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Stranded in Multiplex Hell

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Mick LaSalle outlines some reasons why people aren't going to the movies, for the San Francisco Chronicle.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?...DG15DM3CN18.DTL

Reason 6: Going to the Movies on a Saturday Night Has Become a Fairly Hideous, Repulsive Experience. Art houses and repertory houses are exempt from this observation. Those theaters preserve the moviegoing experience as a fun, rewarding collective activity. But to spend Saturday night going to see a major release at a multiplex can be more stressful than going to work the first Monday after vacation.

This is something I just feel like getting off my chest. Regarding LaSalle’s Reason #6, everything he says is true. He is not exaggerating for flippant effect. The experience is exactly this awful. I wonder if the theatre chains and the studios realize exactly how unappetizing the advent of the supercolossal multiplex has made moviegoing for civilized adults, or if they care. I speak with some feeling about this as the smaller, human-sized theatres in my suburban area will closed down early next year because a gigantic new theatre is going up. We have another huge multiplex in our area, and I have had occasion to go there when no other options were available. It is located in one of the enormous shopping areas that have sprung up like kudzu across the landscape (box stores encircling a mammoth parking lot). You have to arrive at least a half hour early – more than that at peak attendance times – just to find a parking space. You walk what seems to be several miles to the theatre. (In some areas,on a nice evening, you’ll get to enjoy the occasional gang fracas breaking out.) You stand in a long line for your tickets. You walk another several miles to get to your movie. If you haven’t arrived early enough, you will have to sit very close to the screen, because the smaller sized room equipped with stadium seating doesn’t have that many seats at a suitable distance. Also, with the stadium seating, you have to go up steps, which is especially nice for older people and anyone else tired out from the hike to the theatre. Then you must sit through about six or seven previews, a Fandango commercial, etc.

Even as it is, the screen is too big and the sounds are too loud, because they’re out of proportion to the room. At our little multiplex, if the screen isn’t balanced right or the sound is too loud or too soft, you come out to the nearest employee and say so, and the problem is corrected within minutes. At a big multiplex, the problem takes forever to be corrected if it is corrected at all. Truly hideous.

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  Even as it is, the screen is too big and the sounds are too loud, because they’re out of proportion to the room.  At our little multiplex, if the screen isn’t balanced right or the sound is too loud or too soft, you come out to the nearest employee and say so, and the problem is corrected within minutes.  At a big multiplex, the problem takes forever to be corrected if it is corrected at all. Truly hideous.

It's hideous, truly. I mostly resign myself to being about 6 months behind the rest of the world and watching the films at home after they come out on DVD. It really cuts down the number of noisy , obnoxious people.

Richard

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I also watch most movies at home now, too. I don't have to deal with crying babies or that stale popcorn stench. Those aren't the only reasons I rarely go to the movies now. Most of the new blockbuster films being released don't interest me (the only two I've seen this year at a multiplex are Batman Begins and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). I would much rather spend my 7 dollars at someplace where there's an inviting atmosphere (usually ends up being a restaurant :) ) and where I can converse with friends. However, I do enjoy going to an indie arthouse theatre and the Museum of Fine Arts Houston to see screenings of lesser known or older films. It's a shame nothing like that exists in my suburban town and I have to drive half an hour into the city to see those.

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Ditto to all. The very best movie watching is an urban art house, mid-afternoon, when you have a day off. Rainy day, preferably.

The all the other times, Independent Film Channel and Sundance help. A DVR (Tivo-style) and a good tv program guide can open up films on cable you didn't know were there.

Best of all is the aesthetic: "I'd rather watch a live performance than all but the greatest films." That's led us to wonderful student work, small theaters, experimental companies, etc.

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There are 20 screens within a quarter-mile of my apt. My last film was Farenheit 911. Before that, Erin Brockovitch. I've been considering March of the Penguins for relief from the heat, but I'd forgotten about the ear-splitting volume that most theaters feel obliged to subject us to. Maybe I'll just hang at the local bookstore.

