Tag Archives: Hollywood

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

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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Attn: Movie Theater Owners, or Why I’ll Never Pay to See Another Movie in a Movie Theater Again – Part 3

In Parts 1 and 2 of this 5 part series, I’ve touched upon parking, ticket prices, seating, and lack of special events as reasons I’ll not give my business to the local theater.  Granted, there are always exceptions to the rule (I’ll touch on some of those in a later post).  Not every theater, thankfully, will get negative marks next to all 12 reasons.  But unfortunately, I’ve found more and more theaters in my area falling into these 12 categories.  The reason I write this isn’t because I don’t like the theater experience.  When done properly, I love it.  There is no comparison.  Seeing a film, complete with the flickering glow of the projector above, up on a 30 foot silver coated screen, is sui generis (my Latin for the day!).

Today’s topics are tough for me to write about.  As a director and editor of commercials, I tread lightly on reason #5.  However, as I’ve said before, I do believe that there is a time and place for everything.  And the movie theater is not one of them.  Let me get right to it.

Reason #5: Commercials

The major concern that I hear from theater owners (and the studios, of course) is that they need to devise a way to make the theater experience even more different from the home theater experience in order to get the crowds.  Hence the reason we’ve recently seen 7.1 Dolby, 3D, Stadium Style seating, etc.  Then why, I ask, do you reverse your progress by making the theater experience even more similar to the home theater experience by introducing commercials to it?  I recently went to a movie, where I sat through 45 minutes of commercials (a coupling of the section dubbed “The Pre-Show Entertainment with the actual made-for-tv commercials)!  45 minutes!  That’s a quarter of the length of the movie!  Of course, I point out the worst case scenario.  But it’s not uncommon to have to sit through 20 minutes of this, all before the first trailer begins.

As I wrote in yesterdays post, I am not opposed to entertainment preceding the feature film.  I used to love the shorts that were in front.  And I usually enjoy a very well made trailer.  I especially enjoy the trailers that are filmed and created specifically for that purpose.  Think the “Jurassic Park” teaser trailer that featured footage created specifically for the trailer.  Or the “Spider-man” trailer.

Let me explain.  I would not be opposed to commercials if they were entertainment.  If they were shot as a 2-3 minute dramatic short film (or comedic, or sci-fi, etc.), but obviously were advertising a product (or two or three), I wouldn’t object.  The Los Angeles times used to create theater specific ads that were mini-docs on the entertainment biz, and I always enjoyed seeing those.  If they were presented as an ongoing serial (á la the Maxwell House commercials a few years back), I’d be even more apt to enjoy them.  Of course, that seems, on the surface, to be out of the theater owners hands.  But if the theater owners currently work with the ad agencies  to secure the ads, they could lay down some rules as well.  The ad agencies would likely comply, in order to get their products noticed on the level they currently do.

As you’ll see in the posts later this week, I believe that the audience’s behavior is determined by the atmosphere in which they sit.  If the first thing they are presented with is a slew of 30 second commercials, something they get at their own home, they are likely to react in the same way they do at their home during commercials.  That is, talk, use cell phones, play a game on their Nintendo DS (why someone would bring that to a movie theater is beyond me?), and any other distracting behavior.  Of course, by the time the movie begins, they are already in that frame of mind, and it now impacts all around them.

So please do away with the commercials.  In fact, if you want to raise the price (I know, what about Reason #1 right?) in order that I do not have to sit through them, feel free.  After all, that is one reason why I love the Arclight cinema in Hollywood, CA so very much.

Reason #6:  Concessions

Many of you may be thinking that here is where I continue on about pricing.  You would be wrong.  I am not implying that the costs of concessions are outrageously cost prohibitive (they are), nor am I suggesting that the nutritional values of the snacks are worse than eating a stick of butter (they are), but I am proposing that you do away with the concession stands entirely.  This is also hard for me to say, as I have fond memories of going to the cinema and eating a hot bucket of popcorn coated in real butter with a package of peanut M&M’s on top!  (I was recently made aware that the Laemmle theaters still use real butter!)  Unfortunately, because of (reason #10), this just no longer works.

