade all of that for better movies. I go to a movie now and forget about it the next day. Whatever happened to the films that stay with you for a lifetime?

PatGLex said...

Thankfully here in Lexington KY we have an old-time theater with a big screen that shows a lot of first-run movies, and doesn't charge an arm and a leg to get in. Their concessions are reasonable And they have beer! (I.D. required.)

(And for the want-to-see-first-run-in-living-room experience, we have a theater that has comfy seats, tables and serves food.)

Unfortunately, we still have to deal with the 15-minute barrage of commercials and previews at both....

Covarr said...

I live in a small town, and my local theater (yeah, only one without driving to another town) isn't part of a chain. We get some business-card style ads, some quiet music, some on-screen trivia questions, and the occasional video ad (but they're still not overloud)... and this all before the scheduled showtime. The only advertising that shows up after the movie is supposed to start is trailers, something the theater itself has little control over.

Scooter Schechtman said...

A few short decades ago there was a bit of a stink when theaters introduced ads like Pepsi before the show. "I paid for a ticket and I shouldn't be subjected to ads!" Today the advertising assault is so relentless and greed-driven we can only submit or ignore it by avoiding all media.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

The cellphones thing is beyond belief. A friend and I, courtesy of some gifted tickets, attended the London production of THE BOOK OF MORMON a couple of months back. 2/3 of the way through the first act, the woman next to me started texting on her cell phone. During the intermission, she said something to me and I took the opportunity to comment that I'd found her cellphone use distracting. Well! She has young children, and she has to be in touch!

I didn't say anything to her but I did mutter to my friend, who has grown children, that in our day you went to the theater, you left a phone number with the babysitter, and somehow we all managed to grow up.

wg

Mitchell Hundred said...

Alyssa Rosenberg wrote a nice little piece on this subject a while back. Basically she argues for development of more theatre-exclusive content, which I think is a good idea. You can get most of those bells and whistles like food, drinks, even theatre-quality presentation from the comfort of your own home nowadays. Pixar's shorts are one of the few things to make me glad that I've seen a film in theatres.

Cedric said...

I totally agree that all that pre-movie clutter is annoying. But could it be that those ads are probably the only thing keeping the theaters in business?

Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but my understanding is that Hollywood keeps almost all of the money from ticket sales leaving very little for the theaters. That's why you have to take out a second mortgage to but popcorn and soda for the kids - it's the only way the theaters can make any money. I'm just speculating as I know very little about the real economics of the theater industry, but as theater attendance keeps dropping it wouldn't surprise me if selling ads is probably a necessary evil to keep the cash flow coming in and the doors open. Unfortunately, the result is a viscous cycle that drives away some movie goers, which means more ads to make up the difference, etc. At least, that's my theory.

Somehow theaters need to find better ways to boost their incomes without annoying their customers. Anyone have any ideas? (And no, I don't work for a movie theater chain. I'm just fascinated by the mingling of art and commerce).

Michael said...

In almost 13 years of marriage, my wife and I have gone to seven movies together. That may be a comment on the quality of the movies, but it's also a comment on the cost and the annoyance, which you have captured beautifully.

But one caveat. At the old MGM Grand (now Bally's) in Las Vegas, they had a movie theater where they showed classic MGM films and all of the seats were loveseats. I was too young to know THIS, but I know from friends that for a date night, it was absolutely wonderful.

Terry said...

Well said, Ken! I live in Kansas City and we are fortunate enough to have an Alamo Drafthouse here. It is one of the most enjoyable moviegoing experiences I've had in years.

Instead of a barrage of advertisements before the film, you are treated to a series of clips of shows, songs, etc. that are related to the film itself. For example, last year I saw the first Hobbit film there and beforehand we saw clips of Sir Ian McKellan from an episode of "Extras" and Leonard Nimoy singing "The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins." It was hilarious. It's good to know that some theater chains are still doing it right.

Mike said...

@Carol: You saw the Dr Who 50th in a cinema. "Well done, you."
The biography Adventure in Space & Time is excellent.

Darth Weasel said...

With big screen tvs, surround systems and what have you, I can get the experience of "seeings films as they were intended to be seen" at home. I can buy the blue-ray the day it comes out for less than the price of admission and if it is good watch it repeatedly.