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I would much rather spend my 7 dollars at someplace where there's an inviting atmosphere

At least it is not very expensive in the US! Here it costs about 9 pounds or even more to go and see a blockbuster. I have not been to the cinema for months and months... There seems to be a new fashion for talking all the way through the film! :thanks:

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I actually miss the movie house atmosphere when watching at home. There is something about that communal experience, watching in the dark in a big room with others, and sharing (or not sharing) reactions. When I was a kid, for example, seeing Jaws for the first time – people around me screaming – it was fun, and part of the enjoyment was being with the crowd. (When I saw it, they were sitting on the floor, the place was so crowded.) You don’t get that at home. So I do like going out to the pictures, and I’ll miss it if this turns out to be the Wave of the Future.

Fortunately, I do live in an area where there are still art houses and repertory theatres. I feel very bad for people who live in locations where the Cineplex That Ate Chicago is the only option.

Best of all is the aesthetic: "I'd rather watch a live performance than all but the greatest films." That's led us to wonderful student work, small theaters, experimental companies, etc.

I’m afraid I disagree, bart. I’ll take a good movie over an average stage performance any time. It’s a special experience, and the stage can do things the cinema can’t, but the reverse is also true.

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One of the benefits of retirement is that I can go to the movies in the afternoon when there are usually no more than a dozen patrons (unless it's an 'art house' movie and then it could be only three or four people). What I find really pesky, though, is the coming attractions....at least five before the film, and at top volume.

I am surprised that no one mentioned this---one of our local politicians is trying to get the theaters to list the actual starting time of the film.

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We have a similar local initiative in the works, but it would be of little help, unfortunately. Savvy moviegoers know that they can expect lots of commercials and plan accordingly, but when you factor in parking time, ticket line time, concessions time, and walking to the room showing your picture (inside the giant multiplexes are a series of rabbit warren like hallways; it can be quite a little distance) – you still have to arrive early.

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At the Seattle International Film Festival, one of the programmers or house staff does a short introduction to each film, and there has to be a short reminder at the beginning of each film for non-passholders/regulars that talking is not acceptable during the movie. (Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.) People still manage to laugh, react, and have a good time.

I remember the Film Forum in NYC, where the collective theater would glare if you scratched your arm quickly; if you sneezed, you skulked out in shame; and if you had the sniffles, you were barred from entering.

I have to disagree that this is purely a generational thing. In the 80's, my friends and I used to work extra time so we could play hooky on Tuesday afternoons, when admission to the art house theatre in Scarsdale cost $2.50. The house was packed with senior citizens -- people who were children during the depression and listened quietly to the radio during FDR's speeches -- and the conversations usually went like this:

The Scene: Any Subtitled Movie:

Husband: Whaaaat??? What did he say????????

Wife: He wants her to go to Paris with him.

Husband: Isn't he married to the other one????

Wife Yes, dear, but she died at the beginning of the movie.

Husband: But wasn't she just at the picnic with him????

Wife: That was a flashback.

etc.

I was shocked when I went into my new neighborhood library the other day, and there was a separate "Quiet Room." I thought the library was supposed to be a quiet room, but my friends have told me that I must have been under a rock when libraries evolved.

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Helene, I thought libraries were supposed to be a quiet room too. The one in my town has a separate children's room, which I think is rather more logical.

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Helene. It's still going on. Every word. But they've moved to Boca Raton.

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If you end up taking the kids to a movie, it's not just the expensive movie ticket punching a dent in your wallet, it's also the $5 bag of popcorn, the $3 drink and so on. Lord I hate paying all that just to see a recycled piece of Hollywood crap.

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I was actually in a library on the North Fork (Greenport) where some teens had come to use the free internet. The computers were in a central area in the library, right next to the main reading room, and not able to be closed off. They were loud and raucous (not just talking quietly), and when I complained to the librarian that I was being disturbed, I was told that if they were told to keep quiet then they might stop coming and the library didn't want that!

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The audiences in my area are pretty well behaved, and I've rarely experienced too much talking. The comments I do hear can even be enlightening in a way -- I remember a couple behind us on one occasion who were completely flummoxed by the nonlinear storytelling of Pulp Fiction, and it was pretty funny to hear. ("Isn't he dead?" etc.)

I can think of many reasons to criticize the theatres, but a night out at the movies is still one of the least expensive entertainment options available for those who want to get out of the house. (The concessions are pricey but concessions are pricey everywhere, and that's how they make their money -- if the theatres relied on ticket sales alone, they'd be out of business in no time. However, ticket prices have not gone above ten dollars around here.)