One of the many features that I enjoy about going to a private screening of a film is that there is never a snack stand at the theater.  It seems that the people in charge of industry screenings understand that the mess left behind is akin to watching a film at a recycling yard, complete with crumbs in the seats, sticky and/or wet floors, and chewing gum stuck under the arms of the chairs.  The distracting noise of a cellophane wrapper being torn during the quietest part of the film, or the sounds of the last few drops of liquid amidst the melting ice cubes in the bottom of the cup being sucked through the straw slowly and methodically is exasperating.  The Jumbo Size Cola needing to find its way out of the person seated next to you three times during the film is anything but welcome.  Times that by 10 or so, and you have 30 people reenacting the Bugs Bunny scene from “Hare Do” in your row alone.  The smell of a greasy, over-cooked, heat lamp incubated hot dog is nauseating, to say the least.  The added orchestra of crunching nacho chips throughout the film only deters from the millions spent to properly record the features soundtrack.

Instead, I propose that you open a small cafe area.  In fact, this may help contribute to the overall “event” of going to the movies.  You can sell small sandwiches, along with the other commodities typically found at the concession stand.  A couple can do a “dinner and a movie” date within the confines of your establishment, all at the benefit of your other customers.  You likely would garner more business, as some people may purchase your “Dinner Date” package, which for a higher ticket price, would get them seats in a specially reserved section, as well as their own personal usher/waiter.  Win/Win.

Or perhaps you create new seating (again, I point out how these reasons are all related!) that has a special section for those desiring to eat during the film.  I was in Austin, TX not too long ago and paid a visit to the much talked about Alamo Drafthouse.  It was a very interesting experience, in that you could order a complete meal and eat it in your seat.  If there was a special section for that, I would have no qualms.  Or another  option would be to have a specific showing for those who desire food, and another for those that do not (The Arclight cinemas do something similar.  That is, they offer a screening they’ve dubbed the “21+ screenings”, where those in attendance can have alcohol if they prefer).

Reason #7 – 3D

This is related to costs.  Let me preface this reason by giving a little backstory.  When I went to see the private screening of “Avatar”, they gave us special 3D glasses that we could take home with us.  I was excited to receive these freebies, as I knew that I would be able to carry them with me to every other 3D film from here on out.  Fast forward to the “Avatar” showing at the AMC that my wife and I went to the other day.  I have my free passes in hand, my 3D glasses in the other.  I get to the window, present my passes, and am told that the total will be $10.  Surprised, I ask the reason.  I’m quickly told that the added fee is for the 3D glasses.  I state that I am in possession of my own pair, and thus would only need to pay for the one pair.  I am then informed that I will not be allowed to bring in my own pair of glasses!  I retort that I’ll opt to not use the glasses, as I’ve already seen the film and don’t care to sit through it with the glasses this time out.  Again, I am told that I cannot enter without paying the fee for two pairs of glasses.

Now, I understand that $10 is not that big of a deal, given that I was using two free passes.  However, if I had paid for the tickets, my movie alone would have put me back $34!  And I had my own pair of glasses!

I then noticed the still on the movie screen during the “pre-show entertainment” that was intended to bamboozle the audience into thinking the reason for returning the glasses upon the completion of the film was to “stay green”.  Ok, how is having to produce another pair of plastic glasses “being green”?  If you would allow me, as well as the many other theater goers who are like-minded, to keep our glasses, the need to produce more would be drastically reduced, resulting in a truer form of “being green”.

I wouldn’t raise such a ruckus regarding this if the glasses were free.  I would happily return them as I exit the theater.  However, I’ve paid for the glasses.  I’ve not been given the choice to use my own over the use of those you are providing me.  Don’t even get me started on the fake Imax that you also asked me to pay extra for a few months ago.

So I ask, either allow those of us who have our own glasses to bring them in, just as you allow those of us who have free passes to enter your theater.  I also ask that you stop charging extra for the pair you offer.  I understand that the studio “forces” you to pay that fee.  But if you all would refuse to show their films in 3D unless they paid for it themselves, you would have the upper hand.  In fact, you already do.  They need you to show their films.  Treat it that way.

