The films stink more than the greasy audience
January 13, 2005 11:11 AM   Subscribe

"Do you like this, the greedy scrabbling in greasy boxes, the whole herd determinedly chomping and chewing and slurping . . . don't you feel even a little bit as if you're in the pig barn, at exactly the moment the big trough full of ground intestines slops over for all to rush towards and snuffle in?"

Why movie going sucks by Russell Smith of the Globe and Mail.
posted by Quartermass (85 comments total)
 
After I posted this, for some reason the link wants me subscribe, which is weird because it didn't do that on preview.

Here is the article in question in case the linky doesn't work... (this article had me laughing out loud in the coffee shop this morning).

The films stink more than the greasy audience
By RUSSELL SMITH

It's time someone came out and said that not only are movies terrible, but that the whole experience of going to movies is highly unpleasant. How is it possible that this sensory stressfest has become the most popular entertainment of the contemporary age?

How can people possibly enjoy the lining up, the waiting with coats on for tickets, then the shuffling with the heated herd toward a crowded, windowless room? And when you get to that butter-scented trough, with its seats piled high with coats and scarves, the representatives of humanity who surround you are anxious: They are focused on their feed. This focus is quite dramatic. Their eyes are glazed and dilated, their shoulders are hunched over their cartons, they are stuffing themselves with viscous oil products with orange cheeze whip on fried nachos, with yellow "topping," with gallon jugs of liquid sugar. They have the concentration of chess players, of athletes before contests, of the starving. Do you like this, the greedy scrabbling in greasy boxes, the whole herd determinedly chomping and chewing and slurping . . . don't you feel even a little bit as if you're in the pig barn, at exactly the moment the big trough full of ground intestines slops over for all to rush towards and snuffle in?

They will settle down, after 15 or 20 intense minutes. Once they have had their fill of trans fats, they wipe the chemical film from their faces and they start talking to each other. This is where my angst goes up a whole notch on the hystero-meter. Because I have been trying to distract myself from the nauseating smells and the comical cacophony of crunching by watching the slides on the screen. These slides test your knowledge of Hollywood stars. They are there to remind you of death, of your inevitable subsumption into the great terrifying artistic void that is movieland. They are there to remind you that you do actually know all the stars' names, even without wanting to: As soon as you see the blurry visage and the clue "went postal" you murmur, automatically, Kevin Costner, and then you are amazed at yourself. How do you know every Hollywood star's name? It has happened by osmosis; you are so immersed in it every day, like a nacho chip in a tub of yellow goop, that it has seeped into your pores.

Anyway. The slides are at least better than hearing your neighbours begin to talk. The sociological lessons learned from overhearing conversations in cinemas are even more depressing. One learns that most people like to communicate by announcing what food they like to eat and what food they don't like to eat. This is an interactive discussion: Each participant takes a turn. You may change the subject slightly in the second or third rounds -- you may, for example, announce how tired you are today as compared to how tired you were yesterday or on Saturday, and then everyone may follow suit with similar admissions. This apparently amuses and interests most people, for it can go on for some time.

You will think that there is a merciful God when the lights finally dim, because the movie is about to start and save you from the insane boredom of your surroundings. But you will be very, very sadly mistaken. Because this is the beginning of the ads. These are ads you must watch. When you are watching television, you can change the channel during ads, you can get up and have a sherry. But here you are trapped, and the ads are amplified. Everyone sits docilely munching and slurping and watching extremely loud ads on a big screen for a half-hour. And they pay to do so. They pay to have various cheery jingles and swooshing automobiles blared at them for a half-hour. No one seems remotely uncomfortable or bored.

Who can make it this far into the movie-watching experience without being so agitated, so depressed, so foul-tempered that even the greatest masterpiece would not provide anything, at this point, remotely resembling pleasure? At this point I have wanted to leave for half an hour, and that desire to leave will simply continue for the length of the film.

I don't even need to go into how disappointing that great payoff invariably is. You've heard me on this before: It doesn't help that 90 per cent of films shown here and discussed here are made by the great schmaltz factories, the megastudios of southern California. So that the great treat of this experience, the feature presentation that is the point of all this suffering, is going to contain a lot of very emotional music which lets you know when to feel sad or happy or scared, and a lot of huge close-ups of the sad faces of famous actors, and very probably a final scene with a sun-dappled forest with a deer emerging to remind our characters of their natural wonder. . . . (I'm thinking here of the film Kinsey, which I was persuaded to see because otherwise intelligent critics, their minds numbed by exposure to schmaltz of even more preposterous gooeyness, had proclaimed it brilliant, and which turned out to be, of course, another Hollywood weeper made according to the strictest rules of narrative convention.)

Honestly, why, why, why do we pay to have ads broadcast at us at insane volume? Why do we pay to have productive hours of our lives removed and replaced with the sameness, the predictability, the boredom of the grave? Explain it to me: rssllsmth@yahoo.ca .
posted by Quartermass at 11:14 AM on January 13, 2005


registration only link.

And has anyone noticed that bugmenot seems to have no valid logins anymore?

