The Ideal Movie Theatre ... In A Perfect World
by Barry Wurst
May 9, 2007
The vision of FirstShowing.net (as well as that of Alex Billington, our innovative founder) is to make filmgoing in movie theaters an event. Not just a pleasant, passable experience but a memorable, enjoyable, even engrossing time that you'll want to experience again and again. If we can get you to enjoy going to the movies again, we have done our job. Yet, we realize that we have an uphill battle. While our event screenings have been crowd pleasing successes thus far (with many more to come, I should add), we know all too well how annoying going to the movies can sometimes be. From that imbecile with the pen light, to the chatter boxes sitting RIGHT BEHIND YOU, to the lady on the far right of you who won't get off her cell phone, to the commercials that seem longer than the movie you paid to see - First Showing is combating these with every audience participation, mondo-giveaway, fun-filled, fanboy loaded screening we host. As for me, personally, I will divulge what my fantasy of The Perfect Movie Theater Experience would be like.
When the lights go down, you get a voice telling you where the emergency exits are (like a trip on a plane, it's good to know where these are!), and then the trailers begin. I don't need to see the same ads I suffer through every night on television. And please, someone needs to stop those horrid Fanta Girls from showing their faces in public again!
LOW TICKET PRICES / EXPENSIVE GOURMET POPCORN
I could live with paying almost $20 for popcorn if the admission prices were lower and the concession snacks were above and beyond the normal quality. At The Mayan, one of Denver's greatest art movie houses, they serve famous, sugar/salt sprinkled SPECIAL popcorn that is a local favorite. I'd feel better at spending my money on that than an $8 ticket for The Reaping.
Instead of taking your screaming toddler to a family-friendly film like Saw III, which will have him balling from scene 1 and jack him/her up for life (all because you couldn't find a babysitter! Boo freakin' hoo!), how about one these options: A) The theater has a listing of top-notch sitters/daycare centers nearby and even has discount prices for these places when you pay for a ticket! B) In-theater daycare, with child specialists, toys, cribs, and (if the occasion merits) cattle prods for the really unruly brats that bite!
MIDNIGHT MOVIE PROGRAMMING
Sure, your theater probably has at least 8 screens, digital projection, surround sound and serves Dippin Dots at the concession stand… but if they don't show The Rocky Horror Picture Show every Saturday night at midnight, then YOU are getting screwed! Midnight screenings (everything from The Goonies to Alex's favorite, Starship Troopers) enhance theater revenue and make filmgoing that much more fun (take it from us at First Showing - we're big on the midnight movie scene).
CELL PHONE BLOCKING
I've been told they have machines that can jam a cell phone connection and make them unworkable in certain places. Not only does this make me laugh aloud like a comic book villain, but hey, shouldn't theater owners act on this right now? Think how much better audiences will love a film without a stupid Bee Gees ring tone blaring during the last scene of Spider-Man 3! As for those schmucks who say they need to have their phones on them in case of an emergency - you probably shouldn't be going to the movies if your life requires you to be near a phone all hours of the day! Who are you, Jack Bauer?!
DOMED SEATS WITH PADDING FOR SILENCE
How's this for an idea - you remember those cool egg chairs from the 70's? How about they put them in movie theaters, with extra padding, so you don't have to hear the idiots talking behind you? You can sit in a love seat-style padded egg chair if you're with a date, and the chair can have speakers with an adjustable volume if you want to completely drown out MORON WHO RECITES ALL THE DIALOGUE sitting two seats down.
Let's have all the yammering morons sit in the very front rows, in marked sections they HAVE to sit in, instead of in the back rows, where everyone has to suffer. Also, for the enjoyment of audiences who paid good money to sit in the non-talking sections, how about theaters provide us with MAGICAL MUTE BUTTONS, where we can zap those loud yakkers with our silencing lazer guns, causing the talkers to be silent for 120-minutes (in a mild, temporary coma).
BATHROOM STALL SCREENS
Okay, I'll admit it, I'm expanding on an idea I once saw in Mad Magazine, one of the greatest magazines in American history (end of shameless plug). What if they had digital screens in the bathroom stalls ands urinals? You stick you ticket stub in a slot next to the flush handle and are able to see all the scenes of the movie you're otherwise missing while you're in the John/Jane.
IN-HOUSE PEN LIGHT USER NINJAS
Theater owners, have a few ninjas on staff to infiltrate and attack every jerk flashing their penlights at the screen before, during or after the movie. What would be cooler than watching Music & Lyrics, seeing a laser pointer light flash over Drew Barrymore's face, then witness a cluster of ninjas run down to the third row of the theater, pull the guy with the pen light out of his seat and break every bone in his body, and his penlight, all for the enjoyment of the audience? Heck, I'd pay good money for a ticket to Firehouse Dog just to see some Penlight Ninjas!
