Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Miscellaneous: Let’s All Go To The Lobby

The August 12th issue of Entertainment Weekly has a long article on the sad state of moviegoing. There’s plenty of blame to go around: rising prices, pre-show ads, general boorishness and the home video boom.

It should be apparent by now that your correspondent sees a lot of movies in the theater. I’ve been able to keep these distractions to a minimum for one simple reason: I’ve gotten out of the habit of going to opening weekend evening shows. Probably because I was an usher for so long. Once you’ve cleaned up after a Saturday evening crowd, you lose your taste for being in one.

Last Friday, Rosemarie and I went to an evening show of the documentary MURDERBALL. Two weeks into the film’s run, the smallish audience was rather mellow. Although someone did hiss the Air National Guard recruitment ad, which irked me no end. Attention, Phantom Menace: you are not making a political statement. You are merely making a passive-aggressive ass out of yourself. Besides, you should save that ire for the Fantanas.

The Saturday matinee of the debuting BROKEN FLOWERS, on the other hand, was practically sold out. But the well-behaved crowd skewed older. It was odd to hear hardcore Jim Jarmusch fans bragging up their grandchildren, but STRANGER THAN PARADISE was more than twenty years ago.

You can’t completely avoid talkers. There was the quartet of teenage girls who broke into nervous laughter whenever Diane Lane got hot and bothered in UNFAITHFUL, and the member of the Troubled Loners’ Club recording his own commentary track at STATE & MAIN. What I find annoying are the people who fire up their cell phones the second the credits start to roll. (“Yeah, it’s over. Sucked.”) Don’t they need a moment to collect their thoughts? At least wait until you’re in the lobby.

The article ends on a hopeful note, saying that theaters will ultimately cater to those who are serious about film along the lines of Los Angeles’ ArcLight Cinemas. That theater is on a list of ten that do the moviegoing experience right. I wanted to see Seattle’s Cinerama on there, but sadly its single screen isn’t programmed very well. The Sith have lain siege to it since May.

My favorite statistic in the article: 98% of survey respondents think that ushers should be allowed to kick people out for bad behavior. I assume that these ushers will be armed. It’s hard to project strength when you’re wearing a clip-on bow tie, even if the darkness is hiding most of your acne.

Once when I was an usher, a woman complained about a man smoking in the theater. First I disoriented him by shining my flashlight into his face. It’s part of my patented Double-Dazzle approach: stun them with the beam, then the force of your personality. I told him he’d have to put out his cigarette. “What if I don’t want to put it out?,” he asked. Then his buddy chimed in, “Yeah, what if he don’t want to put it out?”

I couldn’t believe it. The guy actually had a sidekick. I thought that only happened in the movies.