On preview: thanks.
posted by nobody at 11:19 AM on January 13, 2005


Sounds like he could solve most of his problems by not turning up early and by not going to shit films. Which would also leave him more time to address the problem of sounding like an enormous wanker.
posted by biffa at 11:21 AM on January 13, 2005


The sociological lessons learned from overhearing conversations in cinemas are even more depressing. One learns that most people like to communicate by announcing what food they like to eat and what food they don't like to eat. This is an interactive discussion: Each participant takes a turn. You may change the subject slightly in the second or third rounds -- you may, for example, announce how tired you are today as compared to how tired you were yesterday or on Saturday, and then everyone may follow suit with similar admissions. This apparently amuses and interests most people, for it can go on for some time.

That part seems to be less a rant against moviegoing than about being around other human beings in general.
posted by vacapinta at 11:21 AM on January 13, 2005


Russell Smith needs Prozac.
posted by keswick at 11:23 AM on January 13, 2005


There is probably a medication that would improve his movie-going experience.

(which makes one wonder what the appropriate med would be)
posted by milovoo at 11:25 AM on January 13, 2005


Oh, should have previewed - Keswick is probably right about that.
posted by milovoo at 11:26 AM on January 13, 2005


Much madness is divinest sense
To a discerning eye;
Much sense the starkest madness.
’T is the majority
In this, as all, prevails.
Assent, and you are sane;
Demur—you ’re straightway dangerous,
And handled with a chain.

Part One: Life. Dickinson, Emily 1924 Complete Poems
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:27 AM on January 13, 2005


Yes the last time I was in a theater one of these hideous plebians touched me and it took me hours to scrub myself clean even with the harshest wire brush I could find.
posted by fleacircus at 11:28 AM on January 13, 2005


> Do you like this, the greedy scrabbling in greasy boxes, the whole
> herd determinedly chomping and chewing and slurping . . .

Well, you go to a big cineplex to see shitty movies, you get a shitty audience. Go to a small theater showing more interesting movies,
and you'll realize people are much more civilized.

Or go buy them big $5000 TV, foot insane cable bills to get commercial free craps and give me a fucking break.
posted by NewBornHippy at 11:29 AM on January 13, 2005


Google News works better than bugmenot, in many cases.
Type "greasy audience" into the search box, and you've got it without registration.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:31 AM on January 13, 2005


He could rent films, or get them from the library, and choose carefully to avoid the crapola.

Oh, I forgot, he gets PAID to see films and write about them. So he has to do it because that's his horrible, dead-end, life-energy sucking job. Poor, poor Russell.
posted by orange swan at 11:31 AM on January 13, 2005


Russell Smith has always been the kind of snob who goes where he'll be most offended, just to experience the sublime pleasure of being revolted by the lesser classes' horrid habits.

Shame, because he's not untalented as a writer. If he just gave up on his H.L. Mencken fetish, he might actually admit to himself (and whoever's reading him at that point) how much he really loves those greasy proles he consorts with.
posted by chicobangs at 11:33 AM on January 13, 2005


Yeah, I read this on the way to work today. Cute.
posted by DrJohnEvans at 11:33 AM on January 13, 2005


The article is so misanthropic its not even funny.
Which in turn makes it funny, in that it doesn't seem like he is joking.

Though if I am being honest, I will admit to thinking the same things from time to time when attending the film du cinema. I distinctly remember going to see "The Passion of the Christ" and walking out of the theatre past a super sized man and woman bawling, and at the same time stuffing their faces with the remainders of a jumbo sized bag of popcorn. At the moment I walked past, the man sucked the last of the jumbo sized pop with a loud slurp, and I couldn't help but feel a little disgusted by the scene. It just seemed so... crass.

In my town, we aren't lucky enough to have an art house, but if you think about some of the above comments a little ("if you would only go to an arthouse, then you wouldn't have to experience such unpleasantness"), they are not too far off from what Mr. Smith is writing about.
posted by Quartermass at 11:33 AM on January 13, 2005


> Everyone sits docilely munching and slurping and watching
> extremely loud ads on a big screen for a half-hour.

It's call pre-show entertainment. You're just giving them a bad name to
make us think they're bad.

No?
posted by NewBornHippy at 11:34 AM on January 13, 2005


Well, I for one think this article is awesome and totally right on. Sure, he could chose to go only to good movies and show up at the last possible moment. But that wouldn't change that fact that, in theaters around the land, people would still be paying money to see shit films and eat terrible food while watching "The Twenty" (anyone else seen that monstrosity in their theaters?). So his points would be just as valid. There are good movies out there, but the movie theater experience is pretty lame for the most part. (This is revealed when everyone is like, "well, he could, um, not go to the cineplex or, um, rent movies and stay home, or, um, take mind-altering drugs to make it better.")

Quoth Adorno and Horkheimer 50 years ago:

If most of the radio stations and movie theatres were closed down, the consumers would probably not lose so very much. To walk from the street into the movie theatre is no longer to enter a world of dream; as soon as the very existence of these institutions no longer made it obligatory to use them, there would be no great urge to do so. Such closures would not be reactionary machine wrecking. The disappointment would be felt not so much by the enthusiasts as by the slow-witted, who are the ones who suffer for everything anyhow. In spite of the films which are intended to complete her integration, the housewife finds in the darkness of the movie theatre a place of refuge where she can sit for a few hours with nobody watching, just as she used to look out of the window when there were still homes and rest in the evening. The unemployed in the great cities find coolness in summer and warmth in winter in these temperature-controlled locations. Otherwise, despite its size, this bloated pleasure apparatus adds no dignity to man’s lives. The idea of “fully exploiting” available technical resources and the facilities for aesthetic mass consumption is part of the economic system which refuses to exploit resources to abolish hunger.

