Tuesday, August 01, 2017

GOING to see a movie these days

Commenting on my review of BABY DRIVER, reader ChipO wrote:

Everyone / anyone, and Ken, of course:
Our theater included a short, just before the studio screens, thank you message from the director, expressing his appreciation for us attending the movie at a big screen, which he stated was his intent in the creation of the film. I didn't find it smarmy, and I actually felt appreciated.
Did your theater have that? and, did it work for you?

Yes, ChipO, I saw it at the AMC Century City on a weeknight, and that was a lovely touch.

However…

Tickets were $20.99 (before any processing charges), there was a charge for parking (even with validation), most of the exits were closed after 9:00 pm, one idiot who didn’t know what he was doing created a back up of ten cars, and then there was the theater experience itself.

Ridiculously expensive concessions. You could easily drop another $20 on popcorn and a drink. You know a barrel of popcorn costs the theater 3 cents (maybe 4 now with inflation). 

And God forbid you take your seat early because before previews you are bombarded with non-stop commercials. Many of them 15 seconds so it’s relentless. This is their “pre-show entertainment.” The “entertainment” is trailers for network television shows. I’m paying $40 to be subjected to constant commercials.

Then of course, there are the assholes who check their phones or text throughout the movie. At least we didn’t have a screaming baby at this showing.

Now the theater chains can claim they need to do all these things to stay alive and compete, but what they are doing is driving away their customers. When we can watch movies on demand or blu-ray or wait for cable and see them in the comfort of our own homes with decent pictures and sound (and popcorn that cost us only 3 cents), why “go” to the movies unless it’s something with scope?

To me this is a shame. I always enjoyed the movie experience – getting out of the house, seeing films with a crowd (especially comedies). But now, I’ll see a trailer and go “cable.” Ten/fifteen years ago I would have said, “Yeah, that looks kind of interesting. I’ll go see that.” I bet you do too.

Theater chains are mortgaging their futures. I loved that Edgar Wright had that little thank you. It was a nice gesture. But more people would see his film on the big screen if Edgar wasn’t preceded by 72 loud annoying intrusive commercials for gum, cars, and Cokes.

You've been reading my "rant."  Now enjoy the show!

42 comments :

Bugdun said...

Hooray! I could not agree more. Thanks for the rant.

I do, however, kind of enjoy the M&M's commercials....

J Lee said...

Alamo Draft House, Ken. The food's still not going to be cheap, but there's a lot bigger selection, they clamp down on the cellphone users and the pre-show stuff isn't the usual NBC or Fox TV promos -- https://drafthouse.com/los-angeles

Mike said...

At least we didn’t have a screaming baby at this showing.
No, he was outside, parking the car.

Kosmo13 said...

For me now, it's SOP to aim to arrive at the theater 15 minutes after the advertised show time. That way I don't have to see all the pre-show ads, etc.

Why have first-run ticket prices suddenly become such odd numbers: $20.99; $8.17 and so forth? Up until a few years ago, first-run ticket prices were always $2.50 or $3 and later on $8 or $12. Suddenly they started charging these oddball amounts and everyone's acting like it was that way all along.

slgc said...

Amen!

I find that by the time I'm done with the barrage of commercials and previews I'm not even in the mood for the main attraction anymore. It's truly counterproductive.

Peter said...

What Ken said!

People who talk during movies or check their phones are the absolute bane of my moviegoing life. I now carefully choose when to go to the cinema so that I avoid large audiences, which is a shame because, back in the day, part of the fun of going to the movies was to have that shared experience with a huge audience watching a comedy or an adventure flick. Now you have morons talking, texting, kicking seats, generally behaving like they're sitting at home.

I have to say though, I thought audiences here in the UK were bad, but that was until I went to the States. Man, some of the audiences I experienced in Los Angeles were unbelievable. Kids were literally running round the auditorium. Teens were shouting at the screen. When I went to see The Wrestler, a guy and his girlfriend sitting next to me basically played on their phones for the entire movie. I went to see My Bloody Valentine at the AMC Century City and grown adults were shouting comments about what was happening. The best behaved audiences I found to be at the Arclight. I especially liked the fact that a member of staff would introduce each screening. I don't know if they still do that but it was a nice touch.

