When I’m spending my hard earned cash to watch a movie, I want to have an immersive, enjoyable experience free of distraction. With that being said, three things are guaranteed to ruin my experience and make me feel homicidal:
- Being forced to sit up front
- Walking in after the movie has started
- Listening to talkers during the movie
Okay, there are actually more things that really bother me. Like asshats looking at the incandescent screen of their giant smartphone during the movie. But if I delve into everything that bothers me, we’ll be here all day. So, I’ll limit it to bad seats, being late, and annoying talkers.
And of course, my friends are some of the biggest culprits.
Do you think we can get just a little closer?
I usually avoid the opening week of a popular movie. I hate crowds, I despise lines, and I loathe fighting for a seat. If I agree to go to a movie with you, it’s with the implicit understanding that we’re getting there super fucking early. And I don’t want to hear any whinging about it.
Walking into a crowded theater late and realizing I’m going to have to sit up front and crane my head back to see the screen makes me want to do things worthy of earning a felony.
The worst was watching Star Wars: The Phantom Menace from the neck-cramping second row. Why wouldn’t I get there early since it was the first Star Wars movie in 20 years? Well, that was my original plan. But as a birthday present to my buddy James McDonald, his wife at the time offered to go to the theater early with her girlfriends to get a good place in line because people were camping out. It was totally cool of her. Except that her idea of getting there early was arriving five minutes before we did (that’s not the reason she’s now an ex-wife, but it didn’t help her case). I detest standing in lines, but if I’m going to stand in one, it better be at the front and not in the goddamned back, which is where we were.
Man, I knew what lay ahead, and I wanted to abort the whole mission, but they voted me down, so I ended up sulking in discomfort in the second row. We were so close I couldn’t even see the entire screen at one time. My head snapped back and forth trying to follow the action like I was a spectator watching a hard-fought tennis rally. A week later, I bought another ticket to that abomination of a movie so I could watch it like a normal person and make sure I disliked it for the proper reasons.
Another fiasco occurred when Avatar opened. I didn’t want to go on its opening weekend because it was going to be packed, but my buddy Jason’s brother offered to get to the Imax early to secure good seats, so I reluctantly agreed. Upon our arrival, I was dismayed to find Jason’s brother and his date sitting in the front row having just arrived. Did I just have a different definition of early than everyone else? The Tempe Imax has a fucking 6-story screen, so there was no way in hell I was peering up at it for almost 3 hours. Apparently, people who are susceptible to motion sickness had been getting ill because of the huge screen and the film’s 3D effects, so when the manager announced he would refund anyone’s money before the film started, I jumped at the offer. I left those other suckers to suffer future stiff necks.
The Unbearable Lateness of Being*
I would have to say that walking in late to a darkened theater after the film has started annoys me to no end. Not only does it contribute directly to the bad seat situation, but it causes other hardships like actually finding the goddamned seat in the dark and having to forgo snacks, so you don’t miss too much of the film. If you make me miss the opening of the story, I will quietly and intensely hate you during the whole movie. It’s an unforgivable sin.
Ironically, the person I tend to go to the movies with the most is my friend Mike and, other than work, he’s been late to everything since we were eleven. Always. Without fail. And that means I’m late to everything. Parties in college? We would sometimes barely arrive as the last people were leaving. Dance clubs? We would be double-fisting drinks at the bar upon arrival because we got there forty minutes before closing. When my friend Tiffany moved back from California, she met Mike and thought he was cute, so I set them up on a date. He earned her wrath by showing up almost an hour-and-a-half late to pick her up. Hell, if you’re going to be that late, you better have been rescuing helpless animals from a burning house. She was so annoyed she ended up dating and marrying my friend Carlos instead.
What I think is happening is he doesn’t feel confined by the framework of time. I’m also convinced he’s from a different plane of existence where time flows differently. Time just doesn’t concern him — maybe it’s because he’s a happy-go-lucky guy or maybe it’s because he works as a bartender, so his schedule is hardly conventional. Or maybe he’s got a devious, long-term Machiavellian plan in place to…okay, let’s be honest, he just doesn’t manage his time well.
For years, I used to meet Mike at his place and then we’d head over to the movie theater. Over time, I realized this was my key mistake because I was putting the power directly into his hands. He was never ready to go and was immune to any type of pressure to hurry up. He would keep talking and lollygagging while I grew more frantic until it was mission critical. I practically needed dynamite to get him out of his townhouse. He’d always tell me not to worry, that with the previews, we had plenty of time. However, even with the previews, we were always pushing the envelope of tardiness. And that was when we used to go to the movie theater that was only two miles from his townhouse before it closed down.
Part of the problem is Mike is a busy guy who optimistically tries to pack as much into his day as possible. Because he’s trying to maximize his time, he always wants to arrive at the optimum moment, so there are no wasted seconds. His preferred scenario would be to have his ass cheeks hitting the theater seat right as the last trailer fades and the feature starts.
Screw that. That is leaving way too much to chance. I want my guaranteed good seat.
Plus, Mike always fails to account for other variables. Such as other people wanting to see the same movie, which can be problematic when you are the last motherfucker to arrive.
Over the years, we have actually missed the start of several flicks. X2 (X-Men 2) when Nightcrawler attacks the White House? It is an awesome, action-packed opening scene. The only reason I know this is because I finally got to see it on Youtube years after I saw the movie.