I would actually be willing to pay more for a civilized experience at the multiplex, if such could be guaranteed......

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(The concessions are pricey but concessions are pricey everywhere, and that's how they make their money -- if the theatres relied on ticket sales alone, they'd be out of business in no time.  However, ticket prices have not gone above ten dollars around here.)

Err, could someone please explain what "concessions" are ? Is it things which are sold in some cinemas like pop-corn, ice-creams, etc. ? (The French word "concession" generally is related to graveyards, but I suspect it has nothing to do with the English one in that context

:huh: )

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Err, could someone please explain what "concessions" are ? Is it things which are sold in some cinemas like pop-corn, ice-creams, etc. ?

Exactly that!
(The French word "concession" generally is related to graveyards, but I suspect it has nothing to do with the English one in that context  :huh: )

Perhaps the nutrition people who have warned against deadly movie-house buttered popcorn were onto something! :wink:

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Thanks for your reply, carbro !

There are more and more multiplexes in France too, but fortunately there still is a decent number of not too big cinemas and small "artistic" ones... I do miss the cinemas of the Quartier Latin in Paris, because there is so much choice there and always a lot of good old films to see (well, even just having the three ones of the rue des écoles / rue Champollion would be fine for me :grinning-smiley-001: ) but the cinemas in Lyon are not too bad, and there is one which shows some movies a few months after they've been released with tickets at 5 euros... One problem sometimes it that it can be difficult in cities outside Paris to see movies with subtitles instead of dubbing (and my husband hates dubbing).

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Here in the suburbs of Motown (there are all of two movie theaters with a grand total of 12 screens within the city limits of Detroit) we usually hit the first showing of a film on the weekends or occasionally an early evening show during the week after work. This allows us to avoid the crowds of boors on weekend evenings.

We have had the same type of experience as Helene describes, and it always seems to be the husband who doesn’t understand what is happening on the screen. I assume that people like that simply go to the movies to have something to do, since they obviously can’t be enjoying watching it.

We had an odd experience a number of years ago at a Sunday afternoon screening of “Crossing Delancey”. The theater was in a Jewish neighborhood and much of the audience were elderly women. They thought that Peter Riegert would have been a perfect grandson-in-law—either for Bubbie Kantor or themselves and didn’t mind talking about it. When his character said to Amy Irving “I’ll say a brucha for you” half the audience let out an audible sigh. So there was a lot of noise behind us—the theater was crowded and we sat toward the front—but because it was so specific to the movie and so gently well-intentioned it didn’t bother us at all.

Those who don’t know “Crossing Delancey” can find out more here: http://imdb.com/title/tt0094921/combined

Several years ago a sparkling new print of “Belle de Jour” was released to theaters as part of a marketing campaign for the DVD. Never missing a chance to see Catherine Deneuve, we were at the theater on Saturday. Lovely movie, of course. As we were leaving we heard the couple behind us talking—one said “That Catherine Deneuve is amazing. She’s been in the movies for years and she doesn’t look a day over thirty”, apparently not realizing that they had just watched a film from about 30 years before.

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Nice to hear from you, Ed. "Crossing Delancey" is a cute movie -- maybe a little too cute. As I watched, however, I couldn’t help reflecting that the lady who chooses the pickle guy was played by the former Mrs. Steven Spielberg, recipient of what was then and maybe still is the biggest settlement in history, and would Isabelle be able to afford all those cute little ensembles she wears with Pickle Man’s income.....:off topic:

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Nice to hear from you, Ed. "Crossing Delancey" is a cute movie -- maybe a little too cute.  As I watched, however, I couldn’t help reflecting that the lady who chooses the pickle guy was played by the former Mrs. Steven Spielberg, recipient of what was then and maybe still is the biggest settlement in history, and would Isabelle be able to afford all those cute little ensembles she wears with Pickle Man’s income.....:off topic:

Peter Riegert was a little too perfect, too, but I loved him anyway.

Forget about affording those cut little ensembles on a Pickle Man's income -- how about affording those outfits by working in a bookstore and paying rent in NYC?

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