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.
The police were called to a theater my parents went to in Miami over an assigned seat fight. It’s usually chaos if the audience leans older…
It was for a Live at the Met FATHOM EVENT I have pics from the scene. Also at my A Star Is Born theater they changed theaters so none of the seats matched up and there were near fist fights at the AMC Lincoln Square Theater.
I managed a theatre. We had a full auditorium and a woman who wanted to sit with her two children. She ignored the process and stole three seats in a row that weren’t hers after selecting separate seats. When I had to move them, I had Icee thrown at me. Security was involved.
Once showed up to a 1pm matinee of OPERATION FINALE where I was the only person and found an elderly gentleman arguing with an employee. “But sir, it’s basically open and you’re right next to—“
“I want this seat!”
I walk up. I check in. “So what’s he going on to see?” I asked. The employee just said sorry and so I went in. An empty matinee and the dude decided to sit next to me as I was the only other person at the theater so I sat a few seats away instead. “YOU’RE IN THE WRONG SEAT!”
I walked out, changed my seat to be away from him and he actually got up to complain I wasn’t sitting next to him as it showed on the seating list and saw I changed seats in the empty theater and was upset the entire time.
I waited a few weeks for the hype to die down on the movie Amour before I decided to go quietly see it on a Monday night at the indie theater. That Monday also happened to be my 30th birthday, so I took the day off work to also treat myself since I had been dumped by a man I was deeply in love with a few weeks prior. I got to the theater early because even with assigned seating I like to have time to order snacks, and what the hell, I was feeling relaxed and pampered from my low key b-day spa day. I’m waiting in the lobby and I hear the voice that makes me jump. I heard someone who sounded like my ex ask for two tickets to Amour. I didn’t turn around but instead rushed to the theater to take my seat in darkness and anonymity. 10 min later, I see his silhouette walk in alone. And it keeps walking towards me. “Hey, Crystal,” he sheepishly says as he hovers over the seat next to me. “I guess I have these assigned seats.” I eke out a “hi.” The ex ends up putting one seat between us. I’m fuming thinking about his stupid date who I’m going to have to sit next to. His date eventually walks in, and they lightly peck on each other on the lips before the ex’s date takes their seat next to me. The date was another man. Bc of assigned seats, I SAT NEXT TO MY EX AND HIS GAY DATE FOR 3 HOURS IN A MOVIE CALLED AMOUR ON MY 30TH BIRTHDAY.
I went to see The Crazies at 1 pm on a Wednesday. The theater was completely empty. 10 minutes after it starts a guy walks in and sits directly behind me. I wasn’t even in the center, I was in the seat near the exit. I got up and moved but I could feel him staring.
When a guy was masturbating at The Vista to then-underage Elle Fanning dead asleep in MALEFICENT, they honored my request for a refund. Even gave him two chances to stop before leaving/tattling, but he just paused then went right back to jack town.
When I saw Batman v. Superman with some friends on opening night, a guy kept yelling “Batfleck” when Batman showed up. Finally he yelled it during a quiet scene and a few people (including myself) told him to shut the hell up. He replied with a “f*ck you”, but didn’t talk for the rest of the movie. Now I wasn’t telling him to shut up because the movie was good. (It wasn’t good and I was in like the 3rd row of an IMAX so my neck hurt.) I just got tired of hearing him. Later on, while telling someone this story, they said, “You should be careful. You have no idea what people might do.” I started to ask who would pull something in a Batman movie. I caught myself mid-sentence as I realized that we live in a world where I can’t ask that question.
Thanks, everyone. Stay safe out there.