Ken, you've mentioned in the past about attending WGA screenings of movies. Are these occasional events or do they screen all major releases for members? I imagine you're guaranteed a civilized audience at a WGA screening.

Terry said...

$20.99 for a movie ticket on a weeknight? Yikes! When I hear things like that I'm grateful I live in the Kansas City area. I saw Valarian on a weeknight for less than $10. Although considering the train wreck that movie was I was probably still overcharged. Concession prices are ridiculous everywhere you go, though.

WOKcreativeWritings said...

Agree completely. Too frustrating to go to movies now. It seems to be that there is no respect anymore in our society. Even more frustrating at those prices.

John in NE Ohio said...

Couldn't agree more. Even out of the big city, where parking is free and first run tickets are ~$10, if you have any concessions you are still looking at a $30 or $40 evening. I can buy a bluray of the movie and have money left over to get Netflix for the month instead.
And the crowds. And the ads. And the fact that if you have to go to the restroom you can pause it. And if someone doesn't hear what was said or understand what's going on you don't have to try to catch them up while trying to pay attention yourself, while being "that guy" that's talking during the movie.

And the ads are so random. At least they used to be trailers for future movies that would be a match for the one you are watching. Now it is a Pixar film being advertised during a Rob Zombie movie. Or a TV show. A Fkikng TV show. Or the office space available next door. And then a recap of the ads you just saw. It used to be the showtime in the paper was at least close to the actual start time. Now it is the time of the ads.
It's all a shame, because I like going to the movies. Or I used to. Even the drive-in is no good anymore. $20/car. $10 extra to bring your own food in. Just to watch it on a smaller screen that isn't close enough and sit in a hot car.

txutxirey said...

This is why I love the Riverview in Minneapolis - $3 entrance ($2 on Tuesdays & always for seniors) plus $6 for large popcorn and a large soda. OK, it plays second run movies, but we are going tonight to Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and I try to see lots of movies here. Am looking forward to seeing Dunkirk when it gets there. Plus they play Oscar nominated animated shorts and short docs, plus special screenings. Unfortunately, I'm realizing that it does need first run movie theaters, so keep going to those overpriced cinemas, OK? Great!

blinky said...

Have you been to a baseball game lately? $11 for a can of Bud. $30 parking. The entire pall bark is covered in logos.
And you know that they will be coming out with logos on uniform's any day now.

Anthony said...

I'm a former film student, but even I had basically stopped going to movies for all the reasons you mention. Then they opened an Alamo Drafthouse here in Brooklyn, and now I am making up for lost time. As far as I'm concerned, it's the only movie theater in the city.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

UK cinemas have had pre-movie ads for as long as I can remember (so back to the 1970s). Not for TV shows, but for local restaurants, various kinds of booze, cigarettes for a long time, plus a serious attempt to make you thirsty enough to go buy something. There are only three theaters I visit now: the Prince Charles, an independent repertory cinema; the National Film Theatre, which knows how to show movies; and, if I am ever back in Urbana-Champaign, the Virginia Theater, where Roger Ebert based his film festival. *That* theater was awesome, though some of that has to be attributed to the audience in attendance at Ebertfest, to which Ebert wrote a blog posting of appreciation because it's so good.

wg

YEKIMI said...

Allow a theater manager to put in his 2 and a half cents (inflation, ya know). We're a single owner chain and I ABHOR the ads. There's not even that much money derived from them and when we reopened and updated a closed theater they started running them over my loud objections [the owner included some local ads as a barter system, i.e. an ad for a garage and they fix my car for free. No matter that no one at the theater is going to drag their car to some garage 25 miles away to get it fixed] I've actually had customers come out and demand their money back saying that they're not going to pay to sit through ads, they could have stayed home and done that for free on their TV. So, whatever money you may be receiving from the ads you're probably losing 10 times that amount in pissing off customers with them who may never come back to your theater. As I told the owner why don't you just let me empty the cash register in the toilet and flush the money down the drain? And the GM wanted to start running ads between the double features at our drive-ins and I absolutely blew a gasket. Told him "When do you think the concession stand makes most of the money? I don't want people sitting in their cars staring slack-jawed at some ad thinking it may be a preview of what's up next or maybe the movie is starting, I want them in the snack shack spending that cash!" For once they listened and we still don't run ads at the drive-in.