Since when did criticizing multiplex movie theaters and the boredom and lameness to which they subject us equal being an insane misanthrope? What--should we praise nasty movie food, in-theater commercials, outrageous ticket prices and bad movies because we like people?
posted by josh at 11:36 AM on January 13, 2005


There are all sorts of things I don't enjoy doing. Some of them involve other people.
posted by Eamon at 11:36 AM on January 13, 2005


I'm glad someone mentioned the eating though. For me the worst moment is during the studio logo for the feature, when everything is silent except for the sound of ... mastication all around me. It always makes me think of insects.

I've stopped going to popular movies almost entirely. People DON'T just gawp at the screen in their food comas. They text message their friends or actually make phone calls, or cough continually, or do some other thing that ticks me off. I'm certainly aware of my increased irritability, but I swear the threshold for rude behavior has changed. To me movies theaters are another public space where even the idea of civil behavior is deteriorating.
posted by coelecanth at 11:38 AM on January 13, 2005


There are plenty of options, even if you don't live near an art house. You could wait until after a movie's opening weekend. See it at a Sunday matinee. See it on a weeknight. See it (if you're luckily unemployed like me) during the day. See it at the latest show they have.
posted by goatdog at 11:40 AM on January 13, 2005


I've been reading Smith's column for a long time, and that's the snarkiest I've ever seen him. Way to go, Russy!
posted by Succa at 11:41 AM on January 13, 2005


Right goatdog, but he's not saying that there are no options. He's saying that the most-available option totally sucks. Which it does.
posted by josh at 11:42 AM on January 13, 2005


I do get a kick out of the fact that nobody is actually defending the opening-weekend movie experience.
posted by Eamon at 11:44 AM on January 13, 2005


Maybe this is why I haven't been out to the movies in a couple of years now.

I like my home theatre much better. Because I'd probably get stuck sitting next to the asshat who wrote this essay and I'd have to punch him in the face for being such a freakin' wanker. Even though he makes some decent points about rude people in theatres.
posted by fenriq at 11:44 AM on January 13, 2005


Does Russel Smith realize how much he sounds like Hannibal Lecter? From Hannibal:

Shoulder room [aboard a typical passenger plane] is twenty inches. Hip room between arm rests is twenty inches. This is two inches more space than a slave had on the Middle Passage. The passengers are being slopped with freezing-cold sandwiches of slippery meat and processed cheese food, and are rebreathing the farts and exhalations of others in exonomically reprocessed air, a variation on the ditch-liquor principle established by cattle and pig merchants in the 1950s.
posted by bobo123 at 11:45 AM on January 13, 2005


I say lets go for the mega-giga cinema, where every effete little jackass has his own private booth so he can keep close company with the one he loves. That way I don't have to listen to their exasperated little huffing when a cheap plot-point goes through, or that smug little chortle escapes their lips when a piece of dialogue strikes them as abnormally subnormal.
posted by Perigee at 11:48 AM on January 13, 2005


Go to a small theater showing more interesting movies, and you'll realize people are much more civilized.

Alas, not necessarily true. One of the biggest stories to come out of reputedly pleasant Ann Arbor in the past year was the story of a man who went to enjoy an evening’s entertainment at … not the multiplex, not the pig-laden proletarian trough of which Russell Smith speaks, but the State, which is an old-fashioned marquee theater that shows revivals and indie films.

Anyhow, this man goes to see “Triplets of Belleville,” hardly “Lord of the Rings” or “National Treasure.” Sitting behind him is an obnoxious man and his wife. Theatergoer Number 2 begins throwing food and kicking the back of Number 1's seat and stage-whispering to his wife about what he’s gonna do to Number 1.

Number 1 gets up and (politely, or so it seems, given the subsequent court testimony) asks the guy to leave him alone. Number 2 responds by grabbing the guy and kicking him down the stairs, dislocating several ribs, etc., etc. Number 2 eventually got sentenced to a few months in prison and fined the cost of Number 1's multiple medical bills.

The case was a cause celebre here in Michigan and is Exhibit Number 1 in why I hate going to the cinema. Russell Smith may be a wanker, a jerk, and a misanthrope, for all I know, but his sentiment is not lost on me.
posted by blucevalo at 11:51 AM on January 13, 2005


I have to agree with the article really. I hate going to the movies, which is why I don't go. Nachos, especially. Whatever asshole thinks stale chips and canned cheese sauce passes for nachos needs to be shot.
posted by puke & cry at 11:52 AM on January 13, 2005


abnormally subnormal.
I guess subnormal things usually are.
posted by sonofsamiam at 11:53 AM on January 13, 2005


I think the fact that he sounds like Hannibal Lecter makes the article even better!
posted by josh at 11:53 AM on January 13, 2005


I say lets go for the mega-giga cinema, where every effete little jackass has his own private booth so he can keep close company with the one he loves. That way I don't have to listen to their exasperated little huffing when a cheap plot-point goes through, or that smug little chortle escapes their lips when a piece of dialogue strikes them as abnormally subnormal.

