Movie Theaters Are Their Own Worst Enemies

I had a bad experience recently at a nearby movie theater, the only multiplex in this town.  I had waited two full weeks for the crowds to die down so I could catch the newest “Star Trek” film at a late-night showing, where presumably I wouldn’t have to deal with a theater full of talking and texting  idiots.  (I was hoping there would be only one or two idiots at that time of the evening.  If you position your leg just right you can block out the light from one or two phone screens).

But imagine my surprise when I showed up to find that the box office wasn’t open and the tickets had to be bought at the concession stand. This happens more and more frequently.  The single line to buy tickets–staffed by a single in-over-his-head employee–stretched all the way back to the door and was barely moving.  At one point a teen trying to buy tickets actually ran off into the theater to find someone with a valid credit card he could use, while the rest of us waited in line for the issue to be resolved.  I’m not kidding.

Then the line started up again, though slowly.  At this point I was seven patrons back, and the time for my movie to begin had come and gone.  (I was counting on lengthy trailers so I wouldn’t  miss the start of the actual film).  And then, once again there was a problem with a purchase, the transaction had to be cancelled, discussions prevailed again, and the line isn’t moving.  I decided to cut my losses and return another time, as it was likely that I was already missing some of the film.  It really burned me up.  I mean, I go less and less often to a theater these days as it is.

I may be giving away my age here, but I can recall as a child that going downtown to one of the grand old theaters was a completely different experience.  Movie-goers practically treated the theaters as shrines–like they were libraries or churches.  There was little or no talking, and of course no devices to distract from the experience.

Don’t get me wrong, I have been very patient with the multiplex.  The seats are uncomfortable, and almost all of them squeak.  The popcorn isn’t worth eating and everything is overpriced.  But I still went when I didn’t want to wait months for a DVD release.  I put up with it a long time. But I have a decent-sized television screen now, and no one talks or texts while I’m watching my movie at home.  I can eat relatively inexpensive snacks and make myself comfortable in a chair that does not squeak.  Furthermore, I don’t have to watch Coca-Cola or AT&T commercials while I’m waiting for the movie to start.

I did contact the theater, firing off an angry but detailed email about my experience.  And to their credit, I was offered a free pass.  But I don’t want a free pass.  I want the seats to be fixed so I don’t hear squeaking for two+ hours.  I don’t want to have to arrive 30 minutes before a film starts just to get a ticket, only to sit and watch commercials.  And I want people to STOP using their “devices” in the theater, though that might be a societal problem–one we will never, ever on God’s green earth be free from again–anytime, anywhere, anyplace.

I love the big screens and superior sound at the multiplex.  I miss them, I really do. Seeing movies at  home is not even close to the same experience.  But to theater owners I say this:  the price for a big-screen viewing experience and superior sound at the multiplex boils down to dollars and cents and aggravation.  I can save all three at home.

And though I sometimes wonder if mine is a lone voice in the wilderness, I’ll bet it isn’t.  Anyone else perplexed by the multiplex?

© Wade Kingston