The last movie I saw in theaters was Inception. And when I say l “last,” I mean it; it may very well be the last movie I will ever see in theaters. Sure, the film was certainly a good one (I mean, who didn’t like it?), and, by the time I hastily made for door as the credits began to roll, I felt satisfied by the flick. Not so much for the rest of the experience, though. Hindered by trouble after trouble and a stream of frustrating moments, the atmosphere itself was not enjoyable. But oh, how I wish this was merely an isolated case; instead, however, it is yet another thing to chalk down on a growing list of reasons why I hate going to the movies.
Yes, for the most part, I steer clear of the cinema, haunted by the hidden terrors that pop up all too often during each outing. Sometimes, however, I’m lucky, and only inconvenienced by a screaming baby or someone with a case of bad BO. Other times? Well, I often find those instances almost too scary to talk about.
In Bermuda, the movie theaters aren’t very good at all. In fact, I’d wager that the experiences I’ve had with my island’s sub-par standards in film-watching have more than soured my opinions of cinemas as a whole. With all of four mediocre single-screen venues to choose from (and, of which, none are IMAX-equipped), Bermuda’s theater scene suffers not only from technological drawbacks, but also a lack of choice. Once a new picture appears on-island, it plays in only one cinema at a time, and it must finish its rounds at that movie house before it moves on to another. Therefore, during a film’s opening week, Bermuda’s 60,000-or-so residents have only one location and just few times they can see it. Often, a new and sure-to-be popular movie will begin playing at the smallest venue on the island, a mini-cinema that seats under 200 and was once aptly-named The Little Theater. As you can imagine, these showings sell out quickly, making movie-going an activity you absolutely have to plan ahead for.
But plan ahead for what? A three-hour plus experience inside a room filled with the unspeakable? Gah! However, the movie theater is a necessary evil, and one we must brave in order to see that film that would have been spoiled for us anyway, had we had waited for it on DVD. But that doesn’t mean we have to like going to the cinema, does it? So, in an effort to soothe the soul (or at least my own, anyway), I’ve compiled a list of things that turn a movie house into a haunted house.
1. Loud Theater-Goers
If there’s one thing I can at least moderately appreciate about movie theaters, it’s the lighting. In general, there are stages, with each signaling to the audience what to expect and, indirectly how to act. When the lights are up and nothing of interest is on the screen, you’re permitted to chat away, passing time until they dim. The radio will play faintly in the background, masking some of the talk. Soon, the lights will fade slightly, and the theater will grow dark while previews are projected. Here, the chatter should fade to a whisper, allowing those with interest in the trailers to watch in peace, while others can quietly mingle for a few more minutes. However, once the lights are off and the movie begins proper, silence is expected, and all attention should turn to the screen.
Sadly, this is never the case. Rather than taking the sudden change in both sound and light as a cue to shut up, a few will continue to talk throughout the movie. At best, their voices will keep to a whisper, but even this thin squeaking can prove highly annoying. At worst, however, they will make no attempt to lower their speaking volume, and a few will even talk in louder drones, wrecking the movie for those nearby. Others will be on their phones, and a baby may erupt in screams, with the mother refusing to remove them from the theater.
With all these sounds clashing together, a chaotic and frustrating atmosphere is created, and the movie, in effect, is ruined for the rest who are actually paying attention.
Please, if you must talk, walk outside (or, better yet, don’t buy a ticket at all). If you have an urgent phone call, excuse yourself discretely and make for the door. If you have a fussy baby, leave them at home with a sitter. Just don’t allow your personal matters to wreck the movie for everyone else.
2. Unnecessary Commentary
As irksome as loud movie-goers are, there are perhaps another group who are even more exasperating. I like to refer to these people as wannabe-commentators, and I think the handle suits them well. Normally, they’ve already seen the movie, but ostensibly return only to provide a loud and obnoxious oral commentary for the rest of the audience. Of course, they have no problem spoiling the film either. These unique folk talk to the screen constantly, shouting phrases such as “he’s gonna get it!” and “watch this part!” at the worst moments.
If I wanted commentary, I’d wait to hear it on DVD, where actual directors and actors will give their own words on the movie they starred in or had a part in. Really, I don’t need you to ruin film I’m seeing in order to avoid spoilers. That kind of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?
