Sunday, January 18, 2009

Going to the Movies

Today when I went to see The Wrestler it was as if I was the only person who had ever seen a movie in the theater before. To make matters worse, I was probably the youngest person in the theater – or at least close to filling that role. Shouldn'tthese people know better?

I arrived at the theater early, as I often do, because I wanted to get a good seat. I like to be eye level with the screen and as close to the center as possible. The theater I went to today is an older one that has been restored. It has great character but the seats aren't fantastic and the aisle is directly down the middle so there are no “middle” seats, just aisle ones that get you close to the middle. It’s a fun little place, but not my favorite of the “old-school” theaters that I go to. Anyway, the point is that when I arrived early I was able to secure a decent seat on the aisle in a row about a quarter of the way from the back.

Since I knew I was going to arrive early, I had brought a book to read. So, I sat in my seat reading to pass the time until the film started. As I read the theater began to fill up with other patrons. One of my favorite things to do when I go to a movie by myself is to listen to other people’s conversations. When I went to see Frost/Nixon last weekend it was so much fun to listen to two older couples discuss several of the “good” films that had been nominated for the Golden Globes and eavesdrop on what they liked and didn’t like about various films. I felt like I was watching my future thirty years down the road, still going to movies with my friends and discussing the pros and cons of each.

As I mentioned above, I was seeing The Wrestler. For those of you who don’t know anything about this film, it’s about a professional wrestler played by Mickey Rourke who is well past his glory days. From everything I've read and everyone I've talked to who has seen it, I’d been well warned that it is a very graphic movie, not for the faint of heart. I always appreciate the warnings, but it doesn't stop me from seeing a film on my list or that is getting a lot of buzz. I never anticipate that other people are willing to disregard others’ warnings as well, so needless to say, I was surprised to see the various different types of people walk into the theater.

I don’t know exactly what demographic of moviegoer I was expecting to see at this film, but I didn’t really imagine I’d see couples out for a Sunday afternoon date. The father and son combinations, groups of guys, and the few individuals, like myself, who filtered in all made sense, but they were definitely in the minority. For the most part it was older couples in their 40’s and 50’s who filled the theater – not really what I had anticipated. What followed in the minutes before the movie started and even during the film was even less expected.

About 10 minutes before the film was supposed to start a couple came and sat in the two seats two rows directly in front of me. This made me very happy because since it was unlikely that the theater would be completely full, the chances of someone sitting directly in front of me decreased. Sadly that dream only lasted a few minutes as they decided that their seats were uncomfortable and decided to move back one row – only to discover that those seats were even less comfortable than the ones they had previously sat in, so they moved again. Things were still looking up for me.

Now, it’s one thing to change seats because you’re uncomfortable, but it’s not really necessary to make a huge deal about it. This couple started going on and on and on about how the seats were uncomfortable and had no back support (they reclined rather far quite easily). I started to become annoyed with the couple because while I understood that the seats were uncomfortable, they should also know better – this particular theater looks like it was built in the 1940’s if not earlier. It’s to be expected that the seats are not going to be particularly comfortable.

Eventually this couple quieted down and settled into their final seat selection. I was still hopeful that no one would sit in front of me – but I should have known better because as soon as I got my hopes up a single woman (single as in an independent movie-goer) who takes off her coat and settles into the seat directly in front of me. While I understand the desire to be right next to the aisle (as I had also chosen the aisle seat) in my opinion, there are some unofficial rules of common courtesy that apply when going to the movies.

If the theater isn’t full (and it’s unlikely that it will become so) one should not sit directly in front of someone else, if it can be helped – especially if the person is alone. There is no reason that the lady could not have sat one seat to the left and still not had an enjoyable experience. I on the other hand could not move one seat to my left because of a couple that was sitting behind me who had strategically placed themselves in the second and third seat in the row to avoid sitting behind me. If I moved over it would be rude – just as the lady who sat in front of me was being rude. *sigh* I decided to let it go, she didn’t block my view that much, but it’s still the principle of the matter.

Just a few minutes before the movie was scheduled to being a couple walked into the theater and began talking with another couple that was seated. I didn’t fully pay attention until there began to be a commotion. The wife of the couple who had just arrived was saying something about how her coat had been moved and that the seated couple was sitting where they had “reserved” their seats. There was a little bit of banter back and forth but basically the seated couple gave in and moved allowing the coat less couple to claim the seats that they obviously believed they owned.

The real drama regarding these two couples came after the lights went down and the previews began when suddenly the wife in the couple who had changed seats turned around and said loudly to the other couple, “we did not move your coats and take your seat, just stop talking about it already.” I thought such drama was left back in high school – but apparently it’s carried into middle age. Then after the obligatory Stella Artois commercial (as they are a sponsor of the Landmark Theaters) the husband of the couple who moved says loudly, “thanks for the sales pitch.” No, thank you awkward man for making us all aware that we just watched a commercial – I don’t know if we would have been astute enough to figure that out for ourselves had you not pointed it out.

The last bit of ridiculousness was when during the opening scene of the film, the cell phone of a woman sitting at the front of the theater began to ring and become progressively louder. Her husband turns to her and says, “why don’t you just turn it off?!” to which she replies loudly and angrily, “I’m going to as soon as I find it!” This of course prompts the group of three 20 something guys sitting three rows in front of me to break into hysterical laughter.

Really? Have you not been to a movie in the last six years in where at just about every theater they remind you to turn off your phone? And for once the theater has decided that the clever little short film “reminder” is probably unnecessary and they don’t waste everyone’s time with it you forget proving them wrong and most likely cementing the future of these vignettes forever. Thank you random lady, and thank you to your husband as well for discussing your lack of foresight with you, thus allowing the entire theater to take part in your little tiff and disrupt the opening scene of the film.

Don’t get me wrong, I love going to the theater. There is such character and charm to each theater and the kind of people who patron each theater, but sometimes I wonder if people are aware that they are not the only ones in the theater. Do they not realize that there are others who have paid their hard earned money to sit and watch this film as well? Do they not understand that some people enjoy ever nuance of the movie-going experience, including watching the credits roll? I don’t care if you leave once the credits begin, but please do not stand and gather you things blocking my view.

So the next time you find yourself at the movies follow my words of advice. Act your age. Don’t pick fights with your movie viewing neighbors. If you can help it, don’t block anyone’s view. Turn off your cell phone. If you must talk to your neighbor, please whisper so that the rest of us don’t have to hear your conversation. Don’t linger in the aisles. And basically – be conscious of the people around you. Be respectful and courteous and you shouldn't have a problem and no one will write about your bad behavior in their online blog.

Oh - as a side note, I'm starting another blog where I'm going to write reviews and critiques of the movies I watch. I don't have anything up yet, but should soon. Check it out at

No comments:

free counter