For the Love of Movies

I have no idea what the first movie I saw in a movie theater was. I do know that I fell in love with movies very quickly as a child. I could go to a theater, be enveloped in darkness and watch a spectacle that was truly larger than I was. For a few hours, the movie was my reality.

As the years went on, the experience only got better for me. THX surround sound. Stadium seating. Captain EO. Movies became the finest form of entertainment for me, second only to girls. As filmmaking technology got better – evidenced by Jurassic Park – I believed that there was no limit to how much movies at the movie theater could entertain.

I was wrong.

The sad thing is, the plateau has less to do with the movies and more to do with moviegoers and partially with the way theaters are run.

The Problem with Movies at the Movie Theater

First and foremost, people suck. You ever use a public restroom and find that the person before you didn’t flush? You’d think that that simple action would be ingrained into everyone’s behavior since they do it on a daily basis at home. It should practically be reflexive by now. But, it isn’t. That bottom-of-the-barrel level of courtesy simply cannot be met by society and these are the same people you’ll be watching movies with.

These are the people that don’t care or don’t realize that carrying a conversation with someone next to them or on their cell phone is rude. These are the same people who kick the back of your chair or take their loud, undisciplined children in with them. Or they don’t get up to leave when their infant starts bawling.

Then, of course, there are the annoying “fringe” people who use the theater as their own private amateur night, cracking sophomoric jokes or adding witless punchlines to things onscreen.

These actions are particularly irritating in a movie theater, because they take us out of the reality of the movie and bring us back into the reality of our lives, which we are trying to escape for a few hours. Thus, the whole reason for going to the theater is negated.

The second problem with the movie theater is that when one of these offenders rears its ugly head, it’s up to the offended to resolve the situation. So now, a relaxing time at the movies has turned into a high-stress confrontation. As the offended, the chances of resolving the situation in an adult and peaceful manner look slim, since, after all, you are dealing with a person who thinks that answering their cell phone in a crowded theater is appropriate behavior. Yeah, try convincing them that flushing the toilet is a good idea, too, while you’re at it!

So you have a couple of other options. You can try to intimidate them, which will probably make the situation far worse, unless you’re in a much bigger group. You can move seats, but that’s tricky when you’re with people and you’ll also lose the prime real estate you’ve picked out. You can also leave and get an usher, which really sucks, because now you’ve definitely missed part of the movie and the usher will most likely be some zit-faced kid who’ll just tell the offender to “please keep it down.”

What’s a moviegoer to do?

Segregation Through Ticket Price

While everyone complains about ever increasing movie ticket prices, some theaters charge up to $20 for admission. These theaters will typically offer better seats, concession food items and generally more pleasant clientèle. One company, Village Roadshow, which is an Australian entertainment conglomerate, is upping the ante by bringing their Gold Class Cinemas to the United States.

These theaters will offer concierge service and an exclusive lounge for pre-movie mingling and drinks. The theaters will have a maximum capacity of 40 seats, grouped in two’s and spaced out. Each chair is a reclining armchair with head and foot rests as well as storage compartments built into the armrests. Each pair of chairs gets its own personal server (waiter) from whom you can order food items, including macadamia crusted chicken strips, lamb kofta and san choi bao vegetable spring rolls. You can actually enjoy a three course meal while you watch the film, with each food item paired with your choice of wine or beer.

Estimated ticket price is $35. Everything else is extra and the food items might as well be fine dining, especially when hot dogs go for $14.

While the riffraff will definitely be sorted out by the price, a friend of mine pointed out that the other end of the spectrum of annoying people may start turning up. You ever go to a nice restaurant and some person a few tables away makes a spectacle because their steak was a little overdone? They start berating the server and demanding to see the chef? Yeah, now imagine that happening while you’re trying to watch a movie.

For my part, I don’t need all of that fancy shmancy stuff. Just give me a quiet theater with other people who are there just to watch the movie. Unfortunately, all it takes is one jerk to ruin it for the rest of us. For now, I guess I’ll have to stick to the super late showings three weeks after the film has been released.

If you’d like to check out the Gold Class Cinemas for yourself, here’s the link to the Australian site for Village Roadshow Cinemas.