Thursday, December 29, 2005

On the state of movie audiences these days

The contents of my purse reflect what I've been doing on my Christmas vacation: my green wallet slightly fatter with money (the only gift I get these days), sunglasses in the case of sunshine on the city streets, mangled receipts, ticket stubs, and a half-eaten package of Reese's Pieces.

These last two items result from the four separate trips I've made to movie theaters this week. Since I moved to the city, I find myself going to the movies far less than when I lived at home. Mostly because the Chicago theaters are not very convenient (unlike in Manhattan), and because my mom is usually the person who accompanies me to the movies. Generally my theater attendance spikes during the holidays. Since I have over a week off, it's no surprise that I've been making frequent trips to Chicagoland cineplexes. Each of the movies I've seen has been quite different from the others, as have the audiences at these films.

I've noted before that talking or general rudeness in movies is one of my biggest pet peeves. In fact, it is the biggest. I cannot tolerate the cell phones, the talking, the bringing children to movies where children do not belong. I am reminded of a viewing of Talk to Her in New York where some patron had found it appropriate to bring their infant. Beyond irritating.

What follows is a summary of each audience, from worst to best.

Syriana: I wanted to enjoy this film. I was excited to see it. However, it was very difficult to follow and to understand because this elderly couple would NOT SHUT UP. They were sitting right behind us. I shushed them once and the effect of my shushing lasted only about 10 minutes. Elderly people in movies usually irritate me. Probably more so than children. First, they pay less for their tickets. So here I am, paying $2 more for a movie where I have to listen to them repeat every other word because they can't hear. Secondly, if they can't hear or see the movie (as was the case for this specific couple) rent the movie and watch it in your own home. Don't ruin it for the rest of us.

Chronicles of Narnia: Okay, this is a kids movie. Despite being a 9:10 pm showing, there were quite a few kids in the theater. Understood. No complaints about that. And I wasn't all that into seeing the movie in the first place so a little talking wasn't going to ruin it. However, the kids in the row behind me kept getting up (probably for popcorn and pop refills) and they kept pulling my hair when they did so. And the guy next to me was sprawled out like he was in his living room. Please observe the boundaries of your seat, sir.

Memoirs of a Geisha: I would have expected it to be worse. The day after Christmas. Packed theater. People stepping over each other to find a seat. A high concentration of individuals over the age of 55. But my movie experience was fine. In general, the audience was not chatty and I only heard one cell phone ring (the woman was sitting next to me). There were some ignorant people behind me (they didn't realize the movie took place in Japan and referred to the setting as China, even after the Japanese flag was shown), but I really didn't get annoyed.

Breakfast on Pluto: I'm going to make a generalization here - Audiences at artsy movie theaters tend to be better behaved. Note that there was that idiot who brought his/her baby to a Spanish film. But I think that most people who go to see indie/arty/nonmainstream films are going because they really want to see the movie. As a result, they observe theater etiquette and make for a highly enjoyable movie-watching experience. In fact, the theater was small (only seven rows) so it was a cozy audience; it was as if I was watching with a good group of friends.

Note: Two of these films included Liam Neeson, but in very different roles. A talking lion king one day and a sexually active Irish priest another. Talk about range.

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