The ads are nothing new, they've been going on for 15-20 years now. Probably about 15 years ago went to a national theater companies chain [advertised starting time of, let's say, 7:30 PM] at 7:30, lights down, I settle back.....only to be subjected to TWENTY minutes of ads and then TEN trailers of "coming soon", "now playing" and "next attraction" of the new & upcoming movies. At roughly 2:30 for each trailer, add another 23 minutes. Tag on other PSAs [shut up, sit down, turn off your cell phone [wait for younger audience members to finish laughing], in case of fire, exits located here and there (please remain seated if you're an asshole who yaks on their phone through the entire show, I, at least, would like you to burn up), keep YOUR theater clean; deposit your trash in the trash cans located at the exits. It was 45 to 50 minutes before the fucking movie even began after the advertised start time. Haven't been back to that theater since. At my theater, my rule is if the movie is 90 minutes or less, 3 or 4 previews, more than that, 2 or 3 previews. Hey, my time is valuable, I'm assuming my customers feel the same way.

The "thank you" tags before the show used to come pre-attached to the show and in the digital age of theaters there was no way to cut them out. Some chain or other big shot must have bitched about them {"Jesus Christ, you're taking away 90 seconds of my valuable theater time that I could use to stuff another ad in! We'll go bankrupt!} because now they come in on the "trailmix", the grab bag of previews, PSAs, put on your 3D glasses, piracy policy and other stuff the movie studios want you to run but it's your choice to do so.

Jahn Ghalt said...

Update from the "big city" in the 49th state at Century 16 (which "revolutionized" concessions around 1998).

Saturday afternoon - possibly "matinee" pricing - admission about $10.50 - large soda $6. No noticeable texting, but then we sit at the top and stretch legs down the aisle ("stadium seating").

Ads are usually over within 2, 3, 5-minutes of stated start time (or maybe "on time"?) four (five? six?) trailers for the usual obvious crap "coming soon".

Occasionally with a better film, my Toastmasters training kicks in and at the end I will applaud - which breaks the ice and others join.

Loosehead said...

Don't know about the colonies, but over on this side of the pond, cinema prices took a jump when Avatar came out "to cover the cost of the 3D glasses" but curiously they never came back down for 2D films. At my local fleapit the adverts are not too intrusive - they try to make them funny at least, or retro 1960s for the local curry house, and then you are into the trailers for other films, and I can usually spot 3 or 4 I want to watch there so not so bad.

johnachziger said...

Being an old fart, I remember when there were no ads at movies. I actually don't mind them as it's better to watch something (anything) than to just sit there and do nothing. Of course, I don't have a smart phone to play with.
I have not been to a theater in the evening for at least 30 years. I go to matinees, usually on Monday or Tuesday around noon. Almost nobody there except us old people. I haven't bought any concessions since popcorn and drinks went over $1 (I don't understand why people think they have to eat and drink at a theater, knowing how much it costs--eat at home folks!).
I understand the owners trying to make a buck--imagine how much it costs to heat or cool such a large building! But all they get from me is the senior discounted, matinee price. And then, only 5 or 6 times a year as I can't afford to go more.

RyderDA said...

100% agree. I quit going to the movies. It's FAR cheaper to wait for a film to come out on DVD then end up in the $5 bin, which happens 6-12 months later. If I don't like it, I donate it to the local thrift store (OFFICE SPACE, THE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN).

Disney/Pixar films never do that; they are the only ones I'll go to the theatre to see -- but ONLY originals. CARS XVII and FINDING NEMO'S LONG LOST COUSIN FRED should go direct to video (so I can really ignore them) and stay out of theatres. These hack retreads are classic Disney money-milking and hugely degrade the originals.

Worse, where I live, there is only one theatre (a 4 plex) within 100 miles. Movies arrive Thursday and run a week (unless they're held over for at most another week). By the time I find out a movie is in town, and that it's worth seeing, it's gone. Which kinda solves the problem.

