Movie Theater madness: Who let these people into my screening?!

Two films in two days.  Two theater chains.  Two loud Hollywood films.  And two theater experiences that were far from optimal!  Yet, even in this film loving city of San Francisco, I’m sad to report that this is probably the norm rather than an exception!

Century San Francisco Centre for a Saturday matinee of “Great Gatsby”.  There isn’t a 3D screening available for our time slot.  Well, probably good since it’s going to be a film full of sensory overload.  It’s a large theater and nicely filled, surprisingly full considering that it’s a rare warm weekend day!  The lights dim and commercials start.  This is a relatively-new annoyance: 2 commercials for Mazda (well-done but TWO), previews for television shows (sigh) and then 6 previews.

I’m a big fan of previews.  I once dreamed of a career creating trailers (Trailer Trash as a company name) but it’s now an onslaught of too many previews revealing too much of the plot.  Why bother to see the new Ron Howard film when the entire plot is there in the trailer for “Rush”?  This is also the second time where I’ve witnessed the audience burst into spontaneous laughter at the audacious, over-the-top preview of the newest “Fast and Furious”!

Finally, the feature is about to begin.   What is that?  Oh, no.  There are lights on either side of the theater flickering.  Sigh.  Oh good, that got taken care of.  Now settling into the story.  First party scene.  No, it can’t be.  The surround sound isn’t working!  The dialogue is fine but the soundtrack for the music is muted.  The party is music is so low that it’s a wonder anyone is dancing up there on screen.    Do I stand up in the middle of the theater and walk out to find someone to fix the projection?  Argh, no, I’ll just wait it out.  Mistake.  The movie is just not the same.

Sunday night, AMC Metreon 16.  There are 3 screens playing “Iron Man”, 5 screens of “Star Trek”,  I should be safe in the single screening of “Oblivion”.  It’s in a tiny raked theater next to the IMAX theater and I make my way up to the top center.    Three young men in front of me, all on their phones.  An older man sits directly in front of me.  I think he’s brought snacks for the boys but no, it’s ALL for him!  He’s got a large soda and popcorn balanced on a tray with an ice cream bar, box of candy and a water!  I’m so glad he remembered the water!  As he leans back to settle his tray better, the seats cracks against my knees.  “Ouch!”, I say as I stand up to move to the left.  He apologizes.  But really, it’s not his fault.  It’s the lack of space between seats; it feels like sitting in an airline seat as the person in front of you reclines right into your lap!

Five minutes to screen time and it’s clear that some of the other screenings must have  sold out as the patrons begin to stream in looking for seats in the small theater.  A very large man needs to squeeze past me to join his girlfriend on the other side which requires standing and moving my bag and blocking the screen as previews end.  The final insult is the last minute seating of a man wearing patchouli cologne 2 rows in front of me.

Oddly, there are even more trailers in this off-the-beaten-path theater!  Two trailers are for Asian films and one screens without any subtitles.  Interesting.  Then 7 trailers for upcoming features and finally, more than 15 minutes past the screening time, “Oblivion” fills the screen. Thankfully, it’s screened in Digital Projection (D-AV) and the sound and picture are wonderful.  Soon I’m transported away from the sounds of crunching and munching, cramped seating and funky smells to the spend time with Tom Cruise on our destroyed planet.  Ahhhh.  Time well-spent.

Is there a solution?  Do you experience projection issues at your local cineplex?  My answer is to see as many films as possible at my local single screen theater or patronize Landmark Theatres where I can count on getting my fix of art-house fare projected correctly in a comfortable cinema.

See you at the movies!

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