Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Riske Business: A Pep Talk to the Frustrated Moviegoer

It’s fashionable to complain about the theatrical movie going experience. At times, I hate it too. I admit that and I go on average about twice a week.  But any movie lover has no choice but to keep going. I honestly believe that.

There’s plenty to be pissed off about in the current theatrical experience. I’m not even going to get into parking, cost of tickets, food and all that stuff. The people at theaters can be just miserable, and I think that's what keeps most people away. Even decent, civilized people in their normal lives seem to turn into complete assholes in the theater at times. Who else but a total schmuck will sit behind you in an open 500 seat auditorium? Why would anyone not think that they are bothering the person in front of them by kicking their seat or getting up in the middle of a movie and hitting people in the head with their coat or purse? I could go on, but you get the point.

So, why should you still go? It’s not for the reasons that theater owners would tell you. You could give me High Frame Rate, 3D, D-Box Motion Seats (which are a joke, but that’s for another column) all day long and it’s all just vajazzling. Really. That’s all it is. IMAX is neat, but is it better than a 70mm presentation? To those who have seen or remember 70mm, the answer is no. Cut all that nonsense and stick with traditional 2D and film when you can.

But I want to be the silver linings guy. With 2013 just underway, I suggest reminding yourself of these general movie-going philosophies to see you through the dark days:

The Communal Experience: Some movies are just better in a theater -- namely comedies, action and horror movies. If a movie is good, most people will shut up. It’s because they realize what’s happening on the screen is more interesting than any chit-chat or texting that would otherwise preoccupy them.

When Depressed About the Movie Going Experience, Go to a Repertory Theater: It’s a classic palette cleanse in all ways, shapes and forms. Familiarize yourself with the ones in your town and try them out. Whenever I have an awful experience at AMC, for example, I visit Chicago’s Music Box, Portage or Patio theaters. Take a friend with you that has never been to an old theater and watch them marvel at the architecture and the character of the old lobbies and auditoriums. Repertory theaters are also great for washing the bad taste of a mediocre run of new releases from your mind, as these alternative theaters often show classics, cult movies and independents that you otherwise might not have sought out. The patrons and owners of these theaters normally care a lot about you enjoying the experience, and their manners follow suit.
Go One Step Deeper In Your Opinions/Catch Yourself When Your Mind Wanders: Use every movie to test yourself. For example, if you see The Hobbit and don’t like it, keep going. Why don’t you like it? What's bothering you that causes you to have that gut opinion? It works the opposite way for a movie that you like.What is interesting you? What are you enjoying? In any event, you have a two hour opportunity to learn a little more about your opinions and feelings toward a wide array of subjects and personalities.

Catch Yourself Being Surprised: This is the second best type of movie-going experience. I’ll give you an example: I had zero interest in seeing Life of Pi when I saw the trailer. I even emailed Patrick about it after its release, writing how much the movie looked like homework. On a lark one night, I went and was pleasantly surprised throughout. At minimum, it felt a lot like Cast Away, a movie that I love. Life of Pi got me thinking about themes and ideas that I rarely tap into. Oddly enough, I was looking forward to the movie being over -- just so I could tell people that I was wrong and it was NOT a chore, but instead a wonderful trip to the movies. Frequent movie goers probably have five to 10 of these surprises each year.

Chase Your Best Movie of the Year:
If for no other reason, this is why I go to the movies. I am looking for that indescribable euphoric buzz where I'm sitting in a theater and thinking…then knowing...that I am watching the best movie I have seen all year. It’s the movie that makes you sit upright and lean forward, the one that makes you check your watch and curse the Movie Gods that it will soon be over, the one that cements a permanent grin on your face. After the movie is over, you carry it with you like a parent and are protective of who you recommend it to. In 2012, that movie for me was Silver Linings Playbook, but I got that feeling earlier in the year when I saw Moonrise Kingdom. Did I mention 2012 was a terrific year for movies?  I love that I can look forward to this feeling once a year. In a great year? Maybe twice.
Any movie lover has no choice but to keep going to the movies. It’s part of who you are. Odds are, if you’re reading a daily movie site like F This Movie!, you are the movie guy or gal of your family or group. There’s value in that, and to up and decide to stop going is to deny yourself of a great joy.

Your turn! Why do you keep going to the theaters to see movies?


  1. For me it's definitely "Catch Yourself Being Surprised". About two years ago I stopped watching trailers and it's made going to the theater a great experience almost every time. Sometimes you pretty much know exactly what you're getting (movies with titles like Shark Night) and sometimes you're incredibly pleasantly surprised (Cloud Atlas). Either way, not knowing all the great moments from the trailer makes it totally worth it to see a movie unspoiled on the big screen.

    And it's always great to drag friends to movies they would never see otherwise.

