9 Movie Theater Extras That We Could All Do Without

Readers: With Ironman 3 breaking box office records last week, I thought it was the perfect time to repost this popular selection from the Len Penzo dot Com archives. — Len

Let me tell you, sometimes this working-for-a-living thing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. For the past couple of weeks I’ve been in one of those high-pressure do-or-die phases that requires me to be at the office from six in the morning to six at night. Sometimes even longer.

I’ve been away from home so much lately, the long hours have really started to take a toll on me.

Last Thursday, I came home after a particularly long and grueling day, only to be caught off-guard by the sight of a stranger who was sitting at my kitchen table, scarfing down a bowl of ice cream. Although the young man before me looked vaguely familiar, I couldn’t quite place his face. “Hi there. Have we met before?” I asked.

“Uh, it’s me, Dad — your son. Matthew. Remember?”

Apparently my teenage son had gone through puberty while I was away. “Of course, I do, son. I’m just really tired.” (Note to self: Next time out, remember to buy Matthew a razor.)

Needless to say, this past weekend I figured it would be wise to leave the office behind for a few hours and take the family out to see a movie at our local theater.

So I got online to see what was playing, and couldn’t help but wince at the prices: It was going to cost me more than $40 just to get my family of four through the door. Throw in some popcorn, drinks, and the Raisinets — I’m sorry, but a movie isn’t a movie without the Raisinets — and before you know it the price for two hours in the theater is somewhere north of $70.

After thinking about it, I ultimately decided to find something else to do, if only because a trip to the movie theater would undoubtedly end up giving us significantly more than we bargained for. For example:

Babies with an acute case of colic. Look, I realize babysitters are expensive, but it’s not as if there aren’t reasonable alternatives out there. For example, what’s wrong with picking up a couple of $1 movie rentals from the local Redbox kiosk, ordering a pizza for home delivery, and enjoying a picture from the comfort of your own home?

Blocked views. I’ve been told that only 5% of the American population is taller than 6′-2″. Even so, someone taller than that sits in front of me at the theater 95% of the time.

Endless trailers. The last time I was at the theater, I was “treated” to 20 minutes of trailers. It got so bad that, after approximately 18 minutes, the crowd actually started getting a little bit hostile. A few people even started throwing popcorn at the screen. I’m not kidding.

Blaring movie sound. Although I can’t prove it, I’m certain that movie theaters think that they can make any crappy movie better by simply raising the volume. Then again, maybe that’s not such a bad idea when setting the volume knob to 11 helps drown out the sound of:

Loud eaters. I’m not sure how my dog does it, but even when he eats something as innocuous a single potato chip — never mind a bowl of Alpo — everyone within a ten-foot radius is immediately immersed in a gluttonous cacophony of gastronomical sounds: biting, crunching, lip smacking, chomping, slurping, slobbering, and moaning. Theater-goers eat their popcorn the same way. At least when they’re not throwing it at the movie screen — or the backs of tall people blocking their views.

Cell phones addicts. Come on, folks. Are you really so important that you can’t become inaccessible to the world for two hours? Turn your phone off — I promise the world will still be here when the movie is over. (The next theater owner who makes his place impervious to cell phone signals will become an instant billionaire. Trust me.)

Chair kickers. I realize this is anecdotal evidence, but I’ve found that chair kickers only seem to show up for Disney and Pixar pictures. So I’ve written both companies to request they start producing more R-rated movies.

Tardy folk. After twenty-plus minutes of trailers, how is it that people still manage to come in late to a movie? The unavoidable distraction of a large group of temporally challenged oafs fumbling through the dark and trying to locate adjoining seats in a hopelessly-crowded theater is excruciatingly annoying.

Advertisements. I can overlook the blatant product placements within the movies themselves, but after paying a small fortune to get into the theater, why should we be subjected to an endless stream of commercials before the film even starts? Maybe all those fashionably-late movie goers are smarter than I thought.

Anyway, for essentially the same amount of money I would have spent at the movie theater, I ended up taking the family out for a bite to eat and then back home to watch The Adjustment Bureau on pay per view. I’d love to give you a quick movie review but, to tell you the truth, I fell asleep midway through the film.

Here’s hoping I won’t be so tired next weekend.

Photo Credit: Joelk75



Comments

  1. 1

    says

    I don’t bother with the cinema because I can’t stand the people who play with their mobiles when they are supposed to be watching. I am hearing impaired and get a better deal waiting for the dvd and then I get teletext, much more comfy chair, full view – I am 5ft and all I want to eat with what I bought from the supermarket :-).