At the same time, I know part of the cost of new stuff I want to see coming out, like what Ken considers the execrable Thor II (which I enjoyed a great deal for its mindless, massive plot-hole ridden fun) is to see them in theatres. Direct to video stuff tends to be direct to video for a reason..

I do think it is pretty funny that the home dvd trade is where many movies really make their money, yet theatres now take a shot at it with their "no movie should be reduced to this" blurb...suspect that is theatre driven, not movie-maker...

Gene P. said...

Amen, brother.

Anonymous said...

Ok, I'm gonna get crucified I know, but I just DO NOT understand all the sturm and drang over cell phones in theaters. I don't. If you are so incapable of concentrating on a movie that is up on an enormous screen that a small cell phone light 8 rows below you is disturbing, then maybe you do need to watch movies at home in a sensory deprivation tank.

Noise I can understand a little more, but my texting, in my lap with the light of my phone turned down as low as possible cannot possibly be the end of civilization. You may prefer not to text or tweet or whatever during your viewing. That's fine. But if I'm doing it without making noise, and without shining the light right in your face I really, really, really don't get what the big deal is.

And don't pile on telling me that I'm "disturbing the experience" with my light. I've heard it all before. Again, if it's in your face I'd understand, but in my lap with my hand blocking most of it is not a distraction unless you choose to make it so.

Ok, there, I said it. Have at me, people!

Howard Hoffman said...

What Covarr said. I was astounded at how much junk they threw up on the screen before a movie in L.A. Now that I live in a smaller town, practically all the pre-show effluvia is gone, gone, gone. You get about four previews, and without fanfare, the feature film. And up here, it's just seven bucks for a matinee.

darms said...

Anti-cellphone trailer shown before each film by a local theater chain - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1L3eeC2lJZs

Constance Reader said...

Ken - hit the Alamo Drafthouse in San Francisco. Tim and Kari League remember why we go to the movies. Their extensive 35mm film collection is in giant cabinets at the Slaughter Lane theater in Austin.

Hell, Ken, just come to Austin.

Mitchell Hundred said...

But if I'm [texting during the movie] without making noise, and without shining the light right in your face I really, really, really don't get what the big deal is.

It's a big deal because human instinct automatically draws our attention to anything out of the ordinary (like, say, the few sources of light in a darkened room). It's a survival mechanism. So even if you think the light is too dim for anyone else to see, chances are it is distracting someone else. And if there are people right next to you in the row, or behind you, then the light is essentially in their faces.

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

It's the volume that hurts me...and I was a rock 'n' roll drummer in the '60s (OK, a bad one, but I made a Big Noise!) A bit deaf already in my ear that was closest to a 22-inch cymbal...and still my ears hurt from the volume of the pre-movie stuff.

I'm not in the movie theaters' target audience anymore, so it doesn't matter to them, I guess. I just try and remember to be 20 minutes late when taking my seat...

And the household Christmas gift this year will show movies on a screen the size of Cucamonga, so it looks as if there'll be fewer trips to the cineplex.

RANDY COLEMAN said...

hey ken...you nailed it...it's not a rant when it's the truth

Sean R. in NoCal said...

Hey Ken,
My local theater does the the cell phone thing. Black screen, white letters. "If your phone goes off we will kick you out. Period. With no refund."

But they also do all that other annoying BS too.

Dixon Steele said...

Cedric,

The theaters split the gross with the distributors, so they're making money there as well.

Igor said...

Ken, have you ever read Terry Southern's "The Magic Christian"?

It's the story of Guy Grand, a billionaire/oddball who enjoys spending chunks of his money to play elaborate practical jokes, often on the public at large. (I've never seen the movie version, so if you've seen that, perhaps this was included; but otherwise...)

Regarding theater management, including the concept of two people in one seat:

"If there is one unexplored territory," Grand continued, waxing expansive now, "one virgin wood alive today in this man's land of ours -- it is cinema management! My dad -- 'Dad Grand' -- was a championship golfer. That may be why . . . now this is only a guess . . . but that may be why he always favored the maxim: 'If you want them to play your course -- don't put rocks on the green!'"

