Attn: Movie Theater Owners, or Why I’ll Never Pay to See Another Movie in a Movie Theater Again – Part 4

18 Mar

For those just joining the one sided conversation, welcome.  Up till now we’ve seen reasons 1-7 on what I see as issues in many movie theaters that ought to be addressed.  Those reasons already mentioned have been parking, ticket prices, seating, the lack of special events, commercials, concessions, and 3D.  Today we will discuss reasons 8-10.

First, let me assure you, this is not a case of nitpicking.  Were that the case, you would find stories about the color of the drapes, the fabric on the seats, the temperature of the auditorium, the use of 2000 lumens bulbs instead of 3000 lumens, and the lack of diet rite cola.  (Of course I just made those all up.  Do they even make 3000 lumens bulbs?)  My point being, I believe that these are all very valid points.  I’m sure I could easily find a few dozen patrons in a movie theater that would heartily agree with any of these reasons I bring up.  I don’t think, however, I would have the same luck if I were to ask about those points I just mentioned as true nitpicking.

Lastly, I write these 12 reasons because I care about movies.  I care about entertainment.  I don’t accept mediocrity in order to avoid “rocking the boat”.  I wouldn’t expect, as a business owner trying to sell my product, most consumers to just “suck it up” and purchase my product if it were defective.  I would expect to be competitive with what consumers want.  And when I learned that something I produced wasn’t selling the way that I intended, I would take whatever measures possible to ensure that my customers were satisfied, while still making a profit.

To elucidate my position, let me describe this scenario.  Let’s take a product with a long history.  If that product isn’t selling well, you can expect to see it on sale.  You can expect to see a redesign of the packaging.  You can expect to see “free bonus” items included.  And you can expect to see it parked on the end caps, in the best position, with the counter to purchase it very close by.

With that, I give you…

Reason #8 – Audio Levels

This is a tricky one.  To one person, the audio may be too loud.  To another, it may not be loud enough.  For me, I have one criteria.  If I can hear the sound from the movie I’m in (theater #4) out in the hallway, or in the auditorium next to us (theater #5), the movie is too loud.  If I can hear the person three seats down breathing during an action scene, the audio isn’t loud enough.  Fortunately, I don’t think I’ve ever encountered the latter, while unfortunately, I’ve all too often encountered the former.

Just a few weeks ago, I went to see “The Wolfman”.  I found myself throughout most of the film with my fingers in my ears to dampen the explosive audio, as the decibel levels in the theater were painful to the ears.  Lest anyone think I was alone in my actions, I’ll assure you that I noticed many others (under the age of 40, of course) around me doing the same.  In fact, the man who reeked of [edited for content] seated next to me was doing exactly the same.  (That man deserves a reason of his own!)

There have been many times when I went to the theater with my wife to see the latest rom-com, or tear jerking drama.  On more than one occasion, just as the boy is about to kiss the girl for the first time, I hear the rumblings of gun-fire coming from the theater next door.  Just as the old man is about to exhale his dying breath, with the lovely woman reading the notebook at his side, I hear the bombing of Iwo Jima as though it were a part of the soundtrack.  I particularly remember going to a screening of a film a few years ago where the theater gave the entire audience free passes upon exiting the film due to the number of complaints they received about the audio levels.

And lastly, the speakers.  I cannot count the number of times (AMC seems to be the chief culprit here) that I could hear the channels switching between the left and right front speakers due to some technical error.  Nothing like 4 1/2.1 (that’s 4-and-a-half point-1) surround sound!

Please monitor your auditoriums with a decibel reader.  I’ve worked a number of trade shows where we’ve had to do exactly that, in order to ensure that the audio accompanying our video projection didn’t “bleed” over into the next booth.  Please ensure that your speakers are all calibrated and meet some form of standard.  After all, that’s why THX was invented.

Or better yet, to justify a pricier ticket, install speakers into the headrests of each and every seat.  You can then put an audio control (and no, it doesn’t go to 11) into each arm rest on those seats, and allow people to control their own audio.  In fact, this is how Cirque du Soleil has been doing it for years, to great success.  It’s also similar to what the original IMAX movies (you remember those 30 minute 3D tours of the Grand Canyon?) did.  They would have the speakers inside the 3D glasses that surrounded your head. Oh, and to answer your questions, yes, 7.1 can be installed in this way!  Just check your local ads for headphones, and you’ll see it’s already being done in that format.