    • 2

      Len Penzo says

      5 feet tall! That’s a whole half-inch taller than the Honeybee! :-)

      And I agree with you: the cell phone lights from texters are always very annoying.

  2. 3

    DC says

    Another advantage of home viewing: the pause button. It’s nice to be able to take a bathroom break without missing your movie, or rewind a few seconds to see something again.

    On the other hand, this feature can be abused too. My wife has been known to turn a 1 hour TV show into a 2+ hour viewing experience, with pauses for breaks, wanting to insert her own commentary/speculation into the middle of the action, snack breaks, if her sister calls (that can be a 30 minute halt), etc.

    I’m thinking about imposing (translation: suggesting) a timeout limit, such as each person in the room at the start of the show is limited to declaring 2 timeouts. Anyone who wanders in late doesn’t get any timeouts.

    • 4

      Len Penzo says

      Great point, DC, on the pause button. I don’t know how many times the Honeybee or I have stopped the movie to catch something we didn’t hear, or check out something we wanted to see again.

      I don’t think I could handle 30 minute breaks for phone conversations though — that would kind of kill the movie for me. Good strategy to “suggest” a timeout limit. Otherwise, I’m sure you’d be sleeping on the couch long after the movie was over. LOL

  3. 7

    says

    These reasons are why we rarely go out to the movies even when we feel like splurging. It’s just not worth the cost the vast majority of the time. We do what you suggest for families with babies instead when we want to splurge – pizza and a redbox rental. No kids needed ;) We can also enjoy wine or other adult beverage of choice when movie watching at home.

    • 8

      Len Penzo says

      We do that too. As I see it, the movie theater industry needs to come up with a new innovation if they want me to become a regular customer — and 3D is not the magic ticket.

      What is the last major innovation they’ve introduced to the public? Stadium seating and cup holders? When was that first implemented? 20 years ago or so? Reclining seats? Big deal. We need some real out of the box thinking if the cinema is ever to return to its former glory!

  4. 11

    says

    Len, I’m feeling ya…. We have cut waaaay back on movie going as the prices hit close to 10 bucks. And besides, our couch is so comfy.

    Hang in there with the work thing, it’s bound to let up (I hope). Well, I’m off tomorrow to start my journey across the land to our new home :)

    • 12

      Len Penzo says

      We have some comfy family room furniture too — couch, love seat and big over-sized stuffed chair.

      Have a safe trip, Barb. Catch you on the flip side!

  5. 13

    says

    How could you miss the noisy talkers? If I want comments, I’ll watch Mystery Science theater 3000. jeez. All these reasons are why we don’t go out to movies anymore. It’s so much more comfortable at home.

    • 14

      Len Penzo says

      I had the talkers, but I edited out the paragraph! (Seriously.)

      And I love Mystery Science 3000!

  6. 15

    says

    You are absolutely right, but I avoid the magic 8 by going to the movies in the late afternoon (between 4-6PM). You avoid the crowds and many if not all of the problems.

    • 16

      Len Penzo says

      I hear what you’re saying, but the matinees haven’t allowed me to avoid most of those problems. Sometimes, I find it even exacerbates it! Dunno, maybe there are just more annoying people where I live. LOL

  7. 17

    says

    “gluttonous cacophony of gastronomical sounds” brilliant! I agree that cinemas have got outrageously expensive and actually the experience in your bog standard large commercial outlets is far from value for money. That said, on occasion I love going to smaller independent cinemas which tend to show more interesting movies.

    • 18

      Len Penzo says

      Speaking of the experience… Some of these large cinemas try to enhance our experience by appearing very high-end with fancy-pancy architecture and haughty-totty chandeliers, fancy carpet & drapes, and even fountains in the lobby or outside the ticket booths — but in the end, they all look the same when they turn off the lights in the theater!

  8. 19

    says

    Len, all the more reason you should open your own movie theater as a side business! You could put a serious mark-up on some raisinets if you buy them in bulk.

    Actually, I was just at a friends house who uses an HD projector to make an entire wall of their home a movie screen and it’s absolutely incredible. We watched the NBA finals and the players were life size in HD. I was shocked at the high quality and these projectors are actually reasonably priced compared to many big screen TVs.