Grand paused for a minute, staring down at the manager's sparkling shoes as he allowed his great brow to furrow and his lip to purse, frantically pensive. Then he shot a question:

"Do you know the story of the Majestic Theatre in Kansas City?"

The manager, a man with thirty years' experience In the field, who knew the story of every theatre in the country, did not know this one.

"In August, 1939, the management of the K.C. Majestic changed hands, and policy. Weston seats were installed -- four inches wider than standard -- and 'a.p.'s,' admission prices, were cut in half . . . and two people were to occupy each seat. The new manager, Jason Frank, who died of a brain hemorrhage later the same year, had advanced Wyler Publicity nine hundred dollars for the catch-phrase, 'Half the Price, and a Chance for Vice,' which received a wide private circulation."

Grand broke off his narrative to give the manager a searching look before continuing:

"... but it didn't work, sir! It did not work . .. and I'll tell you why: it was a crackpot scheme. A crackpot scheme, and rocks on the green!"

Wayne said...

I sat through a movie preview so loud, I couldn't hear the texting.

Wayne said...

I sat through a movie preview so loud, the only thing I could hear is my arteries hardening from the popcorn butter.

Richard J. Marcej said...

@Anonymous (really, you couldn't sign your own name?)
Yes, your texting is disturbing and rude. Your light DOES disturb my enjoying the film. Tell you what, next time you go to a movie I'll sit somewhere in the theater and periodically turn on a small flashlight. Then a few other people will do the same. Would you not find that rude? Disturbing?

The theater his pitch black, the only light source coming from the screen (the tiny lights on the steps are red and do not put off enough light to grab any seating person's attention) any other light that goes off immediately grabs a person's attention.

And no, I don't need a sensory deprivation tank, but hey, maybe you need to stay home and text to your heart's desire. You're in a PUBLIC theater. You're among OTHER people. All of your intent is to watch and (hopefully) enjoy the film. You want to chat with friends? Great! Then do it elsewhere. There are plenty of places to do that.

Or to put it more succinctly, how about being a little less selfish and rude and occasionally think of others.

Anonymous said...

My biggest gripe is before the movie begins and for this reason I seldom attend movies any longer.

Parking is a real pain.

Then our new movie chain multi-cineplex requires us, at the time we purchase the ticket, to select a seat before going into the theater. This causes a line to back up, as people look at the seating chart and then bicker between themselves as to where to sit.

Now, I can understand this on weekend evenings. But on a Tuesday afternoon when here are only about 10 people in the whole auditorium, it seems stupid.

So I select my seat and walk into the auditorium. The lights are so low, I can't see the seat numbers anyway. I am waiting for the day someone walks up to me and tells me I am in their seat (when the rest of he place is empty).

Then a live person comes out and gives a brief synopsis of the movie (don't we usually know what a movie is about before purchasing a ticket?), tells us to turn off cell phones and leaves. Then we get all the other stuff Ken describes.

Easier and cheaper to just stay home.

Breadbaker said...

Our lovely Majestic Bay Theater in Ballard does none of this. A real live person comes out before the show, welcomes you, reminds you to turn off your cell phone, and usually has some swag to throw to the audience. They show one clip for Elttaes Theaters (Seattle backwards), a cute thing about not dropping your concessions on the floor, and then the previews start. Not surprisingly, we go there almost to the exclusion of all other theaters.

Dale said...

Note to Anonymous.

By texting, you impose your will upon others.

Powerhouse Salter said...

I'd consider paying extra for a movie theater experience that guaranteed NO surround-sound. I can't abide the rear speaker "realism" that sounds like someone dropping heavy equipment in the theater lobby.

Tim Garner said...

@ anonymous:

YOU are a big reason why I don't go to the theater any more. You, and others of your ilk, with your sense of narcissistic self entitlement that tells you that whatever you are doing in public is your right, and no one else around you matters. I'm sure that your endless tap tap tapping doesn't bother the other rude people like you in the theater, but for the rest of us that have some sense of how to behave like adults in public, it's irritating as hell. The ten bucks I paid to see the movie isn't supposed to include the added attraction of being distracted by the light of your smart phone and listening to you giggle when your buddy texts you from three aisles over to tell you "this movie suks nd ur a moron 4 liking it".

