I firmly believe that seeing movies in a theater is still a valuable, worthwhile experience. I also believe in the obvious truth of the adage “hell is other people.” Two things can be true at once. Last week I told you about my own mini-farce watching a movie in a theater that had specific seat assignments, but mostly unmarked seats. It was an obvious recipe for disaster that in the end narrowly averted being one.
I asked for your stories of strange theater experiences and you responded. Here are a few of the better ones. It’s a lot more fun to discuss the small, silly problems than the big, intractable ones, isn’t it?
I worked at a movie theater part time on weekends for almost 17 years. They converted to [assigned seating] 2 years ago and it is awful. Worst case scenario was always when people would get there early and sit wherever they wanted. 20 mins into film people who actually purchased seats would arrive and argue that they bought those seats and were guaranteed those seats, so I would have to move people around. If it was more than one couple it would snowball and I would start to sweat. Big theater chains are not going to staff enough to put an usher in all the theaters to solve the problem. It was a nightmare to manage on a busy night if not monitored or staffed appropriately, which was often.
Went to a screening of Little Shop of Horrors, and got stuck sitting directly in front of a woman who had decided it must be a singalong since it’s such an old movie. She definitely knew all the words to the songs, but she couldn’t carry a tune to save her life. People would shush her (even her husband was clearly annoyed), and she’d just start humming to herself till the next song started and she’d be right back to singing along.
Kang The Conqueror
1) I went to go see Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure in 1989. Some idiot theater employee was sneaking a smoke and threw his cigarette butt into the dumpster outside the theater. It caught fire (a literal dumpster fire), and we had to evacuate right when Bill and Ted are flirting with the medieval girls. I was certain I had been denied a chance to see boobs. We got coupons for a free movie, but when I tried to use the coupon a few weeks later, they told me the coupon had expired (there was no expiration date on it).
2) I had heard A LOT about this movie called “The Crying Game” when I was in high school. It was playing at the local discount dollar theater, so I skipped school to go watch it. At like one in the afternoon on a Tuesday. There’s only like six people in the theater. As the movie starts playing (but before the “reveal”), the couple two rows in front of me decide the movie is really turning them on, and they start making out. Then she starts going down on him. Then she straddles him. Then we see the penis on the screen. The guy looks like he’s going to vomit, throws the girl off of him and storms out holding up his pants. (This was in a very conservative border town with a VERY macho culture; seeing another dude’s peen while your peen is rock hard was the equivalent of admitting you were gay to many people back then).
I went to see Alien Vs. Predator, and there were two adolescent boys sitting directly behind me. Boy 1, as far as I could tell based on the conversation, proceeded to show Boy 2 his penis. Boy 1 then insisted it is only fair for Boy 2 to return the favor. Upon Boy 2 returning the favor, Boy 1 exclaimed, “Whoa! It’s like a man’s penis.”
I went to one of those free screenings to see Room (not The Room). Every time Brie Larson was sexually or physically abused in some way, one audience member would start laughing maniacally. Another audience member eventually stood up and loudly asked what exactly is so funny about rape to which the maniacal laugher responded with a creepy calmness, “I’m going to enjoy the movie the way I want, and you can enjoy it however you want.” Eventually, a third audience member punched the maniacal laugher and all three were escorted out of the theater.
My theater recently began serving alcohol. At the last Avengers movie I sprang for the rumble seats (Dbox?) For my girl and I. We may have been overserved before entering and they will also bring drinks to your seats so 30 minutes in we were in fine form. It would have been great but the combo of the booze and the moving seats kept making me miss my mouth entirely. We had to wait for a quiet portion of the film to attempt sips and it became hilarious when we were interrupted mid drink. We ended up leaving. Rereading this I think we may have actually been someone else’s horror story.
Talking Can of Vegetables
I had this one friend with an overprotective mom and she never let him go to the movies with just a girl, there always had to be a group of people (as if that would stop them from making out, but whatever). So my friend PLEADS with me to go the movies with him so he can make out with his girlfriend. I agree to go, because I didn’t really have anything better to do and was under the assumption there would be a group of other friends there. There wasn’t. It was just me, my friend and my friend’s girlfriend. And we went to the small theater where only one movie played at a time. That movie? Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. So there I was, a 13-year-old boy sitting in a movie theater watching Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood while trying not to pay attention to the noises of my friend and his girlfriend making out/heavy petting next to me. It was packed so I couldn’t just go find an empty seat alone. It wasn’t a multiplex so there wasn’t another movie I could skip out to. It didn’t have an arcade in the lobby. There was nothing around the actual theater I could go to, either. So there I sat for what felt like the duration of a Trans-Pacific flight. To this very day, I refuse to watch ANY Ashley Judd movie.