    • 20

      Len Penzo says

      I think I’ll pass on getting into the movie theater business, Geoff.

      The A/V market is moving in leaps and bounds. My job had me working with a certain digital display company awhile back and the stuff they’ve got coming down the pike will really blow your socks off when it hits the market in a few years. The thing is, a lot of this stuff will eventually end up in people’s homes, so it’s just another reason to not go to the theater.

  9. 23

    says

    Hilarious Len, as always.

    We do the movie thing now and then because it’s exciting for the kids, but it’s certainly less than when I was younger.

    We always bring the following (and no movie theater I’ve ever been to searches your bags) – a few bottled waters, some snacks we either had in the house or picked up at the Wawa on the way, and a sweatshirt. We also don’t go to movies right at launch so the theaters are usually pretty empty.

    Those loud chewers though? Holy crap, what’s the bag made of too? And the in-movie product placements? So shameless. I lose all respect for a movie as soon as I see it. So, I haven’t respected a movie I’ve seen in years.

    • 24

      Len Penzo says

      LOL! You’re right, Darwin. We still take our kids too on occasion because they consider it a treat.

      And I honestly don’t know why we don’t sneak snacks in ourselves — we may have to try that. My luck though, I’d be caught smuggling in the snacks by a nerd ticket-taker trying to score points with management so he could get promoted to a concession stand job. On second thought, I think I’ll just keep buying the Raisinets at the theater. ;-)

  10. 25

    says

    I am old movies buff on TV like the movies on TCM and old shows on TV Land and “Me TV.” The newer movies have lots of computer graphics which don’t show much human mental interaction with the audience. There is no feeling in it.

    I did go see Iron Man, the original. The sound was so loud I could not hear people talking, or talking on the phone.

  11. 26

    Angela Collins says

    Great post, sorry I missed it the first time.

    After attending a three day convention a week ago, I took advantage of being downtown on Saturday and attended a new movie at Toronto’s Varsity VIP theatre (separated from the theatre proper by a velvet rope). For double the normal ticket price, they managed to eliminate probably only three of these annoyances, though it was a REALLY nice experience, with confy leathy reclining chairs, tables, great sound system, concierge service before the film etc. Regardless of the film, you have to be over 18 to be admitted (did not get my chair kicked once!), no ads before the movie (though the trailers were unavoidable), and the very small number of seats were meticulously placed to avoid blocked views unless Lou Ferrigno happened to attend. Luckily, the other folks there that day were quiet eaters, and had turned off their cell phones.

  12. 28

    Moneysavingmomma says

    There is a large mega theatre, that shows 3D and IMAX by our house…. and we stopped going there because of the long lines, rude people and overpacked theatres.

    Instead, if we go to a movie (have only been once since the baby was born), we go to a much smaller, tucked away theatre. Yes, the screens are smaller and there are less people. There are less employees and you frequently have to wait in a long line to buy a ticket. BUT we have seen many occasions where people have been kicked out for being loud, using their phones to much, throwing popcorn, etc etc etc…. I like that the theatre actually cares about what their viewers are saying and taking action. But instead of waiting in line to buy tickets, we prebuy online and pick up at the two kiosks. We typically do not buy snacks, maybe sneak in a bottle of water. If this theatre did not exist, we would probably watch everything on netflix :)

  13. 29

    says

    We only go to the theater for the kids. Our neighbor LOVES going to the theater, so we mostly send them along when they take their kids to something. I like movies fine, but the fuss of watching in the theater, never mind the expense, makes it pretty unappealing.

  14. 30

    Andrew says

    I think I’m the only one who has never really been annoyed by cell phones in the theater. What does annoy me is the 10 minutes sermon the movie theater gives about how turning off your cell phone is the morally right thing to do.

    Have you tried out any of these new ‘adult’ theaters Len? (No, not that kind…) They show regular movies, but no one under 18 is allowed because they have a bar and serve drinks with your movie. While it adds costs in that way, it certainly cuts down on a lot of your other points.

  15. 31

    Ralph says

    Actually the theaters are supposed to reproduce the sound at a set reference level. This is a known volume level that the sound engineer uses when making the sound track for the movie. He uses that reference level as base point and adjusts the volume on the audio track so that they have full control of the audio volume range and you hear the volume as the director / sound engineer intended for it to be heard. Theaters are not supposed to adjust the volume level at all whether it is for a crowded theater with a whisper quiet romance movie or an empty theater with hard core action movie.

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