Film / Movie Going Experience

Those of you who read my blog regularly know that I am a self-admitted Christopher Nolan fan-boy. I’ve seen all of his films at least twice and own many of them. I also love a great space epic, and do tend to dig on apocalyptic-type and “What does it all mean” films. Plus, I firmly believed for most of the first decade of the 21st century that Matthew McConaughey was one of the most ill-used talents in Hollywood, and I was very excited to see him re-emerge as a dramatic talent in Dallas Buyers Club and True Detective.

So, you can imagine how much I’ve been looking forward to seeing Interstellar, which is written and directed by Christopher Nolan, starring Matthew McConaughey, and is a space epic intertwined with an apocalyptic story whose trailers feature a “What does it all mean?” monologue.

Imagine my surprise when I found myself walking out on the film on Saturday – BEFORE it even started.

Let me set the scene for you. Nolan himself made an impassioned appeal to his fanbase, asking them to see the film in 70mm IMAX (don’t worry about the technical stuff, just covert the 70mm to “big ass” in your mind). Always being one to trust the director of the film as to format (I mean, who else are you going to listen to?), I found out that the biggest IMAX in the DC area is at the Air and Space Museum, which also happened to be showing Interstellar at regular intervals.

I picked up three tickets online, and showed up 40 minutes early with my companions. The line was already over 300 people long. After spending 15 minutes waiting to pick up the tickets, we spent almost another 20 waiting for the line to start moving. A slight seven minutes before the show, the theater finally allowed people to enter.

The screen was everything you expected it to be: I believe the term ginormous was invented to describe it. The problem was, the room wasn’t big enough by half to support it. If you sat anywhere in the first seven or so rows, it wasn’t actually possible to see the entire screen in your field of vision. With 500 seats and 300 people in line ahead of us, those were the only seats remaining. With still over 100 people jockeying for position, the theater management STARTED the film, which no commercials or previews. At this point, I gave up, walked out and demanded by money back. Though management eventually complied, I was first told that I should have both (a) arrived over an hour in advance and (b) by his tone, I should have known this and (c) since I didn’t, I was clearly a moron. He ended it with something like, “so when you come back, you won’t have this problem”. My reply, “Don’t worry, you’ll never see me in this zoo again.”

I bring this up because, for me, the overall film going experience is just as important as the film itself. No matter how great the film, it’s exponentially more difficult to enjoy if you’re getting neck pain from sitting too close, or some moron behind you just won’t shut up. (Let’s throw in the word film just to help the SEO. God, I hate SEO. Film, film, film. Shut up).

Side note: People talking in the movie theater is getting worse – have you noticed this? I think there’s something about the instantaneousness of social media that makes people think that their opinions need to be shared on a stream of consciousness basis, with little regard for who is around or what situation you’re in. People who talk in movie theaters, let me tell you something: you may think your opinion is important. It isn’t. No one gives a shit what you have to say about the color of that girl’s dress. And Shepherd Book was right: there IS a special hell for people who talk at the theater (Firefly reference!!).

Public service announcement for dipshits: I get that sometimes you might need to check your email or respond to a quick text during the film. I also get that you may not want to walk outside to do this. But – there’s a limit. If you spend $15 on a movie ticket and spend 50-60% of the time on your phone, you’re a dipshit. Period. But, it’s in your rights to be a dipshit; that’s the American way. But understand that when you’re being a dipshit, if you hold your phone at the normal angle, everyone behind you can see it. Yes, really. Know why? Spoiler alert: IT’S F-ING DARK AT THE MOVIES! A little bit of light can be seen by everyone, and it’s damned annoying. Tilt the phone down, pull it to your chest and slump in your seat. Then, no one will be able to see it, and you can go right on being a dipshit until your heart is content. End of message.

One day I will own a movie theater. And the following will be the main rules and procedures:

1. All seating will be pre-reserved. This way, no one has to stand in line for an hour for anything. Because there’s very little that’s worth standing in line for an hour for, and movies aren’t it. That the theater management of the Air and Space Museum thinks this is SOP means these people don’t give a crap about you, your time or your experience. Period.

2. No one will be admitted after the start of the film. Ever been about five minutes into the movie and have someone come in, argue with their friends about where to sit, then step on your foot while trying to get you to shift seats so they can all sit together? Yeah, it’s f-ing annoying. Be there at the start of the show, or you can wait for the next one.

3. Ever been to an Alamo Drafthouse to see a film? Went to my first one last Monday. You can get full meals, snacks, beer, wine, ice cream or whatever delivered to your seat. All you do is write your order on a piece of paper, pop it in a slot in the table in front of you, and someone will swing by to pick it up every few minutes. It’s as fantastic as it sounds.

3. There will be a small, standing room area off to the side where you can do anything quietly with your phone. If you are seen using your phone in the main seating area of the theater, you’ll be booted. If I can figure out a way to block the cell signals in the rest of the theater, count on that happening.

4. If you disturb your neighbor on an on-going basis by talking at full volume, you will be booted.

5. 3 and 4 are enforced by the same little slips of paper you use to order your food. That way, if someone’s being a dick, you can report them without even leaving your seat.

6. All chairs will be large with wide armrests. Because sitting next to the guy who puts his elbow in your ribs to prevent you from using the arm rest sucks.

Obviously, my average ticket price for a film will be higher than most. But my theater will be the best movie-going experience around, without question. You’re already paying $12-15 a ticket; wouldn’t an extra $3-4 for this be worth it?

Final note: You’ll never hear me complain about too many film trailers. Do you like $200 million movies? Those are paid for by LOTS of trailers for other films. So you can bitch about high ticket prices or lots of trailers. But not both.