Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Modern Movie-Going Blues

I hate commercials. HATE them. It's a major factor in why I disconnected cable from my TV ten years ago, and it's becoming a factor in why I am starting to avoid movie theaters. (As is the banality, gratuitous sex and violence, political proselytizing, and just general lack of quality of all forms of entertainment in contemporary Western Civilization, but that's the subject of another post.)

I also dislike being subjected to strange and unpleasant odors for prolonged periods, almost as much as I dislike being subjected to strange and unpleasant people for prolonged periods. Yet, these things comprise the modern movie-going experience for me.

Going to the theater used to be fun. There was a time when I would see most of the features released in a year, but now the experience of seeing a movie on a big screen with lavish sound is something I will forego for all but the most spectacular features.

Does it have to be this way?

I don't think it does, and so in the spirit of good fellowship and for the benefit of any movie theater chain execs who happen to be reading this, I herewith provide a list of the most annoying aspects of the modern movie-going experience along with suggestions for how to remedy them.

Commercials preceeding movies. When I have commercials foisted on me before a movie, mindful of having just paid an exorbitant admission fee plus a small fortune for the privilege of eating 10 cents worth of popcorn, I begin to feel, not like a valued customer, but like a rag being rung out for every last cent. I don't mind the silent slide show of local ads that plays before the movie's start time (in fact, I end up reading most of the ads), and I enjoy the coming attractions. Leave these in place, but theaters would generate a lot of goodwill by killing the commercials.

Dirty theaters. The closest theater in our area, the mega-colossal Tinseltown Cinema, is more commonly referred to as the Tinkletown Cinema, because that's exactly what it smells like. It's not often worth it to me to drive across town to find a non-smelly theater, and I will endure the icky smell only for movies that absolutely must be seen on the big screen (and there ain't many of those anymore). Here's a suggestion: skip the 20 minutes of commercials before each movie and use that time to have your employees really clean the theater.

Rude patrons. Movie theater behavior has become intolerable. It is now a common experience to be seated next to some oaf who insists on taking calls on his cell phone during the feature. Either hire ushers to tell these people to shut their phones off or install the hardware to block cell phone signals. Also, people who talk loudly, put their size-12 loafers on the back of my seat, and/or allow their children to similarly misbehave, ruin the experience. Please have ushers take care of this.

With the box office in a slump right now, I would expect the people making decisions for theater chains to pay attention to the things that drive customers away. But it's not looking hopeful, at least with respect to commercials. A quick Google search and these letters written by frustrated movie-goers indicate that a sizable portion of the audience is annoyed with pre-movie commercials. But as theater revenues decline, the response is, sadly, to show even more ads to boost revenue. Sounds like the beginning of a death-spiral. I hope theaters figure out what's going on and pull out in time.

3 Comments:

Blogger Rusticus said...

And you can't hit pause! Sheesh!

3/03/2006 2:00 PM  
Blogger Stickwick Stapers said...

...or fast forward.

3/03/2006 6:32 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

There's only one theater in town my wife and I like to go to, and it's about a 30 minute drive - even though there are at least four theaters that are closer.

I understand exactly what you're saying.

3/04/2006 11:10 AM  

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