Oh, so it's manly now to like bad movies and in-theater commercials? Great. Sit stoically and enjoy this mediocre crap, young Spartan!
posted by josh at 11:56 AM on January 13, 2005


Not like talking in movies isn't bad, obviously, but still.
posted by josh at 11:57 AM on January 13, 2005


Yeah, crowded movie theaters suck if you're alone and hungry for intellectual input. But "nauseating smells and the comical cacophony of crunching"? Just a small change here and there and you have "Why Going to Lunch Hour Sucks", by Precocious Petey Poindexter, 7th grade.

(Speaking of Spartan, that was an okay flick).
posted by fleacircus at 12:01 PM on January 13, 2005


As a card carrying misanthrope who considers the googleplex experience absolute torture, I now want to marry Russell Smith. Thanks QM.
posted by CunningLinguist at 12:03 PM on January 13, 2005


Actually, opening weekend at a multiplex is the worst possible time to go. I don't see it as a "most-available option" at all. Tickets sold out half the time, the parking lot is full, long lines, gangs of teenagers talking on their cell phones... how is that "most available"? It strikes me as particularly unavailable. Much better to wait a week.
posted by goatdog at 12:04 PM on January 13, 2005


Where in the article does he say 'opening weekend'? My local big multiplex costs the earth, sells nasty nachos, is full of people with blaring cell phones, and makes me watch 20 minutes of commercials every weekend anyway.
posted by josh at 12:06 PM on January 13, 2005


"That part seems to be less a rant against moviegoing than about being around other human beings in general."

What's wrong with that? I saw The Talented Mr. Ripley in a multi-misery-plex. Sitting behind me was a gaggle of noble humans who were a) not smart enough to follow the plot; and b) not smart enough to sit patiently and wait for it to become clearer. During the scene where Damon's imitating his father, one of the girls quite audibly gasped, "DAT'S HIS FAWDA????" Face it, some of us are smarter than others, and we all have a god-given, federally mandated right to bitch.
posted by scratch at 12:07 PM on January 13, 2005


I don't hate going to movies so much as I hate the people who go to movies.

I think the theatre should be split into two separate soundproof rooms, both with equal access to the show. People who want to discuss the movie while it plays, or who have kids, or who expect cell phone calls ,go to one room. People who want to watch the movie in a silent environment go to the other.

That said, I think the room reserved for noisy people would remain empty, because people suck.
posted by mudpuppie at 12:08 PM on January 13, 2005


"Other people aren't as good as me, and some things suck."

Can I be Russell Smith now?
posted by Fontbone at 12:09 PM on January 13, 2005


Huh, blucevalo, my ex-GF was socked in the face by a old man whom she had shushed in a Detroit movie theater a couple of years ago. Maybe it's a Michigan thing...

puke & cry, if you don't think of them as nachos they are sort of dementedly delicious.
posted by nicwolff at 12:10 PM on January 13, 2005


Russell Smith has always been the kind of snob who goes where he'll be most offended, just to experience the sublime pleasure of being revolted by the lesser classes' horrid habits.

Reminds of some recent thread behaviour.
posted by spicynuts at 12:18 PM on January 13, 2005


I'm with Russell. I'd be a little less insulting about it, but I mostly agree with his sentiments. Thank god for things like Netflix.
posted by Jupiter Jones at 12:19 PM on January 13, 2005


Where in the article does he say 'opening weekend'?

I was talking more to you than to the article. You said "most available option," which I concluded to be opening weekend at a multiplex, since the other options I gave were not opening weekend at a multiplex.

I go to the multiplex, and I haven't had most of these problems. I defraud my way in with my old student ID, so it doesn't cost me the earth. I don't buy the nachos. I talk to my companions while the commercials are playing, or I read a book if I'm alone. If there's an asshat talking during the show, I'll ask him or her to be quiet (unless he's bigger than me, in which case I just move). If the movie is good, I stop seeing or hearing anything except what's onscreen, which is why I will continue to go to the movies whenever I can. You can't replace that feeling of being completely lost in a movie at home.
posted by goatdog at 12:22 PM on January 13, 2005


Face it, some of us are smarter than others, and we all have a god-given, federally mandated right to bitch.

Agreed. Now, if only you people would wipe your asses more thoroughly before venturing out into the public, I wouldn't be forced to bung up my nostrils with mentholatum just to abide your fetid animal aromas.
posted by gigawhat? at 12:24 PM on January 13, 2005


If there's an asshat talking during the show, I'll ask him or her to be quiet (unless he's bigger than me, in which case I just move).

Actually, to play devil's advocate for a second, this is the number one thing that bugged me about the whole "Triplets of Belleville" anecdote that I summarized above.

That is: if the first guy was so bothered by the second guy, why didn't he just move to another seat?
posted by blucevalo at 12:26 PM on January 13, 2005


So why, if movie going is so unbearable (which it for the most part is), do we all still go (myself included)?
posted by Quartermass at 12:26 PM on January 13, 2005


Does Russel Smith realize how much he sounds like Hannibal Lecter?

