Why I rarely go to the movies in the theater anymore

Sections: Essays, Movies

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la-ol-poll-texting-in-movies-insane-idea-or-in-001My love affair with cinema truly began that night in 1989 when my father took my brother and I to the Senator Theater in Baltimore  to see David Lean’s, “Lawrence of Arabia.” What a spectacle it was to behold. With the beautiful restored 70mm print by Robert Harris and Jim Painten, Peter O’Toole’s brilliant performance and Maurice Jarre’s epic score, I was smitten. A few years later, we went back to the Senator to see, “Casablanca.” That was it. I knew that I would some day get married, but the movies and fictional storytelling would always be my freaky big-boobed European mistress.

Throughout high school, college, and most of my 20s, I loved going to the movies. I’d go to the flicks with dates, with friends, or even by myself. I didn’t care. There was always something so magical about the silver screen. There always will be. I had a romantic vision of Hollywood, and even after I moved here and got the harsh reality, I never lost that love of the Hollywood siren song.

To this day, I still get giddy every time I visit a movie studio and walk around the sound stages. I still get excited when my favorite filmmakers come out with a new film. I continue to ride the rides at Universal Studios and Disneyland without any cynicism. I will always be that 12-year-old kid watching Lawrence lead the Arabs against the Turks giddy with delight.

I am sad to report that I don’t go to the movies very often anymore for two big reasons.

First of all, human beings have become rude narcissistic morons…no wait, modern technology has enabled many human beings to behave as such with impunity in public. The texting and talking during EVERY SINGLE SCREENING I’VE BEEN TO for the past 3 years has driven me to the brink of insanity. If you text during movies, I hate you. Please feel free to get drunk and then run into traffic right now.

Special shout out to the Alamo Drafthouse theater chain in Austin, Texas. God love these guys. Not only did they have a, “Summer of ’82” film festival (Blade Runner, E.T., Star Trek 2, First Blood, duh) they aggressively go after idiots who text during movies and toss them out. Check this out; some stupid teeny-booper texted during a movie, so they tossed her. She called them and left an angry voicemail. They responded by using that voicemail as advertising. Bless their hearts.

But secondly, it’s the theater chains themselves. Unfortunately, the Alamo Drafthouse is the exception to the rule. Most theater chains don’t care. Not only that, well, we’re getting gauged. This guy gets it, ” To me, a big screen, clear sound, and comfortable chairs should be guaranteed for all customers, not targets of potential upcharges. This, along with my complete lack of business acumen, is probably why I don’t own and operate a lucrative movie theater chain.”

Agreed. I have some other complaints:

  • Stop calling it, “IMAX,” when it’s not, jerks: I don’t mind paying a little extra when it’s actually IMAX, but when you fake it and charge extra anyway, you suck. Folks, here is a map showing all the real vs. fake imax screens in the nation. It hasn’t been updated in a while but it’s a good start.
  • 3D blows: Watching an IMAX 3D film (in a real IMAX screen) is pretty great. Everything else is dark murky garbage. And we have to pay extra for the privilege.
  • The commercials: You pay money to see a movie, you should not have to put up with endless commercials in addition. Previews are fine; people like them. But commercials for Fanta? Isn’t this some kind of FCC violation, double-dipping or something? You can’t charge me money to buy a Snickers bar, then more money to eat it.
  • Why are parents allowed to bring 5-year olds into R-rated movies? No joke; I went to see, “Saw 3D,” a few years back (don’t you f–king judge me) and there was a family of 6 in the front row. The oldest must have been 10. During scenes like this. Don’t click that.
  • The major chains to this day refuse to show films rated NC-17, letting bible thumpers dictate their policy instead of the free market. Thanks a lot! I had to wait until Netflix delivered, “Shame,” to me at home in order to see Michael Fassbender’s dong.

In the end, I miss the communal experience of watching a film with an audience. I get that the behavior of the audience technically doesn’t have anything to do with the financial realities of the theater chains, but they are invisibly intertwined by the fact that the vast majority of theater chains watch only the bottom line, don’t care about their customers and aim for the lowest common denominator. And we put up with it because we’re a bunch of cowardly sheep.

“Chill out, dude, calm down,” you might say.

“Please go play in rush hour traffic,” will be my response.


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  • Leslie

    I have to commend you for this article! I am in total agreement about the modern movie theater audience and theater chains. I remember going to a screening and some teenagers were talking over the film and literally running around the theater. It took three different complaints 30 minutes into the movie for them to get thrown out. I’m tired of paying for crap movies and crap theaters with an audience who don’t care. Why are you going to the movies if you aren’t going to watch it?

  • Steve Anderson

    Don’t forget the best reason: the home theater experience is only getting better. We have televisions of staggering size going for comparatively little money, we have 7.1 surround systems, we’re working on 4K systems, and one day, the Oculus Rift will make it so we can experience the biggest screens in the smallest rooms. You can pause and rewind or fast forward as you like; a bathroom break can be taken at any time without missing a frame, the seating supremely comfortable, and the snacks are as limited as your imagination, wallet, and culinary skill can generate.

  • Pingback: Idiocracy Alert: People who Text in Movies | The "Sensitive Nice Guy" Show()

  • Jordan Rockwell
    and now this has happened.
    I’m sorry, but I don’t care if you are a man or woman, if you mace me after I politely ask you to put your phone away, I’m defending myself.