Johnny Walker said...

Quote: "Then of course, there are the assholes who check their phones or text throughout the movie."

You mean the worst people on the planet?

I guess some people just aren't aware how awful such behaviour is for others? I've seen people do it AT LIVE SHOWS. I felt like screaming, "they can SEE you, you know!" (both times they were on the front two rows, too, if you can believe that).

As for prices, don't come to central London to go to the cinema. You're looking at $30 just for the ticket! (Luckily as a local who attends regularly, there are schemes to reduce the prices, but visitors are screwed!)

RR said...

In the opening scenes of THE MUPPET MOVIE (1979) while the characters are waiting for their studio screening to start, Scooter runs around the auditorium yelling, "Popcorn! Get your popcorn! Only a buck!" In 1979, theater audiences laughed because it was ridiculously overpriced. Popcorn was only around a quarter even then. Now, audiences STILL laugh because, at a buck, it is hilarious under priced because most popcorn is now $7.99.

I admire the late Jim Henson's ability to keep a joke funny even under changing circumstances.

Richard Pryor said...

I've been a super movie fan since I was 5 and saw ROB ROY. Grew up in the '50's going to Saturday Matinees for a quarter with nickel Sugar Daddys from the snack bar (what a novel thought...selling concessions for grocery store retail prices) and drive-in movies in the '60's. And now I go to a theater once every year or two. For all the reasons mentioned above. I can't stand the unruly crowds, the commercials, the food pricing (and who has to eat junk food during the 2 hour movie anyway? As a kid you needed the sugar inbetween the triple features, caroons, newsreel and serial chapter. But now? No.) So add my voice to the enjoy a movie (can't call them films any more, can we?) at home crowd. My 65" UHD delivers better image, better sound, a better stocked snack bar (ahhh, a glass of 2010 Screaming Eagle Cabernet) and a cleaner toilet for those senior breaks. Sell theater chain stocks short. I think they're going to be a thing of the past very quickly. For what it's worth, I do venture out to a new complex on the Monterey Peninsula to experience certain movies. The last one was almost two years ago for the Star Wars film in 3D. It was the first day with a riotous crowd...and I enjoyed sharing every moment with them. But I equally enjoyed seeing the movie again on Blu-ray a few months later. Maybe theaters are still viable with the under 45 crowd but all my friends share a similar life style when it comes to viewing entertainment on screen.

Philip said...

As someone who worked at a movie theatre I can tell you, while the prices are insane (Ken's not lying about the markup) the amount of overhead to keep things running is pretty incredible. There is quite a bit of risk involved that equates to 20 dollar popcorn.

It was a 12 screen cineplex (here in canada) and we'd often have 30 - 40 employs working on a busy night, paying for cleaners (people are DISGUSTING), paying for prints and for projectionists to cut and re-cut trailers etc.

Your not wrong, but its not entirely greed – in fact many nights we lost money. Ticket gate went solely to distributors etc. - the theatre makes ALL of its money on concession. Or at least that's what I was told!

Having said all that, I am very pick and choosy and what movies I go to on the big screen. Went to Dunkirk (cost me and a friend a total of 80 bucks for a "VIP" experience: sitting on a leather couch and with a burger and a beer) and I'd say it was worth it

Cat said...

I remember when the only commercial was the LA Times commercial about how cool it was to be make movies. I must have seen the one where people are doing foley a million times until I felt like screaming at the screen, "we live in Los Angeles, no one CARES how you do foley!"

Ty said...

What gets me is that just about every theater I have ever gone to must have some algorithm that tells them just exactly how many people they should have working concessions at any given time to help the line move quickly enough, and then they lower that number by 3 in practice.

I also want to beat over the head any customers who spend more than 5 minutes in line for concessions and then have no idea what they want when it's their turn.

BigTed said...

For me, it isn't that the theater experience has gotten so much worse, but that the home-viewing experience has gotten so much better. Big-screen, high-def, good sound, comfy seating, whatever food I want, and a personally selected fellow audience make it a near-perfect entertainment experience. I have access to thousands of older films on Netflix and Amazon, and plenty of new-ish choices on pay-per-view (or, even better, on Redbox DVDs for $1.50).