Reason #9 – Cell Phones

There really is no reason that this cannot be controlled.  It seems to be the number one complaint that most every person I’ve spoken with proclaims.  I won’t spend too much time on this, as it is very closely related to Reason #10.  But I will single it out here due to its notoriety.

Every screening that I’ve ever been to (that takes place before a film has officially released) has had one rule, and one rule only.  No Cell Phones!  They go to measures to ensure that their rule is met.  They often times will check your pockets, wand you with a metal detector, notify you as you hand them your ticket of their very strict policy, and have ushers consistently wandering the aisles.

If you forget that you have your cell phone on you, they will usually ask you to return it to your vehicle, or place it into a plastic bag for you to retrieve upon exiting the theater.

As I stated, the reason for this action is a direct result of the topic I am now going to address…

Reason #10 – Etiquette

It doesn’t exist in most modern audiences.  I touched upon this in Reason #5, and in #6.  It is practically a guarantee that a patron will encounter this reason in some form during his attempt at enjoyment of the film on the screen.  I’m not sure when this began to decline.  But as I stated in Reason #5, I believe a large contributing factor has been the introduction of commercials to the theater going experience.

There will undoubtedly be the person who feels they need to text message their friend they just saw moments ago.  Without fail there will be the person who answers his cell phone that first plays through Handel’s Messiah twice before they’re able to retrieve it from the bottom of their bottomless handbag, or from the fabric of their deep pocketed cargo pants.  I could win millions if I were to bet on seeing a red laser light shine upon the screen a few times during the film.

People must really love their feet.  I’m just not sure many people love other peoples feet.  I don’t necessarily want the patron behind me to rest their feet up above my head as I’m trying to enjoy the film.  This isn’t Lazy Boy’s showroom floor here.  I also do not appreciate the rhythmic clobbering the back of my seat is dealt on a consistent basis.  In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a person who would rather use the legs of the person who is seated behind them as an arm rest in place of the actual plastic and felt one that is a permanent fixture.

I’m not sure why some people feel the need to offer commentary to a film.  Or to notify all around, at a level I can hear from two aisles away, what they don’t like about the film, or the actors within.  I’ll never understand why some desire to discuss how the date with Billy Sue went the day before.  I’m still not convinced that people actually believe the comments they yell to the characters on the screen are heard by them, and that their comments may somehow alter the coarse of the story.

It should be understood that if you purchase a box of chocolate covered peanuts, you ought to unwrap the cellophane before the film begins.   It equally ought to be common sense that just because you purchased a $6 raspberry slurpee, you don’t need to “slurp” the last few remaining drops on the bottom of the echo chamber that is the paper cup. Popcorn tastes the same if you hold the bag still while eating, as opposed to shaking it and the dozen kernels on the bottom of the bag after every handful scooped, just in case you were losing sleep at night over that one.

And I’ll never comprehend the person I saw playing their Nintendo DS during the penultimate showdown of the latest action movie (if you’re that bored, LEAVE!).

To address this reason, Mr. Theater Owner, I propose one thing.  Education.  Educate the audience.  Instead of the dozens of commercials that precede the film, offer a short educational film on proper theater etiquette.  Chewing your food with your mouth closed should have been taught in grade 1, but somehow, for many in the audience, it passed them by.

If you see someone on their smuggled in cellphone, politely ask them to leave.    Better yet, offer incentives for people to “narc” on these offenders.

Have ushers standing in the aisles during the films entire runtime.  Have them attend to people who need to excuse themselves in the least disturbing way possible.  After all, the live theatre has been doing it this way for years.

Don’t allow people to come into a theater for the first time once the film has begun.  If they arrived a minute or two late, offer them tickets to another time, or a full refund.

Ban those who the ushers see using the red laser light pen.  Treat them the same way that a manager of a local art gallery would if they caught a person deliberately defacing the masterpiece before them.  Post their picture up on the ticket counter for all employees to see, just as the owner of a local convenience store would for a person who habitually wrote them bogus checks.  In fact, this is one of the only nuisances in this list that is a deliberate, intentional, and a willful active of malice.  It ought to be treated as such.

And lastly, sternly scold those parents who allow their children to disrupt the other patrons consistently throughout the film.  In fact, don’t….My apologies.  I’m getting ahead of myself…

Reason #11Coming tomorrow

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Posted by on March 18, 2010 in Movies


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