I’m mad as hell and I am not going to take it anymore..
It has finally happened, roughly 25 years after my first time, I have completely fallen out of love with going to the cinema. I don’t have the strength to lie anymore….it’s not me, it’s you.
There was a time when going to the cinema was one of the high-points of the week, now it’s just a place I pay a lot of money for the pleasure of being annoyed. The last straw occurred yesterday during a screening of Begin Again.
When we arrived there was already a group of three girls and two lads of about 17, in the back row of course, because that’s where all the cool kids sit. Their first action was to throw the lids from their ice cream over the row in front of them – using bins is for squares. The film hadn’t even begun and I was already filling up with a sense of dread. The film was about two people at low points of their life trying to find their passion for life again. I knew, just by looking at this group, this was not something that they would either enjoy or have the intelligence to follow silently. It was then I finally realised the type of people that had being going to see movies like Epic Movie and Grown-ups 2 all these years!
The film started and the talking of course continued, first to each other then inexplicably to the film itself. At the beginning of the film Keira Knightley is coaxed on stage to sing one of her songs, which does not go down well with the audience. The genius behind me took this as his chance and yelled “bet you are sorry you got up now” before cackling loudly to himself. This was then followed by a confused silence where he either expected the rest of the cinema to laugh at his improv stand up or he couldn’t understand why Keira Knightley had not turned to him and answered him directly. This knocked him off his stride for a few moments but luckily he had some willing accomplices in the screening to pick up the slack, just on the off chance I might have some uninterrupted moments of peace during the film.
First the obligatory late comers. If a film is scheduled to start at 4:20 that is not just a suggested time, it really means rock up at 4:45, you won’t have missed much. When the film had started I noticed that the seats beside me were free, this always worries me as I know that it means I will have to deal with a team of rhinos trying to negotiate themselves to their seats in the dark. This was when, right on cue, two unstoppable morons made their entrance, carrying no less than six bags between them just to ensure they made as much noise as possible.
They then attempted to work out the complicated seating arrangements “that’s row F, the next one is G, ours are in row B, so is that up or down?”. The alphabetized seating was causing so much trouble that at one point I could see the guy mouthing his A,B,Cs to himself before giving up and taking out his phone to use as a makeshift flash-light.
Unfortunately, the knock on effect was to remind everyone else that they also had phones and that they had managed to go 20 minutes without checking. For the record, cupping your hand over the top of the phone does not make the light any dimmer when you are sat in a darkened room.
He eventually found his way to my row where he stood staring at me and then his ticket as if unsure why the people between him and his seats hadn’t magically disappeared and given him a clear path. thirty seconds after getting to their seats, Mrs Latecomer decides that now is the perfect time to review the items she bought today and to wonder aloud if she really likes that top (green vest thing, I personally think she won’t look well in it). Mr Latecomer, having finally reached his destination, suddenly decides he is hungry and after an in-depth discussion between the two of them he sets off to find sustenance.
By now, any momentum the film had built had vanished and I was completely taken out of the movie and had instead taken to counting the number of people on their phones (16!). One woman who, in a show of bravado not seen since Lady Godiva entered the royal enclosure at Ascot naked claiming she had literally nothing to wear, took out her iPad which illuminated the screening with a light so blinding that I thought she was using it to turn away ships that may have ventured of course and somehow found themselves tearing up pavement heading towards Dundrum shopping centre.
In the meantime, the chimps in the row behind me had taken to not only adding their own commentary to the film “This is $hit, ha-ha that fat lad looks like you” (if you don’t like it, leave you inbred tools) but had now decided that they would take turns going to toilet two at a time.
The fact that they were sitting at the end of the row and had to disturb everyone in the row to get out on the 6(!!!) occasions they did didn’t deter them at all. This particular group must be incredibly close as each time one group left, the others would then call them on their phones after a few seconds to check what was going on. The woman in front of me then left to tell a member of staff about the disturbance. The staff member presumably had heard enough of these stories and quit on the spot, never to venture into a cinema again.
At least I hope that is what happened as he never showed up to do anything about the compliant.
This was by no means the worst cinema going experience I have ever had. During Scott Pilgrim, the chap behind me thought that each item of text that appeared on the screen had to be read aloud and followed by howls of laughter “10,000 points, hahaha!” During Avengers I had to contend with two people on opposite sides of the cinema having a heckling contest, much to their own but no-one else’s amusement.
But what is the best way to deal with this?
If you alert staff they will either take no action or, if they do, you inevitably have to deal with the offending party waiting for you outside to confront you for the heinous crime of going to a cinema to watch a film.
My own experience of this was during a screening of Quantum of Solace. I finally lost patience with the two guys in front of me continuing to talk and text despite my requests to stop. I grabbed one by the hair and told him to “shut the f**k up” and this worked nicely until the end of the film, when I realised that the entire row of 15 had all come together and I now had to walk to the same train stop as them. This lead to an interesting confrontation that would eventually require the police to intervene and result in me no longer going to that particular cinema for fear of a repeat altercation.
The best course of action I have ever witnessed was in Australia during Watchmen. A gang of four guys aged around 16-18 had apparently decided that they were not happy with the adaptation of Alan Moore’s work and in protest had begun shining a torch in the faces of various patrons. Unfortunately for them one of their victims was a man who I can only describe as someone who made The Mountain from Game of Thrones look like a gentle slope.
He got up and in one move lifted the offender from his seat turned to the rest of his friends and said menacingly “If you all behave you can have him back at the end”. He then proceeded to carry the guy back to his row where he sat him between him and his girlfriend. I did not see the guy nor his friends so much as clear their throat for the rest of the film.
I have long loved the experience of going to the cinema with audience interaction being a large part of that. There is something magical about a room full of strangers sharing the same experience. The collective gasps when we first saw “bullet time” in The Matrix, the jumps from a horror film that is always followed by nervous laughter. These experiences are getting less and less as time goes by. Smart Phones are the most ironically named items in existence as all they have done is shorten most people’s attention spans and given them another distraction. I am not saying cinema going was perfect before their invention, but beforehand the most you had to worry about was someone talking during the film and that could usually be avoided if you knew not to go to the summer blockbuster in the middle of the day.
Studios and the cinemas themselves have long complained about declining attendances and a rise in piracy.
Their answer to this was the addition of 3D movies which, instead of enhancing the experience, actually takes away from it. The picture is made darker and there is no weight or realism to most of the special effects. Just to top that idea off, they then added as much as €4 extra for the privilege of seeing the film in a lesser format!!
The rise of Netflix has proven that, given a legal streaming option, people don’t mind paying in order to view films in the comfort of their own home. My personal eureka moment was when I returned home and went to put my keys on the table, the receipt from the cinema fell out of my pocket and I noticed that this debacle, as well as being a waste of my time, had cost me over €40($55). My mind immediately went to what else I could have done with that money: five months of unlimited movies and TV on Netflix, 40 bottles of beer so I could have drank until the memory of today’s events faded from my consciousness forever.
I would go the cinema on average twice a week but now relieved of that burden it means I will have an extra €4,000 in my pocket a year. More than enough for a nice home cinema with a strict “no phones allowed policy” and definitely no 3D.