And lastly, if nothing else, I ask that you at least honor the free passes in a manner that allows me to truly see the film for free.

Reason #8Coming Tomorrow

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Posted by on March 17, 2010 in Music


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Attn: Movie Theater Owners, or Why I’ll Never Pay to See Another Movie in a Movie Theater Again – Part 2

In yesterdays post, I touched upon parking and ticket prices as the reasons that I will no longer give my business to a movie theater.  Today I intend to bring two more very important and impassioned pleas to theater owners everywhere.  The purpose of this 5 part blog (resulting in 12 reasons) is to voice my opinion, which I know is shared by many.

Of course the temptation to include things that are out of the theater owners hands is there, but I will save that for a letter to the studios.  I could easily compose another week long list containing topics as varied as the lack of intermissions (something the great moving pictures of old are noted for), or the omission of overtures, or the superfluous credits at both the opening and closing of a film, or the editing styles that make those afflicted with ADD resemble Ambien® patients.  But this is not the time, nor the place.  Instead, I continue with my reasons why I’ll never pay to see another movie in a movie theater again.

Reason #3:  Seating

Tell me any other entertainment event that requires the purchase of a ticket where seating isn’t assigned.  There aren’t many.  Sporting events, Theatre productions (ie. Plays), Concerts, Symphony Orchestras, Comedy shows, Circus acts, and Modeling runway shows all assign you a specific seat.  In fact, all of these events feature ticket prices that are tiered according to the “section” your seat is in.  This doesn’t exist in most movie theaters.  Contrary to what theater owners may think, stadium style does have its drawbacks.  Not all seats are created equal. It doesn’t seem right that I have to pay the same price for a seat in the front row as I would for a seat in the prime center of the theater.

What happened to the aisles?  In days of yesteryear, it wasn’t abnormal to find a theater with a middle aisle (going from front to back), an aisle crossing through the middle of that aisle, an aisle in the rear of the theater, the two side aisles, and an aisle in the front of the theater.  Occasionally, a theater could be found that would have two middle aisles (again, from front to back), resulting in six floor seating sections, similar to how you would still find it at an actual performance theater.  This allowed for easy exits to the restroom, or visits to the concession stand.  The aisles always had the small lighting at the ground level, illuminating in the faintest of ways the floor for those moving about during the film.

Handicapped seating is abysmal.  A few years ago, I found myself in need of a wheelchair due to a broken leg (actually 9 breaks, but who’s counting).  Being confined to the lounge chair on wheels didn’t deter from my passion for cinema.  I quickly realized how horrendous the theaters have designed their stadium style auditoriums.  The handicapped section (usually a seat or two has been removed, leaving an empty space amongst the rest of the seats) is usually off to the side, up near the front, or at the rear of the theater.  Never have I seen a small section in the center, or off-center.  If you are in a wheelchair, enjoy the exit sign glowing in your face.

In addition, what happened to the balconies.  They were the best place to see a movie, and often allowed for a young boy to peer into the projection booth and see how the magic was happening.  In fact, many times, the balconies allowed for less of a strained neck, and still allowed for middle of the theater experience.

So I propose that you, Mr. Theater owner, give the local architect a call.  If you’ve lost the number, you can have your $14 seats, so long as you feature numbers on the rows and seats, and those costly tickets are for the chairs in the exact center of the auditorium.  The back-row seats would be slightly cheaper, the end-row seats even cheaper, with the front-row seats being the cheapest, at $4 per seat.  I would pay my fee, and choose from a seating chart on the website, or at the ticket counter, similar in fashion to how Ticketmaster operates.  Otherwise, drop the tickets back down to a price (I told you that many of the topics are related!) that is welcoming, and you can begin to win me back.

Reason #4:  Lack of Special Events

As a young child, there were many special occasions at many of the local cinemas that left an indelible impression on me.  There were many ways a theater catered to the customer in a way that doesn’t exist today.  These were the “Special Events”, or the “Special Features” of movies, (A term that wouldn’t be used for movies until years after theaters stopped offering them, and then for the bonus content on DVD’s/Laserdiscs).