NON-EAR BLEEDING SPEAKERS
Yeah, when something blows up during Live Free or Die Hard, I wanna hear it. Sure, when a creepy crawly jumps up at John Cusack in 1408, I want the audio to make me jump out of my seat. Yet, does it have to be so loud that the gun shots sound like the Beretta is being fired right next to my ear drum?! Dude, if I wanted to scorch my ear drums and get a hearing aid before I turn 40, I'll sit next to the speakers at a Megadeth concert. I shouldn't be near-tone deaf walking out of Shrek 3! Please, turn the dang THX down!
HAS-BEEN CELEBRITY GREETER
At the celebrated Arclight Theater in Los Angeles, they have greeters before every screening who stand in front of the screen, greet and thank the audience for choosing this theater, and tell them a little about the movie they're about to see. Now, wouldn't it be SO COOL if theaters had out of work, straight to DVD, C-list actors/celebrities to introduce movies? Just imagine the possibilities!!
Right there, you have the makings of an unforgettable night! Instead of making these poor actors compromise their dignity and star in some awful movie that won't even play in theaters, let's put them where they belong - in the spotlight and in the movie theaters (just not on the big screen).
For now, you'll have to put up with those talking, penlight lovin', cell phone obsessed audiences, but hey, at least know this: we at First Showing are taking on these annoyances, one screening at a time and will do everything we can to make films and filmgoing fun again and better than before (end of shameless plug)!
You may get your wish if Mark Cuban gets the Landmark Theater built here in Denver.
Heckle on May 9, 2007
Preach it, my brother! Now that would certainly be worth an elevated ticket price. Hell, I'd pay extra just so they could make the day-care free so I wouldn't have to listen to those screaming kids!
Jaq on May 9, 2007
Huzzah! Very well said and a nice expansion on the items in my post. Vic
Screen Rant on May 9, 2007
Hoorah!! I'm with you on everything but the domed chairs, Barry. Anyone who talks through a film needs to have their own screen. Screw putting them up front. They're still in there with us. Lets give them a small cramped screen where even their own voice becomes annoying. Do movie theatres think we're morons? Here in San Antonio there's a chain of movie houses called Santikos. I frequent one thats not far from where I live. They take care of the place and it's always presentable. A few of them even have Starbucks inside and a place to sit down and have a beer. Granted, they prices are all inflated, but at least you have that option. My wife and I have two kids, so when we go out to a first run feature, we're dropping a bill easy. Between the tickets, the overpriced, crappy food and the tub o' pop (not to mention video games) they pick out pockets clean. A while back we went to see a movie and my wife got the boys a couple of personal pizzas. HOLY CRAP these things were remarkably similar to Tony's 99 cent pizzas and they charged us $10 for that and a soda!!!! I nearly jumped over the counter to find the empty Tony's pizza boxes. Now, I've gone to the Alamo Drafthouse (which I'm sooooo glad we have here in SA). They have relatively good food and excellent beer options. You still get an eye poked out, but at least you don't feel as bad. I mean, I can get a Negra Modelo (a favorite dark beer of mine) at the Drafthouse, even though I pay $15 bucks for a bucket of four beers. My perfect movie going experience consists of a good, comfortable seat, no morons talking, no cell phones ringing, no damn commercials for anything and a reasonably affordable selection of food. And I wouldn't mind paying the high ticket prices if it meant that I wouldn't feel I was getting ripped off by everything else I bought. I can remember paying $1.75 for a first run movie. Well, my parents paid, but I kept the ticket stubs, so I remember that. I remember lobby cards and the big murals. I remember the experience of going to the movies as not just a seat rental, but of it being a night on the town. Now, if they'd only bring back drive-inns. -30-
Julian in San Antonio on May 10, 2007
Speaking of day care... Some of the old time giant movie palaces actually did take care of this. I'm thinking specifically of the Orpheum here in downtown Los Angeles, which had (and has) what is known as a "Crying Room." This is a hermetically sealed room with large windows on one of the upper balconies. Mothers with spuds in tow had to watch the movie from up there so as not to disturb the very important gentlemen wearing fedoras down in the orchestra section. The place is still there but unfortunately is open only sporadically for concerts and very infrequent movie screenings. I try to get in there as often as I can.
Scott Mercer on May 10, 2007
I would like to use this picture in a magazine I am making. Please give me permission to use it. Contact me by email as soon as possible please.
Joe Whitsett on Feb 15, 2008
Hey there Barry. What a great article. I just was looking for an image on Google images for a theater, and I found your excellent article on the problems with theaters. The reason I was looking for the image is I was writing for my 5 part blog series "Why I'll Never Pay for Another Movie in a Movie Theater Again". I touch upon most of the same points you address here (ie. cell phones, penlights, sound, places for children.) Just thought I'd say I'm glad I'm not the only one frustrated with the movie going experience. And to see your blog post is a few years old means there is nothing new under the sun! Just more. Thanks for the blog. If we can get more people on the same boat, perhaps we can make a difference!
Philip Bloom on Mar 22, 2010
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