See, I heard Ignatius J. Reilly
posted by petebest at 12:27 PM on January 13, 2005


goatdog, what you say is completely true, and I do lots of the same things--bring a book, don't buy nachos (though I actually reaaaaaaaaaaaly love movie popcorn. mmm). Personally though, I'm bummed that big multiplex movie theaters are so lame most of the time.

Occasionally there are awesome multiplexes--they have tasty, not over-priced munchies, are clean and don't have the nasty sticky floors, have cheap matinees (the theater near me doesn't offer matinees any longer) and don't have those terrible ads. The existence of those awesome multiplexes makes me particularly annoyed when I live near a mediocre one, especially since lately movie theaters are heaping on the lameness, getting more expensive, adding ads, and so on.

I guess what I mean is: just because you can do all that stuff to make movie theaters enjoyable doesn't mean you should have to do it.
posted by josh at 12:30 PM on January 13, 2005


I, for the most part, don't mind crowded theaters because I've had moderately good experiences. In a number of packed theaters I've had a reasonable quiet to watch films, non-obnoxious people near me, and a good view of the screen. I've been attending at weird times or at smaller theaters, though. Cutting out of work early to see a new film on opening day is useful, if you can do it. In the end, any minor annoyances are lost in the retelling if you like the film.

That said, the few times someone really annoying was sitting near me are etched in my memory. Woman who was watching half a dozen kids under the age of ten who took them to The Ring? I'll be annoyed forever. Group of guys who decided that it was reasonable to take and make cell phone calls during one of the Matrix sequels, even when they were shushed, glared at, and threatened? Scum of the earth. But really no worse than anyone I've run into at a restaurant or concert. Also, movie theaters need to learn that jacking the volume up to obscene levels isn't the answer -- it just means people will yell over the film.
posted by mikeh at 12:30 PM on January 13, 2005


So why, if movie going is so unbearable (which it for the most part is), do we all still go (myself included)?

For one thing, there's nothing like seeing a movie on the big screen. (And that experience is not replicated by watching on a big-screen TV.)

And, all the miseries and irritations above accounted for, there is nothing like sitting in a darkened theater with a bunch of other people watching a good or better than good (or even just entertaining) movie unfold.
posted by blucevalo at 12:30 PM on January 13, 2005


Gigawhat, don't you mean fœtid? (going for total elitism here)

Josh: no matinees? Burn the fucking place down. (I'm only half kidding. That would really piss me off. The noive.)
posted by goatdog at 12:32 PM on January 13, 2005


I can't sit in the seats at a movie theater anymore. They have moved seats so close together, my knees begin to ache unbearably. If I cross my legs, the bottom of the seat doesn't meet the underside of my knee, so it hurts after a bit. If I try to extend my legs they hit the backside of the seats in front of me and my knees hover above the seat. If I sit straight up completely with both feet on the floor it is still uncomfortable on my knees. I have literally been writhing in pain almost to tears during movies.

I'm not particularly large either at 6 feet tall and about 260lbs. And nor do I have any knee problems or have problems anywhere else. I like to think I have a pretty high tolerance for leg pain since I work 40 hours a week on my feet.

It has just become physically impossible.
posted by andryeevna at 12:36 PM on January 13, 2005


This forum at good ol' Fametracker has more great/appalling going-to-the-movies horror stories than you can shake a bag of overpriced popcorn at.

I say good on you, Russell. Don't shoot the messenger!
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:39 PM on January 13, 2005


If he hates his job so much, I'll trade with him.
posted by shawnj at 12:43 PM on January 13, 2005


"So why, if movie going is so unbearable (which it for the most part is), do we all still go (myself included)?"

Well, we don't all still go.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 12:54 PM on January 13, 2005


Attending major sporting events with sell-out crowds is usually great fun.

When it comes to the movie going experience and the always present loud talking, face stuffing, obnoxious person kicking the back of my seat , well misanthropic sums up my attitude.

Having said that, I still go on occasion for the large screen experience and will probably see the upcoming Sin City at the local rude-o-rama.
posted by redneck_zionist at 12:58 PM on January 13, 2005


When you are watching television, you can change the channel during ads, you can get up and have a sherry.

Priceless.
posted by felix betachat at 1:10 PM on January 13, 2005


He should see Good Bye, Dragon Inn by Ming-liang Tsai. You know, speaking of movie-going experience.
posted by Shusha at 1:13 PM on January 13, 2005


I love seeing movies first run movies in the theater but will never see them opening weekend.

I too get grossed out by all of the eating sounds.

What I always hate though is when I want to get a diet coke -- even for $3.00!!! -- the people at the concession stand move in slow motion. So it takes forever!

And the 20? I hate the 20. I'd rather go back to the days of the slides.

But my favorite movie experience is the Alamo Drafthouse. They show cool clips before the show, has full menu of food [but you don't hear your neigbors eating] and beer and wine.
posted by birdherder at 1:14 PM on January 13, 2005


Here is the email I wrote to him in response.