There were many variations of the “Special Events” that a theater offered.  A spectacular “Event” that many theaters were known to partake in were the ‘freebies’.  On many occasions, a theater would give away the poster for the movie to all who purchased a ticket.  There were times such as the day that I went to see “E.T” and the theater was giving away free packs of Reese’s Pieces to every ticket holder.  I vividly recall the time that I went to see “Return of the Jedi” and was given a free paper Yoda mask (similar to the one found on box backs of C-3PO cereal).  Today I’m lucky if I get a free small popcorn (if I happen to go on a Wednesday, that is.)

Often, the “Early Bird” showings mentioned previously would be preceded by a few Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, Three Stooges, or Laurel and Hardy shorts.  Of course I am not referring to the days of my grandparents, but to a mere 20 years ago, give or take a few.  In fact, many of the theaters still had organs up front.  On Saturday mornings, they would fire up the old Wurlitzer and play music during those same cartoons and/or shorts (up until a few years ago, the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, CA would still do that, for only $5 admission!  But alas, they too no longer offer that memorable escapade).

There were the regular double features that a theater would offer, usually on a Saturday afternoon.  I can vividly remember the times I’ve gone to a film, paid for one ticket, and gotten to see two films.  And I’m not referring to a drive-in theater, nor theater hopping.  I’m speaking of the times a theater would show two films on the same bill.  The double features that my brother and I attended that I can easily recall were:  “Back to the Future”/”Rocky IV”, “Runaway Train”/”Rambo II”, “Empire Strikes Back”/”Weird Science”, “Cat’s Eye”/”Police Academy 2”, “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”/”Star Trek III: The Search for Spock”, and that just scratches the surface.

And lastly, theaters in every town would have curtains covering the screen.  They were closed before the projector lights turned on.  It gave off the impression that it was a special event, akin to being at the theatre to see the latest Andrew Loyd Webber production.  It was something small, but atmospheric.  It denoted that something special was about to take place.  The lights would darken, the curtains would pull back, and the previews would begin.  After a few minutes of previews, and nothing else, the curtain would pull back a little more, and the film would begin.  Pure enjoyment.

Regarding this, I say to you Mr. Theater owner.  Bring back some features that prove that you care about your customers, and want them to enjoy the movies in your venue, instead of from the comfort of their own couches.  If the complaint is that people aren’t going to the theater because of personal home theaters, give us those special features that cannot be had in the latest Blu-ray Special Edition.  Help us to experience events that will leave lasting impressions, and I’ll be amongst the first to pay you a visit.

Reason #5: Coming tomorrow….


Posted by on March 16, 2010 in Movies


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Attn: Movie Theater Owners, or Why I'll Never Pay to See Another Movie in a Movie Theater Again – Part 1

I love movies.  I love entertainment.  Anyone who knows me would vouch for my passion and love for all things film.  I recently went to the local AMC theater with my wife to see a film that I had already seen (and disliked), thus, I knew going in that I wasn’t going to enjoy it that much.  Little did I realize that I would dislike my experience for things other than the spectacle appearing on the giant screen before me.

My wife wanted to see the film in all it’s 3D glory, as she missed it months ago when it initially was released.  Normally, we would go to a screening that we had been invited to on a studio lot, or a designated screening room here in town, or even to one of the many industry Guild screenings that I am privileged to be a member of.  I rarely go to the local cineplex.  There are a number of reasons for my avoiding the megaplexes that currently dot our landscape, most of which I’ve decided to share with you.

Many of you may wonder if it has anything to do with the quality of films being released by Tinseltown today?  While that may be a future blog in and of itself, that will not be one of the topics in this weeks letter.  Nor will the topic of stealing my attention away from the dozens of other entertainment mediums that I’m likely to enjoy be addressed, although, it, like the former, may see the light of day here in the future.  Instead, it was after my experience that I decided to voice my opinion, which I’m sure is shared my many of my readers.  It is time I write of my top 12 Reasons why I’ll…., well…, you can see the title of the post.