I still go to movie theaters to see big special-effects-heavy blockbusters (or on date night). But once I upgrade to an even bigger ultra-high-def TV set (which are amazingly affordable right now), I might not even do that.

Sean Farren said...

Imagine adding all that to a Judd Apatow film and you'll have to spend at least 6 hours at the theater. His thank you would be 45 minutes minimum.

Jeff Weimer said...

We have Cinema Cafes in our part of the country. The ticket prices are significantly lower because they expect you to buy food, but those prices aren't excessive (even the popcorn is rationally priced) and it's pretty good. We have 2 "second run" theaters as well as 2 "first run" in our area if you want to save even more.

And they serve alcohol, if that's what you desire.

It's the only way we go out to the movies anymore.

Steve Bailey said...

From my brain to your blog. You covered every single reason I don't go out to movies anymore. The last new movie I saw in a theater was THE WORLD'S END (directed, ironically, by Edgar Wright). Long ago, I got tired of dealing with crowds, commercials, and high prices, and all for the hope that's what on the screen was worth the trouble and expense. Give me YouTube and the Internet these days!

Arthur Mee said...

Haven't been to a movie theatre in decades. There is no movie ever made that I will pay $20.99 (plus parking, etc.) to see on a big screen -- not when I can see it at home.

I might consider going if the $20.99 included a complimentary no-frills/no extras DVD or BluRay of the actual film.


Cap'n Bob said...

I stopped going to the movie houses until the Cinemark opened near me. Plush seats that become recliners at the push of a button, and few enough seats to make the experience somewhat intimate. Popcorn is $6.50 for a large tub and one refill is free. Same with drinks. On Tuesdays, the day I go, the tickets are $5.50.

What I don't understand from some of the comments here is why you people tolerate obnoxious patrons. Tell them to shut up or call the usher and let him/her deal with it. Quit being sheep.

This place still has the plethora of ads, but what bothers me more than the fact that they're running is the fact that they're so damned LOUD. At least twice as loud as the show. What I do now is buy my tickets in advance, show up 20 minutes after the announced show's start time, and bring ear plugs just in case.

Greg Ehrbar said...

I've found the worst instances of talking in general seating seating multi-cinemas in malls where people aren't very serious about movies and often drag in kids waaaaaay too young to see the movies and scar them for life. It tends to be different if you can get into a special screening at a mall theater, but that's not always possible throughout the country and those "free ticket" websites can be very annoying and time consuming.

Small indie theaters are more strict about phones, texting and talking. People are asked to leave for texting or using their phone. Hardly anyone even whispers. It makes one spoiled when visiting a mall theater again and hearing thoughtless people talking at full volume. Because they're small and show a lot of older films, they usually charge less per ticket or offer subscriptions or annual memberships which pay for themselves if you attend often enough. Some cities have festivals with the same benefits. It depends on your city, and not all cities have enough film buffs, but there are also some colleges that might welcome attendees, also at lower prices. You never know.

If you want to see a new blockbuster, go to a morning show, not a weekend or evening one. Just like anything else, stay away from popular times, holidays, things like that if you can. Even big movies don't fill theaters on a weekday morning. Some theaters even lower prices on slow days. The Edwards theater chain in Southern California offers new movies at 5 dollars on Sundays and Tuesdays, and it's usually less busy on Tuesdays naturally.

One message to tall people -- look behind you! If there's a short person or a kid there, sit down as low as you comfortably can, or choose a sitting position and stick with it so they don't have to keep darting their head around you. And guys with baseball or cowboy hats, take the them off, for gosh sakes! It's like it's 1915 and the magic lantern show has to remind ladies to remove those big flouncy potato chips things on their heads!

I think the biggest thing to remember is what my mother always says if we take to much food from a dish at Thanksgiving: "Hey! There are other people, you know."

sanford said...

Wonder if that was for Ken and his wife

DBA said...