I read your article about moviegoing with glee unparalleled since reading John Wasserman's 1970's descriptions of the "special blend of chewing gum, saliva, and Coca-Cola concentrate" slathered on movie theater floors. Some of us decline to shell out money for seeing the same sad, tired ads, the same exact pre-movie reels - I'm sure you've noticed, they only change them out every few weeks, until you know the trivia before it's asked. It would be a terrible sense of deja vu, but people who go frequently to movies simply adjust.

So there is the option to simply stop. Which is what some people I know have done. Sure, there's nothing like watching a movie on a beautiful, big screen. But the only times I do so, now, are when I'm sure there are no other people in the theater, or only a handful. I do not go to expensive, first-run theaters, ever.

I also decline to go to so-called "art" theaters, which boast slightly better sociological studies pre-show, but make up for that bit of goodness with the kind of people who will whisper to each other in awe if the director references any obscure film. In extreme cases, including anything Quentin Tarantino has ever directed, this whispering may rise to such a level that your ears ring when you leave.

Instead, I go to the dollar theaters. At horrible times of day and night. Times when no sane person would go to the theater. This way, at least if you have company, they are sure to be interesting. It's not everyone who shows up to a second-run movie at 2 PM on a Tuesday.

This also affords the advantage of not needing to sit immediately behind the inevitable Public Display of Affection Couple. The PDAC is no recent phenomenon. However, they used to be confined to their own automobiles in drive-ins. The demise of the drive-in theater has forced them inside. There is nothing more distracting than trying to ignore the young people devouring each other's faces in the row ahead while trying to pay attention to the young people devouring each other's faces on screen. It seems teenagers do not devour each other's faces on Tuesdays. Perhaps it isn't feeding time.

Dollar theaters also consider themselves "no-frills." While this inevitably means a seat without a cupholder big enough to hold the "five gallon pail" size Coke, it also means that there are often no slideshows. The ability to stay away from "races" involving soda bottles is well worth waiting the several weeks it takes for a movie to migrate from the multiplexes to the out-of-the-way discount theaters.

One dollar theater I used to frequent in Madison, Wisconsin even plays interesting mix tapes full of good new music. I often ask the dollar theater workers (who can most generously be described as "laid back") what the music is. They never know, and they never know who put the tape in. I've taken to bringing a notepad to jot down lyrics, for later lookup. Whoever the invisible person is who makes the tapes, they're universally pleasant to listen to, not too distracting, and full of things I'd like to listen to again. I'd thank them if I could.

Of course, then there's the problem of the movies themselves. And it's there that I can't really help, at least not until my screenplay is finished (which, I assure you and everyone else, will happen any day. Truly). My one excuse is that a dollar is not a lot to spend. I've been known to purchase books with thirty-word multisyllabic titles involving wastewater planning if they were discounted to a dollar. Not that I'd go to see an obvious travesty for a dollar (warning flags of travesties including but not limited to strippers in the trailers or anything starring Julia Roberts) -- but I'd see anything that I thought had the tiniest shred of a chance of being worthwhile.

This is quite a long email, I realize, but I wanted you to know some the rest of us are fed up, too. And the only way to vote is with your feet--and your computer. If the movie industry wants to know why people download, it's all the reasons you outlined. Of course going out to a movie theater should be a better experience than squinting at a grainy capture on a computer screen. What's sad is that it usually isn't.

[signed, me]
posted by u.n. owen at 1:28 PM on January 13, 2005


Agreed mr_crash_davis My last one was the opening week end of "Apocolypse Now"
You couldn't pay me the price of admission to ever go back.
But I DO have a price I could be bought for.
posted by notreally at 1:31 PM on January 13, 2005


I do hate the ads. If a theater must show them to stay in business, they should only run them before the official movie start time.

I've never noticed any problem with, er, eating noises, though, and the occasional times I've had rude people whispering near me I've gotten up and moved. Are these problems an opening weekend thing?

(And yeah, right or wrong, the author of this piece makes himself sound like a total git.)
posted by kyrademon at 1:46 PM on January 13, 2005


Yeah, part of why I'm less tolerant is, I'm always conscious that I could be back home in my own little monoplex, where I spent heavily for the privilege of being manager, concessionaire, projectionist and usher. I actually expect movie audiences to get worse as more and more of the silent, passive-aggressive types opt for home setups instead. Call it "polite flight."
posted by coelecanth at 1:47 PM on January 13, 2005


I second birdherder's plug for the Drafthouse. What I think of when I read all of the complaints in this thread, is that there is a market opportunity for someone. If someone would invent a theater where people can't talk on their phones, where the food is good, and etc, then I would pay to go there. That is exactly what the Drafthouse does and it is quite successful. In the nearly four years I have lived in Austin, they have moved from two small theaters, to opening their fourth here in town, one in Houston and one in San Antonio.

So I say to all of you out there, why not make some money yourself and open something like this in your city?
posted by bove at 1:54 PM on January 13, 2005


I didn't like his smug descriptions of the people at the movies, but I agree that movies in general now are no fun at all. I've gone only a few times in the past few years, (I have a good friend who really enjoys it, and I like to spend time with him more than I hate the movies).