Before I begin, let me squash any qualms you may have.  I am not advocating illegally obtaining movies to avoid the theaters.  I am simply going to stay home and get it on DVD or iTunes at a later date if I don’t have an opportunity to see it in my preferred setting. It is why I decided to ‘pen’ my open letter to all the AMC’s, Loew’s, Magic Johnson’s, Pacific’s, Mann’s, Edwards’, United Artists’, Star’s, etc. on why I’ll NEVER pay to see another movie in a movie theater again.

Reason #1:  Parking

There was a time not that long ago where a person could expect to go to a movie and park in the theaters parking lot for free.  After all, the fact that you were going to see a movie meant that you likely were going to spend money on the tickets, some concessions, perhaps stick around for a double feature, and, if the theater were part of a shopping mall, stick around after to spend more money at the many stores located within.  Not anymore.  They attempt to coerce you into believing they are giving you some of it for free, that is, validation.  But they usually only validate for 2 hours.

Let me explain why validation does not work.  Anyone who has been to a movie in the last 15 years knows that you need to arrive to the theater at least 1 hour before showtime in order to get a parking spot, get your tickets, get a half-way decent seat that’s not the front row (unless it’s opening weekend), and browse the many “coming soon” posters lining the theater halls.  Add to that the length of movies.  Give me the name of a movie in recent years that is under 2 hours, and I’ll give you a dozen more from 20 years ago for every one.  Add in the act of getting out.  The crowds.  The walk through the mall to the parking lot.  The wait in line to exit the “pay here” booth.  We now are at 4+ hours.  I now am going to owe the 2+ hours I have gone over.

That has happened to me twice in the last two weeks, at different theaters.  Both times, I had free tickets to the theater.  Both times, I spent $6 and $4.50 to park, respectively.  Both times, my “free” movie was anything but.  You’ll see in a minute how all of my points are tied together.  But to you, Mr. Theater Owner, I say this.  I am not opposed to paying to park.  I’ve done it for most, if not all, of my other entertainment outings.  The difference here is, I am asked to pay a set price to park.

Let’s say I am going to a play, or Disneyland.  I am going to be expected to pay a flat fee to park in the lot for the day.  What I’ll get for that fee is a pleasant parking experience.  I’ll have parking attendants directing me where to park.  I’ll have a walkway, or an escalator close by.  I’ll have the peace of mind knowing that when I exit, I’ll be able to get out of the lot in a timely and efficient manner.  I’ll know that there will be security patrolling the lot (although they still will have the “not responsible” signs posted, natch).  And I’ll know that no other cars will park illegally, especially if I’m in need of a handicap spot, or a spot marked “For Families with Small Children”.  In a word, I’ll know that my money is going to get me services.  So charge me a flat fee, let’s say $2, upon entrance, and provide me with the amenities I’ve already mentioned.  Otherwise, scrap the fee.

Reason #2:  Ticket Prices

Related to the previous reason, I take issue with the current costs of movie tickets.  I did go to a theater recently and purchased a ticket.  The total for one ticket?  $12.  The theater we went to for the free passes was even pricier at $14.  That’s per person.  Not per family.  A quick discussion with the hourly employee behind the ticket counter revealed that there are no Matinee prices, no Student Prices, no “Twilight Specials”, and no “Early Bird” tickets.

I remember “Dollar Tuesdays”, which meant that every Tuesday, the movies at most of the theaters were $1.  That stayed true throughout the years as tickets went from $2.75, to $3.50, to $4.25, and even up to $5.00.

The Matinee prices were usually 2/3 the price of a regular ticket, and were considered to be any film before 4:00pm.

The “Twilight Specials” were any show that fell between a set time, usually 4:00-6:00 pm.  Those tickets were discounted even more than the Matinee prices.

The “Early Bird” specials would be priced lower than any other times, and would be for those films that started before 11am each day.  Which leads me to…

Reason #3: Coming Tomorrow….