Casino Royale, the James Bond reboot starring Daniel Craig? We walked in right after it started, but I didn’t think we missed anything important — until a year later when I discovered we’d missed the entire pre-title sequence where Bond becomes 007. That was the last straw.
After the Casino Royale debacle, my key discovery to enjoying a movie with Mike was to bypass his house and just start meeting him at the movie theater. That way at least one of us is guaranteed to see the whole movie.
It’s a system that has worked well with one notable exception — Hellboy 2.
Stuck in Hellboy 2 hell
The weekend that Hellboy 2 was out in theaters, Mike called and wanted to go see it. Money was tight for me at the time, and I was going to decline, but he said he had free passes. Okay, we were in business. Because it was its opening weekend, I got him to agree to meet me there 30 minutes before it started.
So there I was, 30 minutes before showtime, standing outside the Harkins Theatre at Tempe Marketplace — which is a 20-mile drive for me and a 5-mile drive for Mike — but there was no sign of him. Not promising. The box office had a ton of people in line and more piling in by the second. But I wasn’t worried. If he didn’t show soon, I could always buy my ticket and just go in…
Oh shit, I remembered I was relying on his free pass. Fuck.
As the minutes darted by, I started getting antsy and called Mike. No response. I texted him. Still no response.
Time continued to tick away, and then, finally, he called.
“Sorry, bro, I just got back from Costco and took a quick shower. Now I’m taking the dogs out for a quick walk, so the little bastards don’t piss all over the place. I’ll be right there.”
“Uh, you realize the movie starts in like fifteen minutes?”
He did. He just wasn’t sweating it.
“That’s just the trailers, dude. I got plenty of time.”
So I sat out there and overheard more and more people buying Hellboy 2 tickets. Finally, I decided I couldn’t risk getting a shitty seat. So I went and bought my ticket with money I didn’t want to spend, called Mike, and told him to meet me inside the theater.
All the snack lines were long, but I got my drink and a small pizza. The theater was filling up quickly. Grabbing an aisle seat midway up so I could stretch my bum knee out, I texted Mike to get a status update and tell him where I was sitting. He was just getting ready to leave. Seriously? Not to worry, he said he was walking out his front door, and he still had fifteen minutes of previews.
“Relax. I’m five minutes away, bro.”
Anyway, there were two seats next to me, one of which I was holding for Mike. I had to keep fending off the late arriving couples who wanted them. The closer it got to showtime, the more annoyed glares were thrown my way as people desperately wanted to avoid sitting down front. My anxiety levels kept climbing.
The trailers started playing, and I texted Mike to tell him. I’m not a fan of people using social media or texting during a movie — but I made an exception for myself because it was only the trailers. Normally, I shut my phone off at this time but kept it on. I got a return call. Mike was stuck in traffic. Of course.
“Hey, man, I don’t think I’m going to make it in time. How is there a traffic jam on a Saturday? Anyway, bro, I’m jumping off the freeway and taking surface streets. Why don’t you get a rain check for the movie and we’ll go to the next showing?”
As I sat there in the dark with my giant soda and my pizza, I actually considered it for a millisecond before hardening my heart. Even if I were to agree, we’d just be late to the next one. Plus, I already had my grub. So I declined. He told me he’d look for me when he arrived.
Shortly after, I gave up the battle to hold his seat. About ten minutes into the movie, I saw him enter and peer up into the darkness trying to figure out where I was in the shadowy masses. I had texted him my location but he was probably night-blind at that moment coming in from the bright lobby. No point in waving at him and causing a commotion, especially since there wasn’t an open seat nearby anyway.
After the movie, we caught up and chatted in the parking lot. And while I felt bad he had to sit down front by himself, at least I hadn’t been down there with him.
All you ever do is talk, talk. Talk talk talk talk…**
So the third thing I really despise is talkers. When the lights go down is not the time to work on your skills as a conversationalist. Particularly at your normal speaking volume.
With that being said, my mom was always a talker during movies. She would quietly whisper questions or make silly comments, but I had to let it slide because she was quiet and, well, she was my mom. But it still annoyed the hell out of me. She always found that funny.
Probably what I hate most is I feel impotent to solve the problem. Basically, I’m a nonconfrontational type. If I could anonymously vaporize Chatty Cathys with an angry death stare during a movie, oooo I’d be sorely tempted. I’ve only gotten annoyed enough to call out a pair of talkers a couple of times, after first determining the likelihood of the offenders beating me up.
Luckily, Mike only occasionally makes comments. My other friend James McDonald, on the other hand, won’t shut the fuck up. He used to be worse when we were younger, giving a nonstop running commentary on plot, acting, special effects — whatever crossed his mind you were gonna hear it. Then one time after a character got jacked up, James asked us if we thought that hurt and Carlos said “No, but I bet this does” and punched him hard in the shoulder. He kind of toned it down after that, but he still won’t shut up. I just resolutely stare at the screen and pretend he’s not there when he talks to me.
If I ever win the lottery, I think I’m going to buy myself a movie theater and let a select few in, but probably not my friends. Sorry, guys, I’ll see you at happy hour.
*Hey, one bad pun per post isn’t that bad.
**I love 80s music (the video is suitably terrible).
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