The movie theater has just seemed to me to be a creepy pantomime of a religious ceremony, particularly the theater's ad before the movie plays, (Carmike Cinema, with a little "all across Am-er-i-ca" jingle, and a anthropomorphic star dancing across refreshments and jumping onto a map, then finally culminating in the carmike logo in gold illuminated in shining gold light with an ecstatic chorus in the background). And then people go there and seem like they think they're getting in touch with some deep emotional or even spiritual thing, and I really don't see it at all.

It just seems like a temple to consumer culture. I realize it's somewhat irrational to look at it that way, there are certainly more evil things that consumer.....ism has done. But this particular one just freaks me out.
posted by SomeOneElse at 2:01 PM on January 13, 2005


It does seem that -- even when allowing for my admittedly diminished ability to tolerate stupid people -- the movie and concert going experience has become less "fun" over the years. I honestly can't remember the last time I had a completely stress-free experience.

There are invariably at least a couple things that make me despair for the species, to borrow a line from Road to Perdition. I know that I'm getting older and more "crotchety", but good lord... why on earth would you PAY to go somewhere just to hear yourself speak? Especially when you could do it at home (or just about anywhere else) for free.
posted by Luciferous at 2:14 PM on January 13, 2005


The food sucks.
The ads suck.
The talking sucks.
People and movies? Good, bad, everything in between.

Still, there's no real alternative yet to seeing films on a big screen. I watch my share of DVDs, but it's not the same. Also, if this guy is a critic, why is he going to the multiplex at all? Critics get to sit in plush screening rooms with quiet and attentive other critics who will slit your throat if you so much as think about talking.
posted by muckster at 2:18 PM on January 13, 2005


Unsolicited Drafthouse Story:

Yes, the Drafthouse is very cool for many reasons, one of which is that before every movie, they show a short that says in no uncertain terms that there is no talking during the film. Usually with cute phraseology like "Be quiet or we'll take your ass out," but also with a directive to the others "Is there a loud group nearby? Put a note to alert you server and we'll tell them to be quiet."

I've never seen anyone actually get quieted down before at the Alamo, but a few months back there was this group who just would not shut up. And people tried the various methods that people do, which basically amount to sighing and shushing. Then someone must have remembered to alert their server, because someone who worked there actually went and talked to them.

And it worked. Which surprised me, because usually when I've seen someone from the staff have to come quiet a group in another theater, it just gets nasty.
posted by 23skidoo at 2:26 PM on January 13, 2005


For me it depends on the movie. If it's a quiet drama, then of course I'll be irritated by the distractions (and I've done my share of griping about it too). If it's a cheesy action flick, then I kind of enjoy it. It's a lot going to see a baseball game, half the fun is the fans. But apparently that's just me.
posted by cali at 2:58 PM on January 13, 2005


why not make some money yourself and open something like this in your city?

As long as it's open to the public, you'll always have your share of ruffians and heathens. Fuck people, particularly the ones who don't SHUT THE FUCK UP YOU SAD, WORTHLESS MOTHERFUCKER BEFORE I KILL YOU WITH MY TWIZZLER.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:43 PM on January 13, 2005


I don't go out to movies any more, either.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:44 PM on January 13, 2005


Want the best movie-going experience? Get a night job so your days are free.

Dave and I go to movies that have been out for awhile, after we have checked many reviews. We go to the first matinee showing, such as 12:20 on a Tuesday. Frequently we find we are the only ones in the theater. And we always go 10 minutes late so we can skip the ads.

So I say to all of you out there, why not make some money yourself and open something like this in your city?

We did have a movie theater like that-- The Madson, which served beer and wine, terrific snacks and showed indies, foreign, and documentaries. Sadly they closed. Apparently they were part of a chain out of NY.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:07 PM on January 13, 2005


Yeah, it can be annoying to go the movies, especially when there's a talker (oh how I loathe the talkers), but there are those magical moments when the entire theater is in sync and it enhances whatever you're watching.

Case in point: the first time I saw Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon I was in a crowded theater. There were a few noise-makers and distracted folk. Right up until the first big fight scene. After it was over the entire theater was silent except for a few sharp exhalations from people like myself who had been holding their breath through the entire scene. The air was electric. It was terrific and made the experience of seeing the film that much more fulfilling. Something very similar happened during a showing of Saving Private Ryan right after those brutal first scenes. You just don't get that sense of shared excitement sitting alone on your couch watching a DVD.

I really do loathe the talkers though.
posted by LeeJay at 4:31 PM on January 13, 2005


Where I go, there is no concession stand and little or no drinking or eating in the theater (sometimes someone smuggles something in, but they're quiet about it), and there are no previews or commercials. If the movie is scheduled for 8:00, the movie starts at 8:00. I always enjoy a show there, because folk who want to act like they're at home on the couch (eating, drinking, talking, phoning, yelling at the screen) and incidentally watching a movie don't go there, and folk who want to see and hear the movie do go there. It's a little bit of an art house, so I'm not going to be able to see Spiderman or whatever there, but I don't want to see the whatever movies.
posted by pracowity at 4:36 PM on January 13, 2005


The thing about Adorno & Horkheimer was that they were condemning the culture industry, which they felt served the interests of the government and big business (and still does) in terms of placating and distracting the public.