Posted by on March 15, 2010 in Movies


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Road to Oscars – An Education & A Serious Man

Directed by: Lone Scherfig
Cast: Carey Mulligan, Alfred Molina, Emma Thompson, Peter Sarsgaard
Genre: Drama
Rated PG-13 For mature thematic material involving sexual content, and for smoking

I deliberately went into this film having avoided any and all reviews, trailers, or blog posts.  I usually am a sucker for romantic dramas.  My wife has no problem getting me into  the local cineplex to see wonderfully crafted films such as “Once”, “Pride and Prejudice”, “Before Sunrise”, or “Remains of the Day”.  I’m even a fan of excellently produced May-December romance pics such as “An Affair to Remember”, “The Graduate”, “Crazy Heart”, and “Love in the Afternoon”.  I appreciate a story that begins with the appearance that the characters are destined for failure, but eventually overcome any hurdles by films end, proving the old adage that “Love Conquers All”.  “An Education” fits only part of that bill.

Newcomer Carey Mulligan is a fine actress, and is amazingly believable in her portrayal of a smitten young teen.  If nothing else, I wouldn’t be surprised if she wins the Best Actress Oscar, and goes on to a very fulfilling career in film.  Mulligan plays a credulous 16 year old who meets the guile older man, played by Peter Sarsgaard with perfection, and begins to fall head-over-heels for him and his sophisticated/avant-garde lifestyle.  All those around her seem to support her relationship with her new suitor, despite the fact that he is twice her age, and she is a minor.  The only exception being that of her instructor, played by Emma Thompson.  This was the only fault I had with this film.  I simply had a hard time believing that at least one of her parents wouldn’t have at least questioned the relationship, considering how “conservative” the father initially was portrayed.  The music and set designs of the film are excellently crafted together to further prove that Lone Scherfig is a very talented film-maker.  As entertaining as though the film may be, I found it a little predictable towards the end.  Thankfully, the film is rescued by the acting all around, and is worth a viewing for the performances alone.

= *** / 5

Directed by: Joel and Ethan Coen
Cast: Michael Stuhlbarg, Aaron Wolff, Richard Kind
Genre: Drama
Rated R For language, some sexuality/nudity and brief violence

Let me preface this review by stating that I generally am a fan of the Coen brothers’ films.  “Raising Arizona” and “The Big Lebowski” are easily in my top 100 list.  The wry, often dark, humor that peppers the brothers’ films sets their body of work above the rest.  Which is why a film like “A Serious Man” disappoints.  I can’t quite place my finger on the reason this film didn’t resonate with me the way films like “Fargo”, “Hudsucker Proxy”, or “Barton Fink” had.  Perhaps it’s my lack of knowledge in the subject matter.  This is a work of love; a very passionate film deeply entwined with the customs and language of a Jewish family.

I can appreciate the film for it’s portrayal of a 1967 Jewish neighborhood that bears a strong resemblance to the neighborhood familiar to the Coen’s.  What I can’t get past is that there fails to be a character in the film to stand behind and root for.  There isn’t a character that is portrayed in an overall positive light.  Larry Gopnik, played by Michael Stuhlbarg, is a miserable man who doesn’t know what he wants in life.  Larry’s wife, Judith, is having an affair, and thus leaves him, for “friendly” neighbor Sy Ableman. Larry’s children are equally as contemptible.  His daughter is a materialistic thief, stealing money from her own father for her selfish ambitions.   His son is a loaf who gives more energy into watching TV and listening to the latest album than prepare for something as important as his bar mitzvah.  Larry’s lazy brother does nothing but lounge on his couch all day.  Even the somber “Fargo” had a positive, likable character in Marge Gunderson.  It’s hard to get behind a film, when you can’t get behind any of the characters.

= ** / 5

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Posted by on March 2, 2010 in Movies


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Road to Oscars – Avatar & District 9

Directed by: James Cameron
Cast: Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver, Zoe Saldana, Giovani Ribisi, CCH Pounder
Genre: Science Fiction
Rated PG-13 For intense epic battle sequences and warfare, sensuality, language and some smoking