3. The Smell
People can stink, food can stink, and so can unclean rooms. Mix these things together and you get a cocktail of smell that is not only revolting, but also intoxicating. As the wave of funk wafts from one nose to the next, depending on the theater, it can be quite nasty. With body odor, bad perfume and a lack of cleanliness all contributing to the foul brew, that smog-filled city air outside may just feel like a breath of fresh air once you’re out there.
4. The Mess
If there’s ever a place to catch a germ or two, it’s in a movie theater, where the seats, carpet and food stains are home to thousands of infectious bacteria. Cinemas aren’t clean, and really, in a dark room that hundreds frequent each day, there’s no way to completely evade the filth. So, if the inevitable happens and you find yourself making a reluctant trek to the theater, don’t only keep your hands close to yourself, but also a bottle of Purell.
5. The Seating
It’s upsetting how so many theaters are able screw up the second most important part of the theater experience after the presentation of the actual film: the seats. Uncomfortable, dirty and often broken, these chairs, supposedly designed for comfort, sometimes provide the opposite. The most cumbersome issue arises when someone not in one of the end seats wants to make a trip to the bathroom. They’re required to get up, wait for their seat to fold, and then squeeze past the other audience members. As they waddle by, those in their seats must make themselves small, allowing the passer more room. Some are polite, and will duck and say “excuse me” so as not to block the view; others, however, will just barge through and interrupt the film for those watching.
However, this all isn’t the fault of someone needing to use the bathroom; rather, it’s the poor design of the theater’s seating that makes things uncomfortable. While cinema-seating has other problems, they all grow from the same source, and that source is in need of a refresh. But if that’s not possible, why don’t we just remove the seats completely and bring lawn chairs and bean bags instead? Hey, it’s a thought.
So there you have it: five reasons why the movie theater you’re sitting in can sometimes be scarier than that horror flick you’re watching. If you agree or have another peeve to list, mention it in the comments below. Or, if you think I’m just an over-exaggerating and obsessive compulsive film-watcher, you can feel free to let me know as well. That way, I’ll be sure not to sit by you next time I’m forced to take a trip to the movies.
Don’t forget drunk people. Although I guess that’s covered by 1, 2, & 3. Most of the theaters around me are in the middle of shopping plazas, surrounded by restaurants and taverns. Ever go to a bar sober? Try watching a movie during that experience.
Hear, hear! Since the advent of big screen TVs and Blu-Ray DVDs, I rarely feel the need to go to the theatre. It can be difficult to avoid spoilers, of course, but generally speaking I’ve found I do pretty well. I’ve also found that I enjoy movies more when I can really see everything on the screen at once which is more difficult on the big screens in theatres.
One other annoyance I’d have to add is the time it takes. In order to get a decent seat, you have to arrive early then get bombarded by commercials which are themselves rather obnoxious most of the time. And the time that the movie is supposed to start isn’t the actual time it starts – it’s when they run 15 or 20 minutes worth of trailers (most for movies that I can’t understand how they could possibly make the audience laugh, yet they do). I could probably go on and on – it’s certainly something I feel strongly about!
Thanks, all. I was actually considering including the time movie-going takes to the list (i.e. driving there, waiting to get in, previews, etc.), but figured that, since I’ve not been to *that* many theaters, circumstances may be different. Of course, I guess that applies to everything on the list, though. Unfortunately, in my attempt to keep this to short list, I only had 5 spots! Believe me, there are other things to rant about, which is why I’m glad we’re keeping the discussion alive in the comments!
I’ll add volume to the list. I find that movie theaters are incredibly loud! I can only guess that the theater owners must think that either “loud speaker=good speaker” or “make it loud to drown out the loud people.”
Let me suggest a way to work around your problems. I usually go to kid movies at night, and adult movies in the day. At night, all the crying babies and little kids are in bed (usually), and you can enjoy a good kid’s film in peace. And during the day, only old people go to adult movies. The loud, obnoxious people are sleeping off last night’s cinema.
And, old people can be entertaining. They talk (but not too loud); they commentate (but usually several minutes after the scene they’re commenting about); and they smell (something like too much deodorant).
I remember seeing Forrest Gump on opening day, before lunch. The theater was packed with vans full of old folks taking their field trips from the Home. There was a strong smell of menthol and potpourri in the air, which made the whole experience a little mind-numbing. I recall an old man in the back of the theater who mumbled to himself throughout the movie. I had no idea what he was saying, but I’m pretty sure it had nothing to do with the movie. I was sitting directly behind two old ladies that commentated the entire film. I ignored them for the first half of the film until I realized just how inane their comments were. Perhaps one of them was blind and the other had to speak the film — I don’t know. While the movie was entertaining, I started to laugh near-uncontrollably about five minutes after Forrest finally gets the girl. One old lady turned to her friend and whispered (quite loudly) in her frail old lady voice, “Oh, she came back.”