If you can't wean yourself from the social media teat for the two hours it takes to watch a movie, then just, for God's sake, stay home and watch the movie when it comes out on Netflix.

DBenson said...

Modern multiplexes, as often noted, feel like airports. Although some try for luxury and scale, it's still just a place where everybody's being sorted into drab little loading areas for separate flights.

I like theaters that feel like theaters: Whether the lobby offers movie palace grandeur or a small college coffeehouse vibe, you feel like everybody's there for one big event. The show.

Jason said...

Just go to Arclight theaters. No commercials or awful self promotions. Sure it costs a couple dollars more, but that keeps out the "obnoxious guests". They have assigned seats, so you do not have to show up an hour early and wait in line if you see a popular movie on the first weekend.

Dana Gabbard said...

Alamo Drafthouse is coming to downtown Los Angeles. They eject after one warning for talking or texting during a screening!

Besides LA Times ads (which are run in exchange for a discount on theater advertising) how about those annoying arty KCRW promos?

susie said...

I love the Riverview Theater in Minneapolis. Granted it's a second run theater (currently playing Blue Jasmine, Last Vegas and Elysium), but it's a one-screen theater, has amazing popcorn which is reasonably priced, and is only $3 to get in. Local ads, videos of local bands all on the screen before, then just previews and the movie.

Best theater ever!

RareWaves said...

I remember back in the late nineties taking my pre-teen daughter and a bunch of her friends to a movie as part of a birthday party. Before the movie, they showed the Loews Muppet Policy Trailer. I laughed so hard at that, I was in tears... and then I realized that I was the only one in the entire theatre laughing that hard. I had totally embarrassed my daughter. Oh well, it was and still is funny to me. http://youtu.be/Q1O5ezvfmM0

Sue Dunham said...

Last 2 times they just showed the movie. Then we all left, and they showed it again. More showings = more money. Is that hard to figure out?

Anonymous said...

Went to one of those "service" theatres in Del Mar by accident. Paid extra, was consantly bothered by waiters going back and forth taking and delivering orders. Near the end of the film was even worse as they came to collect for the checks. Not going to one of those again.....

Phil In Phoenix said...

I have only been to a movie theater ONCE since the 1980's. That was for a free preview screening of "The Black Dahlia", a subject that fascinates me. The movie was inaccurate and terrible.

And no, I'm not 112 years old. I'm 53.

Gary said...

@ anonymous:

The real tragedy is that you do not have the attention span to sit through a 90-minute movie without texting. And you are probably to the point now where you can't imagine going for that length of time without looking at your phone. Believe me, you can do it -- many of us have done it for our whole lives.

Sirusjr said...

I agree completely with everything in the original post and most comments. Sadly, I find that when I complain to people about this they think I am just being a whiner and am crazy to suggest I am not going to go to movies in the theaters anymore.

While the advertisements are quite annoying I find the trailers even more annoying because I tend to see the same trailers repeatedly. I wrote a post on this recently at my blog:
http://marvelmvs.wordpress.com/2013/12/09/do-theaters-show-too-many-trailers/

I do think that sometime soon once I get a proper large TV I will just give up going to the movies completely. Until then, I find that wearing a set of concert ear plugs is enough to get me through the theater experience without going crazy. And it has the added benefit of saving me from hearing the person behind me chatting or eating popcorn.

The ear plugs I wear are something like this:
http://www.amazon.com/Etymotic-Research-ETY-Plugs-Protection-Earplugs/dp/B0044DEETC
They let you hear all of the movie sound while just slightly reducing the volume.

Jeffrey Mark said...

We've become a society of impatient people...we seem to need to be always always in touch with someone on our phones. Why is this? Once upon a time people actually set 2 hours aside and simply watched a movie. They didn't need to be in constant contact with anyone outside the theater. What has happened to us? We are being held captive by our smart phones. We have itchy trigger-fingers and feel the need to always be looking and touching our phones. It's simply become so crazy now. It's everywhere and it certainly is in movie theaters. How did people survive 40, 30, 20 years ago without phones? They did. And...they enjoyed the movie, "text-free."

Janice said...

I'd rather watch a commercial than have to sit through the "trivia" questions... Two minutes of staring at "Name this film: MIRACLE ON ____ STREET"

Chet said...