Let me start by saying that I love science fiction/fantasy.  There is nothing like an engrossing story that pulls the reader/viewer into the fictional world created by an author/filmmaker intent on proving this other world may exist.  Over the years, such excellent works have graced both the printed page and the small screen that there is no shortage of sci-fi (not SyFy, as a certain network would have you believe) for one to escape into for months on end.  Some of my favorite novels in this escapist genre are Joe Haldeman’s “The Forever War”, George R.R. Martin’s “Song of Fire and Ice” series, Jack Finney’s “Body Snatchers”, Larry Niven’s “Ringworld”, Orson Scott Card’s “Ender’s Game”, and Isaac Asimov’s “Robot” series.  On the motion picture side, my favorites have been Robert Wise’s “The Day the Earth Stood Still”, Franklin J. Shaffner’s “Planet of the Apes”, Duncan Jones’ “Moon”, Stanley Kubrick’s “2001”, Ridley Scott’s “Alien”, and John Carpenter’s “The Thing”.  I’d even go so far as to say video games like “Doom 3” or “Bioshock” would be amongst the top in that prospective category.  Unfortunately, Avatar will never make it into that list.  Nor would it break the top 100, if I were to create such a list.

Don’t get me wrong.  This film is beautifully shot.  The 3D is spectacular, so much so that 10 minutes into the film the viewer is likely to forget they are watching a 3D film, and focus instead on the story.  This, I’m sad to say, is where the film falls short.  The script is a very bland “vanilla-plain” story about a disabled Marine who heads to another planet on a mission to mine the rare minerals needed to continue to power Earth.  Eventually, he longs to escape into the peaceful world of the “virtual reality-hybrid” planet Pandora, where he is without the constraints of crippled legs, and able to witness the majestic creatures called Navi in their natural habitat.  He eventually falls in love with a female Navi, and wrestles with the decision to press on with his objectives, or betray his race and live and love amongst the Navi.  While sci-fi has nearly always been a morality tale disguised as fictional other-worldly tales, the message of evil Americans killing off the peace loving new-age aliens is a bit heavy-handed.  There isn’t much disguising here.

Now, anyone who has seen Werner Herzog’s “Grizzly Man”, or heard the recent news about Sea World and it’s “Killer” whales incident, knows that even though creatures may be beautiful and majestic, we are best designed to avoid residing with them.  The fact that the human falls in love with the alien is no more romantic to me than the guy working with gorillas in their natural habitat would be.  For me, the special effects, as breathtaking as they may be, no more make this a great film than the special effects in the “Transformers” films, or “Armageddon”, make them great films.  Not even the engrossing 3D could save this one.  For me, it’s the first James Cameron film that falls far short of perfection.

Rating = ** / 5

Directed by: Neill Blomkamp
Cast: Sharlto Copley, Nathalie Boltt, William Allen Young
Genre: Science Fiction
Rated R For bloody violence and pervasive language

As a fan of science fiction, I appreciate when a film attempts to break ground.  I especially appreciate when a film takes a possibly tired story and gives it new life, with clever characterizations, twists, and plot points.  The story of “District 9”  takes place in a fictional place in South Africa.  When aliens land on Earth, global business conglomerate Multi-National United forces them into rigid this place, “containment zones “, where they are compelled to labor, even as MNU commandeers their otherworldly technology for profit.  What differentiates Blomkamp’s film from similarly themed tales is when he introduces the lead character as a common worker, as opposed to a military big shot.  His initial “real-world” characterization, and believable transformation from man with a mission to man-on-the-run is further grounded in reality by the impressions that you are watching a documentary.  The fact that the lead becomes a wanted man not by choice, but by circumstance further sets this film apart from more recent films with a similar theme.

I appreciated the fact that Blomkamp never treated his aliens as a grandiose spectacle.  There never was the moment in the film where the creature slowly rises from the water, camera set to a low angle, as the lights flicker and the music crescendos, allowing the character to realize he’s in over his head.  The aliens in the is film were simply another character.  They were grounded in the grittiness of the real world, and each of the characters had multiple sides to their persona.  And each of the actors in the film were relatively unknown, which only led to the escape into this “faux-documentary.”  I sense that Blomkamp is on track to have a very lengthy career in films.  I look forward to see what this talented young filmmaker will next bring to the cineplex.

Rating = **** / 5


Posted by on March 1, 2010 in Movies


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