Don’t Forget To Drink Your Ovaltine
I arrived to my ‘Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes’ screening with a head full of chimp questions and a bag full of smuggled snacks to find a giant line not just in the theater lobby (which is normal) but inside the hallway outside the auditorium. The inside line, it turned out, was not just for collecting cell phones (standard practice for advance screenings of bigger movies), but was a separate bottleneck behind a guy scanning everyone with a metal detector wand before they went inside. Ignoring my goody bag completely, the wand man scanned my crotch area, where the wand beeped over the pocket of my jeans. “Keys, right?” he asked, searching my eyes and feeling my pocket in a not un-intimate way. He waved me through. Once inside, I took a seat in the reserved press section just like normal (Oh, I got perks. Call me, ladies).
“Sir, do you have an orange ticket?”
I pulled out my press ticket, but it was green. Two separate press sections! Unprecedented! I slunk back two rows like the damned dirty web guy I was, even closer to the civilians in steerage, silently praying that the toads wouldn’t breathe on me.
“We’re going to have a full screening tonight, so you will NOT BE ALLOWED TO SAVE SEATS,” shouted a well-coiffed but frazzled looking publicist at the front of the auditorium. He reiterated this statement two or three different times with different syntax, and promised the movie would start in around 15 minutes. A few people complained about not being able save seats, and they were summarily removed from the theater. As they were led out, I stared deep into my bag of Flamin’ Hots to avoid eye contact. HAIL CAESAR, I SUBMIT!
10 minutes later, an officious looking man in a suit and tie took to the front of the auditorium. He explained that the studio had put him in charge of anti-piracy and tried to warm us up with some light humor (“I trust everyone here, except for FOUR of you, ha ha ha”). Then he got to the meat of his prepared statement: that he personally had the police on call waiting to literally take you to pound-you-in-the-ass-prison, so don’t even think about filming. And if you were clever enough to sneak your cell phone past security, weh–heh-hell, don’t think you’ve won just yet, smart guy, because he and his team are going to be watching you the entire time with “night vision scopes.” So anyway, just enjoy the movie, which is great by the way, and nobody has to get hurt.
Time for the film!
I include this context not because I expect you to be fascinated by my glamorous life of grinding Flamin’ Hot dust into the upholstery of a second-tier reserved section (works much better than napkins, you need that cloth friction to really scour the red dust away), but because the experience made it impossible not to think of Christopher Nolan’s assessment of the present and near future of the theater-going experience – “…Innovation would shift entirely to home-based entertainment, with the remaining theaters serving exclusively as gathering places for fan-based or branded-event titles.”