I agree with this so, so, so much. I absolutely hate going to the movies and pretty much only force myself to do it when there’s a movie that I know I will get spoiled for otherwise, or when there’s a movie I REALLY want to see immediately.
I talked about this on the podcast when it happened, but at an 11:00 PM showing of Underworld last year, there were at least two families with young children, including two infants, one of whom screamed throughout the movie. Aside from the fact that it was annoying to me as someone trying to watch the movie, I was pretty horrified that any parent would bring their baby to a movie which is basically two hours of very loud clashing metal, growling werewolves, gnashing teeth, ripping flesh, etc. Whether the kid understands what’s going on or not, that amount of loud, violent noise can’t possibly be good for him/her. There were also crying babies in Sherlock Holmes which made part of the dialogue difficult to hear, because the parents who are rude enough to bring their babies to movies like this aren’t actually courteous enough to then remove them from the theater once they start wailing.
I also hate having to attempt to block my ears for 15 minutes during the trailers which are trying to spoil all the movies that I want to see in the future. Of course it’s impossible since the audio is so loud that I can practically hear it through my skin even with my ears blocked and me humming to myself and looking at the (dirty, sticky) floor. So I start every movie in a bad mood after having been put through this stressful experience, and then throughout the movie am further stressed out by rude audience members and an uncomfortable seat.
I personally think, now that practically everyone has a decent TV, they ought to sell streaming movies right away instead of making you go to the movie theater. Because of IMAX and 3D, theaters wouldn’t totally go out of business (yet), but the rest of us could enjoy a new movie from the comfort of our own homes. For new movies, they could still charge a premium price. I’m sure it will go this way eventually, and I look forward to that day SO MUCH.
Sounds like a terrible experience, Celeste. Screaming kids, inconsiderate families and all sorts of things that just leave you in a sour mood for a film you’re supposed to be enjoying. And I like that you pointed out spoilers in the trailers, as I have seen countless of overly-revealing teasers that sometimes cause me to, like you, cover my ears or tune out. Neither works well, unfortunately.
And I’d like to second your prediction (and desire) for streaming new movies. I’d be totally willing to pay a premium to watch a movie when I want to, with whom I want to and, most importantly, where I want to. In fact, I’d wager that, in the long run, I’d not only be saving my sanity by viewing films at home, but possible even money (gas especially!).
Harley, I loved your story about the old women! It perfectly articulates some of the awkward moments that the theater can bring! Perhaps I should heed your advice next time I absolutely *have* to go the the movies, but, honestly, I don’t see that happening any time too soon!
I think it all just boils down to this: The thing that makes going to movie theaters is having to deal with other people.
I remember once, dude was walking down the aisle behind the row of seats we were sitting, and dumped his ENTIRE soda all over me. Didn’t say a damn thing to me and just kept walking to his seat.
I was reminded of this article while listening to a song by Nerdcore rapper Beefy called “Feature Creep” from his new album, _With Sprinkles_. I don’t know if I can add links in comments, but if you Google Beefy, you can find his web site with a link where you can listen to the song. It’s definitely NSFW, but funny. And the rest of the album is pretty good, too. :)
Thanks for the suggestion, Chad! I’ll be sure to check it out.
First off, the movie theater is just about my favorite place on earth. Not a huge Nolan fan, but like he said recently, the movie theater is my home. The theaters I go to are constantly working to improve all the points on this list. The seats get more and more comfortable. More messages run before the movie telling people not to talk, not to text, not even to check the time. Ushers actually clean the floor, no more sticky floors like when I was younger. Plus, sometimes cheering fans can be exhilarating, even if you miss a line of dialogue here and there. If the movie’s that good, it’s a good reason to see it again. Midnight shows can be really fun for the camaraderie.
Anyway, in the spirit of this article and improving theaters, my biggest peeve is how movie houses leave lights on during the trailers and sometimes even for the whole movie. It’s not enough to dim them. Theaters need to be dark. That’s what those Christmas type light strips are for guiding you toward the door.
Theaters will never close down. They will keep improving. Next up: Motion seats!! So you can really feel the rumble. Love it.