Man, you people are grouchy. Go to Redbox and stay home so the rest of us can enjoy the movie.

Terry Sachs said...

Well, that's the thing, Chet. If you can't enjoy a movie without whipping out your electronic baby bottle, then you're the one who should stay home.

cadavra said...

I never go to a movie during the first two weeks unless it's a limited-run art film. By the time I do see it, most people have moved on and I and the other four people can enjoy the film in peace. As for all the ads, do what I do: bring a crossword puzzle. (The house lights will still be on in most theatres.)

Johnny Walker said...

Oh god yes!!!

Thank goodness for Arclight when I'm in LA (here in London I've become an expert at getting in just before the movie starts).

The Alamo Drafthouse is also a film lovers paradise, or so I hear.

David L. said...

I don't know how anyone can sit through a half hour of ads, commercials, slide shows, muzak, and whatever else. That's a TV experience, not the movies.

I can't go to a multiplex at night or on weekends or when the movie is new. Too many people means too many texters and talkers and noisy kids. Lucky for me, my schedule permits me to go to mid-week matinees, and if you wait until the movie has been out a few weeks, usually it's older people and a small number. I've been to showings where I'm the only one in the theater. I time it so I go in after the trailers have started. That's the only way I can stand it. Same at the Landmark or indie theaters, but there the crowds are usually better behaved.

Everything you mention, Ken, seems to be just the further decline of the culture. Or as Lou Pascal said, "It's all s**t now."

Storm said...

I'll be going to a theatre to see "The Desolation of Smaug", but not for at least a week after it comes out, during a matinee that is NOT during Xmas break, and NOT in 3-D (which doesn't work for me and gives me a migraine), simply because it's a movie I NEED to see on a BIG screen with a great sound system, to truly appreciate all the work that went into it (I know a few people at Weta Workshop, lovely, spectacular, talented people). The last movie I saw in a theatre was the first "Hobbit" last year; before that, it was the painful waste of time that was the first "Star Trek" remake in '09. Other than these, I haven't been in a theatre in nearly a decade, for all the reasons you mention, plus one; perfume/cologne. As I said before, I get migraines, and one of my main triggers is strong scents/smells, and some people seem to feel the need to just slather stink all over themselves before going to an enclosed space like a damned theatre; I've gotten headaches from the perfume of people that weren't even in the theatre anymore, so great was the stench they left behind.

But yeah, I'm a proud enough nerd to admit, I'll gladly take my chances to see Smaug on the big screen. But I'll try to minimize my exposure to stinky assholery by seeing it after it's been out a while and there's hardly anyone there.

Cheers, thanks a lot,

Storm

You have some of the craziest captchas I've ever seen on a blog, yet you still manage to get spammed? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, over?

Waves of Gray said...

Doesn't it seem like the last people to enter the theater (usually well after the movie has started) always seem to sit right behind you and talk or otherwise make noise throughout the whole length of the film? Or am I just the lucky one?

Barry Traylor said...

I agree with you Ken about the blatant commercials. I always arrive a bit early and it drives me batty as the theater shows the same ones over and over. The ones that really offend me are the local ones for car dealers that appear to have been filmed using no talent relatives of the car dealer.

Ian Gilchrist said...

Well put sir...and you didn't even touch on the most annoying aspect of contemporary cinema going...the other annoying bloody patrons.

Were these people raised by wolves? WHY in gawd's name are you answering your phone in a cinema (surely the cinemas can emit some sort of sonic blocker that renders phones unusable?). My favourite line to use on talkers is 'Does this look like your sitting/living room?' Just because many people have such giant screens at home now (that approach the size of smaller multiplex screens) doesn't mean that the same etiquette applies to both types of venue.

My son and I saw Django at the fist sreening on Christmas day last year at his local Westwood (LA) mltiplex. We were sat next to a nicely dressed middle aged black couple who talked at a normal conversational volume level throughout the film, and she answered her phone at one point and chatted away for two minutes!!

WTF!!?? I wanted Django to come down off the scren and put a bullet in each of their thick skulls.

