My Texting Little Big Horn: A Moviegoer’s Lament.
It’s been a heady week here at Rushfield Babylon HQ, celebrating our iPad wielding triumph against the fearsome Rock of Ages texter. But satisfying though the moment was, last night I got a great reminder that it was a victory on but a small isolated front in a war where up and down the lines, we are being overrun by the enemy.
Last night I went to my local mall to see The Prometheuses (more on that to come) and about five minutes into the film, I noticed someone texting about four rows below and on the other side of the room - too far off for me to take action. Within minutes, there was another, closer. Then more. By halfway through the movie the screens were twinkling across the auditorium like the marquee of a Vegas casino.
As I sunk down in my seat in thwarted rage, I thought (the movie gave me a bit of time to think) about who was to blame for these sad days, beyond the depraved texting chimpanzees themselves. I thought about today’s complete moviegoing experience
Before the movie had started, the audience walked into an auditorium and was bludgeoned with advertisements for soda blaring at such a volume that there was little choice but to submit and gape in a stupor. I, and the entire audience, had paid 17 dollars a piece to be shown beverage ads.
Oh, and about that 17 bucks. Yes, that was one-seven dollars American I paid for a single seat in a movie theater on a weeknight. Why did it cost so much? Because it was in 3D! I was taking extra cash out of my pocket for the privilege of wearing uncomfortable, headache-inducing dark glasses which reduce the film’s light and color by twenty percent. Having paid to watch soda ads, I was also paying because film companies need an extra profit margin and hedge against piracy. And why shouldn’t we be the ones to finance that? It’s not as if every producer, studio exec and star hasn’t cut their salaries to the bone before passing on the burden to customers, right? (I would have loved to see it in 2D, but as always seems to be the case, the timing could not be made to work out.)
After the pre-show advertising portion of the night ended, we get into the show proper portion of the film - 15 minutes of trailers. 15 minutes on top of the 12 minutes I had spent watching soda ads means before the movie starts I have paid to sit through a near half hour of advertising. The trailers are an extra special treat as their duty is to systematically drain the next three months of movie releases of their every ounce of suspense, comedy, excitement and drama.
And then we get to the movie. In this particular case, I have my issues with the film (to be discussed) but I don’t begrudge it for being made. It is a real film by a real filmmaker who had real artistic reasons for making it. That however, has not been my typical experience with American films this year. The year is half over and I’ve seen a lot of American studio movies and I can say at the mid-point, there was only one that got me genuinely excited (Cabin in the Woods) two more genre films I enjoyed (The Grey, Chronicle) and many more that left me numb at best, frequently feeling much much worse. American studio filmmaking has become the worst money sucking exercise in soul-destroying that the arts have ever known. For 17 dollars a pop, after sitting through half an hour of ads.
And then we come to the texting issue. Before we put the blame on the texters themselves (and we will and we do) how about a little first on these theaters? Yes, they play the funny little announcement not to talk or text, but when was the last time you saw an usher or theater manager admonish people to behave themselves on their own? At the multiplexes, I have goaded many into action, but they always go reluctantly and never, ever on their own initiative. Where is the pride of running a temple to the cinema? Where is the sense of, we’ve taken people’s money (a lot of it) so we owe them the pleasant experience that they have trusted us to provide on their rare night out of the house? Where is just the pride that I want to feel good about the place I manage? Instead we pay them so they can tell us, well who am I to tell people they can’t ruin your movie?
And while we’re at it, a handful of popped corn and some syruped water for you and your family - that’ll be another thirty bucks.
So after all that, we wonder why people no longer see moviegoing as a sacred experience, but just another place to hang out in the great communications corporate machine that has swallowed our life? Another place to barrage your senses with as much overloaded, blather as you possibly can via every screen you can summon lest you should be alone with your thoughts for even a moment.
Nonetheless, just because they lock us in a cage and make us swing on tires does not make us animals. It is understandable why you might behave like one, but still, completely, one hundred percent unforgivable. All we have is our one life to try and stem the tide. Fail in your very small duty, and you are lost to civilization. In the words of the poet Auden, “All I have is a voice, to undo the folded lie.”
The cinema corporate establishment owes a debt to art that no honest man can pay. But if you turn on that damned phone during a movie, may the wrath of God be upon you.