I know to a certain extent this must be regional, and I don't disagree that movie prices have gone way up (and concessions more so) but I'm always intrigued when I hear about $20+ movie tickets. Maybe it's more consistent in LA?
I am in a major metro area and the only times movies cost more than $15 is either in the schmancy, leather recliner, food-service at your seat, assigned seating, no children allowed theaters OR when it's an IMAX 3D giant blockbuster and part of that cost is a tacked on extra glasses fee. A regular 2D not IMAX movie on a Saturday night for me is $14, and matinees and earlier showings are easily had for anywhere from $6.50-$11. That's not even at "the cheap theater" doing second run stuff. I just don't go to movies at peak times anymore and it's not that bad.

Breadbaker said...

Majestic Bay in Seattle has no ads and minimal trailers. And reasonable prices for both real popcorn with real butter and concessions (and parking is street parking).

jean satzer said...

I was threatened by a little gangster wanna be who threatened to beat me to a pulp at a screening if LA Confidential. I spoke to management, and guess who's friends were working at the theatre. And we didn't get our money back. And the theatre chain cared less. So, it doesn't always work. That, and we see trailers on tv and when it comes to cable, and we get a free weekend...we are almost always somewhat disappointed....if not very disappointed.

Andy Rose said...

One nice thing about the move to digital projection: The film you see in a second-run house looks basically the same as it did at its premiere. You used to have to take a fingers-crossed approach to discount movies. You never knew whether the print would be decent, or scratched and worn out. I've even been to a few where there were frames missing, even entire lines of dialogue. You got what you paid for.

ChipO said...

Darlene, You can sell my clothes.I've died and gone to Heaven. Ken cited me in the first line of his world famous blog.

Charles H Bryan said...

I'm just a cheap, self-indulgent bastard. I'll wait for the Blu-ray at Amazon. It's cheaper, and I can watch it as many times as I like. Commentaries, if I want to hear them. Most importantly, pause button. Don't @ me, Hollywood.

Besides, TV shows are better.

Brian MacIntyre said...

Our largest theatre chain here in Canada has a pre-show featuring interviews, trivia, product reviews; followed by an interactive cell phone game that ends with "Please turn off your phones NOW. It's distracting to those around you." They also run a very short animated clip, which shows the annoying habits of, alternately, Suzie Seatkicker, Tommy Texter, Sally Soundtrack and the guy who takes up a whole row of seats for his (imaginary?) friends. Then, yes, the commercials... I think this is somewhat effective, but whatever happened to ushers? They used to patrol the theatre to tell people to get their feet out of the aisle and the like. I am a shy, non-demonstrative person but I have found myself bending over or even walking over to cell phone offenders and telling them to turn the damn thing off - which is fairly effective.

Edward said...

@Kosmo13

I believe the odd pricing is a backdoor price increase.

Instead of tickets costing $9 "INCLUDING sales tax", the theatres, knowing that most people use credit cards to pay, now have the ticket price as $9 PLUS sales tax.

I believe Disney did that years ago at its theme parks in order to impose a silent increase in the price of admission, while still advertising the same price.

Rich Shealer said...

Back in the 80's I used to read before the previews started. Or if I was with someone else we would be able to talk. Not a chance 10 err 20 OMG 30+ years later. Even when they started showing silent slide shows with local ads and trivia it wasn't a problem.

Kaleberg said...

Our only local theater is not that bad. They run the local ads before the published show time, and, if nothing else, they add local color. Olympic Game Farm, which started as Disney's go-to supplier of camera ready animals, always has their trailer for the "home of the waving bear". There's one for an "unforgettable" home for Alzheimer's patients. There is usually an ad for one or another of the local farms serving as a music venue. There is usually one public service ad from the county or local water district. These run on a loop before lights out. At showtime, the lights go down, there are three or four movie previews, then the movie. We are probably so far from being a real demographic, we can actually get to watch our movies. (They sell 3D glasses at the box office. We keep ours in the glove compartment.)

For the real spectacles best seen in 3D or iMax, we try to get into Seattle and watch them at the Pacific Science Center. They do a pretty good job of crowd control, rarely have more than one preview and no advertising. I think they are used to dealing with school groups, so they've got it down to a science.