So, while the too long onslaught of preshow b.s. IS truly annoying (except for trailers...I like trailers...although they did get that name because they were originally shown AFTER the main feature), the most annoying thing at the cinema is the other people, rude, boorish and generally ill mannered louts who continually spoil the experience of big screen film watching for those of us who were raised to comport ourselves in a quiet, respectful manner at the pictures (as my Scots father would have said, bless 'im.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Anonymous: in the case I mentioned, she held the phone up near her face, full light on, in my field of vision.

Darth Weasel and others: the real "movies as they were meant to be seen" thing is the shared experience element. I imagine that was greater when everyone went to the movies and no one had TVs - you met people you knew, much as you would at a local pub (and in fact I have had this experience of movie theaters). I agree, though: all the ancillary crap - the rattling candy and chip bags, the cell phones, the loud talking, the other distractions have made audiences something to avoid. It's a pity. But it's why Roger Ebert, after the 2012 festival, wrote an ode to the audience who attended on his blog. It's the one audience that's a genuine delight to be among.

wg

Susan said...

If they really want to improve the movie-going experience, you know what I really want? Reserved seating. I live in NYC, and if I want to go to a movie anytime within the first three weeks it opens, it involves buying tickets online (with a surcharge, of course), getting to the theater 45 minutes to get online, and then a mad scramble for seats. And then having to sit through all that pre-show "entertainment" because I had to show up that early just to make sure I wasn't in the first row. What I want is to show up ten minutes before the movie, and take a seat that's waiting for me. An AMC in NYC recently introduced this (plus recliner chairs, which is pretty cool), and whenever possible, I will go to that theater.

RCP said...

Unless it's the opening of a film I'm dying to see, I also avoid the first week or two. I love the sympatico of a rapt audience, but more and more it comes at the price of endless previews, cows chewing their cud, and talkers. I can ignore texting, but have to wonder at people who can't be present for two hours.

It used to drive my mom crazy when she'd go to the movies with my grandmother back in the '30s and '40s. If it was a murder mystery (Grandmother's favorite), she'd constantly elbow my mom saying, "He did it." "She did it." "I bet it's her." She also had some winners when it came to actors like Clark Gable: "I wouldn't mind having his shoes under my bed."

Jerry Bachman said...

Ian has a good point. I don't like the texting (during the movie; before it doesn't matter) or too many trailers or cable movie commercials or trivia quizzes ("_ _ _ _ with the Wind") or the AMC teenagers with the vines and shrubbery around there seats.

But I can deal with any of that. It's the full-volume chatter that annoys my whole family. Laughing, gasping and other reacting to the film itself is part of the experience (we loved seeing "Singin' in the Rain" and "White Christmas" with an audience) but some folks like to comment on anything they see, either with misguided wit or a play-by-play.

My Aunt Sadie used to watch TV like thst. "Oh, he's opening the door, Jean." (Jean was my grandmother.) "Ooh, she said she didn't wanna see him." "He's making coffee." "Oh, she spilled the sugar, Jean." At least Aunt Sadie did this at home. And because it was Aunt Sadie, it was funny in a Huntz Hall kind of way.

When people insist on talking near me, I "go mime" on them. First I exaggerate cupping my ear to hear. After several of these, I'll stick my forefinger in my ear and voraciously make a show of trying to clean it out. You'd be surprised how well it works. And no, the other patrons are not annoyed because the talkers bothered them, too.

As to the noisy, annoying pre-movie commercials, I bring my iPhone and listen to what I enjoy and focus on that. Then I turn off the phone when the film starts.

Oh, and while we're making lists of annoying movie things, how about people who take small children to movies with adult-level horror? Too cheap to get a sitter so we have to hear you mess these kids up?

Bec said...

I live 20min from the closest cinema. We leave home at the time the movie is advertised to start, and even with queuing to buy tickets we usually enter the theatre just as the movie is starting. So much better!
My pet peeve? Here, they've done away with separate candy bars and ticket windows so now they're all in the same place. So, you spend ages standing behind the parent buying each of their 3 children a meal deal and debating which character cup they want, when all you want is a ticket.
Oh, and we now have cinemas with beanbag seats!!! So you can enjoy the rustle every time their occupant moves. No thanks!

Anonymous said...

I have no problem hearing the movie wearing earplugs.

chuckcd said...

I agree with you completely.
I am already paying to see the movie, do I need to pay again by watching commercials?
This is why God invented blu ray and home theater...