This guy just hates people.

Also: I love going to the movies. I go almost every week. Seeing a movie on the big screen is always better than on DVD. I'm a live in a big city (the city where the Globe is published, at that), and am pretty pretentious, so I see a lot of stuff at art houses, and second-run and rep theatres, not to mention the Cinematheque, which is really just a fancy rep theatre, which are usually a more movir-focused crowd, but not necessarily (a bunch of apparent engineering students mocking the unrealistic physics in House of Flying Daggers, for example) but every now and then I'll go see something at the multiplex. And it's not that bad. I mean, I worked in one, I know the ins and outs, it's not fun and yeah, they're basically doing everything they can get away with to get more money out of you, but it's a business not a community service.

Also, if you don't like the talkers, sit near the front, you hear them less.
posted by SoftRain at 4:44 PM on January 13, 2005


Although there are, I think, plenty of alternatives to seeing a movie in a "herd" environment, I also think that if you have an exceptionally bad crowd experience you can go to the customer service desk at most multiplexes and complain. Hey -- it worked for us when a bunch of clueless folk talked loudly/complained throughout the entirety of Punch Drunk Love. The theater manager gave us two free ticket passes to use any time we liked.

muckster wrote:
Also, if this guy is a critic, why is he going to the multiplex at all? Critics get to sit in plush screening rooms with quiet and attentive other critics who will slit your throat if you so much as think about talking.

This isn't necessarily true. Unless it's a press screening set up by the PR company, the critics I work with here in Cincinnati often go to preview screenings that are open to the public, which means that they're seeing films in the multiplex with a giant herd of the same people this guy is complaining about.
posted by dryad at 4:59 PM on January 13, 2005


I'm just glad this doesn't happen when I go to see a movie.

(Courtesy of The Perry Bible Fellowship.)
posted by A dead Quaker at 5:19 PM on January 13, 2005


ain't the guy ever heard of headphones?

what about reading a freakin' book with a little booklight?

and those flaps of skin in front of your eyes--they close, leaving you in blissful darkness!!!

wanker.
dolt.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 6:16 PM on January 13, 2005


*lets nick know someone posted a PBF link*

W00t! Nick is awesome, I am volunteering as his press secretary. (and he's cute too, even if he only calls at impossible times of night)
posted by u.n. owen at 7:03 PM on January 13, 2005


sneebler's advice for enjoying the big screen:

Wait till the rush dies down. People have such a short attention span that after the opening week even the ushers can't remember which theater your film is in.

Go with some nice people. Friends even. They'll distract you from the louts and their children, and if worst comes to worst, they'll help you pound out the wanker in the seat behind you.

A spliff before the show goes a long way towards insulating you from any nearby distractions. If you get it right (I don't smoke dope much these days...) you'll be able to enjoy it again on dvd without remembering much of anything.
posted by sneebler at 9:03 PM on January 13, 2005


I've given up too. It's too uncomfortable squirming in your seat for two hours. At home, I've got a nice TV, PC, a layback armchair and I can smoke and drink.
posted by emf at 5:12 AM on January 14, 2005


Curious. I guess what they say about Toronto and diversity is true. A great film needs to be seen on the big screen and heard as well. I've never had an unpleasant experience in a theatre in Toronto but I'm sure others have. I bring my own refreshment and get there just as the ads are concluding. A small touch of initiative does wonders.
posted by juiceCake at 5:40 AM on January 14, 2005


I don't have any problem at all with this article--I totally agree. I don't think I'm better than anyone else, but I don't want to sit near them, listen to them chewing and rattling candy packages and hear the incessant whispering while I'm doing my best to enjoy a mediocre film that I just paid like $92 to see. I just don't like strangers that much anymore. When I was 20, fine--never bothered me. 12 years later, if I want to see a recent release film in the theater, I'll wait until the end of the run and hit an early Tuesday matinee after having called in to work as "unconcerned".
posted by PuppyCat at 7:16 AM on January 14, 2005


PuppyCat, you wrote a better and more expressive column in those 75 words than Russell the Love Muscle managed in ten times that much in the link, and with none (well, very little) of the condescension and artificial pretense of his little wetfart of a rant.

The Globe needs you. Go.
posted by chicobangs at 7:33 AM on January 14, 2005


Me too, me too... Admittedly, I'm a cranky misanthrope who lives in one of the most densely populated zones in the US, but I still defy anyone who says it's possible -- let alone an experience worth paying for -- to live through a Saturday night action-movie showing at a Times Square multiplex.

HOWEVER.... about 10 years ago a friend and I went to see Welcome to the Dollhouse at a semi-arty multiplex. During the show the theater was filled with quiet whimpers, sighs, uncomfortable laughter... and when the lights came up, the person in front of me said to her companion in an exhausted, rueful tone I'll never forget, "I need a drink."

I felt exactly the same way...and I'm sure I wasn't the only one. It gave me comfort and an almost absurd feeling of gratitude to realize the whole roomful of people had gone through that emotional wringer with me.

I still remember it because I think it was the last time I actually appreciated My Fellow Moviegoers.
posted by GrammarMoses at 5:04 PM on January 15, 2005


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