In the darkened room
by Matt Worley
I used to go see movies in the theater a lot. In college, we'd travel all the way up San Mateo to the Movies 8 for the buck flicks. It's not a buck anymore (unless you go on Mondays with a friend or something like that...you might have to be old, too), but it's close enough. Like they say, it's not that prices are going up, but the dollar is going down (which is a little nasty).
I saw a movie in the theater a season this year. I'd take a day or two off work around a Monday holiday and go to the first showing of the day (which is cheaper no matter what theater you go to). But mostly I watch on video. I've got a big TV (for the room) and Netflix, so it seems like I've already payed for the movies.
A lot of the time, I'm one of the only people in the theater. The exception to this was seeing Bridesmaids at the bucker. That showing was full of gaggles of women (mostly without kids or men). Giggly and happy. Comedies in full theaters are pretty fun. The Hangover was like that, too. When you watch them alone (and must supply all the laughs yourself), you miss the contagious laughter.
One of the most unintentionally hilarious crowd reactions I've ever seen happened at an opening day showing of Terminator 2 in the summer of 1991. I was on vacation in Lawrence, Kansas, staying with a friend for a week or so. The theater was packed, and the beginning of T2 is so intense, you think there's not going to be any let up. The tension has to go on for almost a half an hour. Sometime in that first chunk of tenseness, one of the guys in the audience could just feel there was something else coming around the corner. He said, "Uh oh," in the almost silent (but riveted) theater. And then nothing bad happened. We all broke up laughing.
I could watch T2 ten more times, and I couldn't tell you where that moment happened. But the moment (not actually in the movie) was just amazing.
I took a date to The Crying Game. She's a professional extra now.
A classic buck movie crowd scene was during a summer Saturday afternoon showing of The Two Towers. I think there were four of us, and we got pretty good seats. About ten rows back from the front (and this was the largest room in the place) near the middle of the middle section. I'd left about three seats between myself and the people who were to the left of me.
About a half hour into the movie (which was around 3 hours in the theater), a young dad with two boys and a baby excused himself all the way down our row into the three seats I'd left open. The two boys (both under ten, I'm sure) would pass the baby back and forth trying to keep him as quiet as possible. The dad started up a conversation with me. Because everyone around was about ready to beat this guy to death, so he wanted to have someone on his side (I wasn't). He was obviously trying to kill time while he watched his kids (it was also kinda obvious he was not the primary caretaker of these kids...the two boys were better with the baby than he was). I'm guessing the Hooters across the parking lot was just a little more crass than taking youngsters to a fantasy war movie.
"So what's happened? What's going on?" he asked.
Quietly, I said we were pretty far into the movie to explain. I don't think he even knew what movie we were watching. He asked me if certain characters were bad guys.
The baby wouldn't shut up. The only time we didn't hear the baby whimpering or crying or babbling was in the really loud action scenes. And then the baby went out of its mind, but we couldn't hear it so all was...okay.
After about an hour, they left. It might have been longer. This is what happens sometimes when you play a buck for a movie ticket.
So tonight I'll cook up a chicken and watch the Oscars, which will reward movies (and their various moving parts) that I mostly haven't seen. I've seen three of the nine best picture nominees (Midnight in Paris, Moneyball and Tree of Life), which were all pretty good. I'm not sure if there was a great movie that came out in 2011.
But the Oscars rule, even when they suck. I don't know why this is the one awards show I'll watch all the way through. Maybe I still just love the movies. And the Oscars is one long preview to the flicks I'll watch on video in the next couple of months.
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