  2. Great article Adam!
    For me I have started to limit my actual "theatre" experiences. No longer do I go see everything I want to at the local cineplex. The types of movies that I go see are the ones with action, big set pieces and fantastical worlds. I really enjoy the communal experience and the larger than life experience of seeing my heroes on the big screen. For most other movies, I prefer the comfort and quiet of my own home. Texting, chatter, ups and downs, all make it very easy to be taken out of the story that's being told. I'm ok with waiting a few months to see them.

    Keep up the great work!

  3. I'll quote Joe Dante: "Here I am in the church of movies, and Mass is starting."

  4. For me its gotta be the communal experience which granted yes can be a movie theatre's greatest strength or its worst flaw. As for strengths for me it would be all the pixar movies at theatres, audience gives total respect for those movies (except Cars 2, should have known it was a stinker when damm family in theatre wouldn't shut up) or the sold out screening of The Dark Knight where one idiot screamed "Yeah Heath Ledger" like a douchebag and another person in the audience screams "Shut the F up" and they did.

    One thing I will NEVER do nowadays is see a horror movie on opening weekend. Even the rare good or great horror movie on a weekend always has some jerk who either can't stop giggling nonstop, screams "Ah hell no" or greatest sin of all brings their small child or baby to the theatre. Guess what people if you can't find a babysitter when you go see Bride of Chucky at midnight on a friday then you don't get to see the movie. No exceptions, all people who do that deserve five across the eyes

  5. Sadly I had the opposite of what would be the ideal communal experience seeing Zero Dark Thirty yesterday. It was a pretty great movie, and the raid sequence is one of the most engrossing and intense things I've seen from any movie of last year, even though I knew what was going to happen.

    However, there was a dude in front of me who was burping and rustling his food and chuckling at some serious and unfunny things. It was pretty miserable. Fortunately he got up and left half-way through the movie (I guess it just wasn't his cup of tea), but it was very frustrating. Most of the time, I think people know how to behave, but this will stick out in my mind as a person who didn't.

    1. I had a similar experience while watching Zero. Some asshole and his son chuckled during all of the torture sequences. And two young females talked through at least 70% of the film. There was only around 10 people in the HUGE theater, and of course both couples of assholes had to be sitting by me.

  6. After seeing 90+ movies in theaters last year (half of them repertorie) and having at least 10-15 pleasant didn't-see-that-coming surprises (and a few unpleasant one's like "Silver Linings Playbook," a universally-acclaimed movie that every fiber of my movie-loving being rejects as badly-acted and overwrought) this year I'm going the opposite route. I'll still go to the theater but not nearly as much ($$$ has a lot to do with it but also I've been burned too many times by shitty crowds or projectors/picture quality inferior to what I have at home), and concentrate on home video and streaming for the bulk of my entertainment. I like opening day for guaranteed crowd pleasers ("The Avengers" and "Django Unchained" experiences wouldn't have been the same without them) but for most movies audiences nowadays are a fickle bunch of selfish shitheads that talk and text during the movie like if they were at home.

    Despite having great repertorie options here in Gotham (Anthology Film Archives, Film Forum, MOMA, BAM, Landmark Sunshine, Angelika, Museum of the Moving Image, Lincoln Center, etc.) they're definitely not cathedrals or architectural landmarks. In fact, it's where the majority of the shoebox/envelope-sized screens now reside. I blame the exorbitant real state prices in Manhattan. Except for the Ziegfield Theater (which gets stuck showing whatever mainstream movie Clearview Cinemas contracts, except for an odd private engagement onc every other moon) all the great old-time theaters in NYC have gone to that movie heaven 35mm film is going to next. There's not many things Chicago is ahead of NYC in (like, I don't know, corruption and indicted-for-crimes politicians and governors ;-P) but preservation and sustainment of landmark cinematic palaces is definitely one of them.

    If you can, by all means, try to expand your cinema-in-theaters intake from a variety of theaters (sorry, Erich). I did in 2012, loved it, but I'm not anxious to repeat it again. I've moved on, helped greatly by the underwhelming movie selection so far in '13 (by this time last year we already had "Haywire").

  7. I'd be interested to hear what everyone thinks about the fancier upscale theaters (there are a few around Chicago, not sure how widespread these are around the country). Obviously, the food and drink is unnecessarily expensive, but I have enjoyed the experience of the super comfy chairs, the big screen, and a much smaller crowd. Really love the smaller crowd. The reserved seats also mean that I can get there at the last second and still have my nice spot (even with the top third of the screen, toward the back left).

    1. We have such a thing here in Orlando, Florida. I don't make it a point to see every movie that way (and not all of them are offered, anyway), but it's nice to do every once in a while. As you mentioned, I appreciate the expanded menu and comfier seating. However, the expanded menu doesn't really mean that it's very good food. It's decent at best. It doesn't always justify the price. As you said, it's quite highly priced. Actually, the reserved seating is probably the best perk of all.

    2. Me and my folks went to see "Argo" at an Arizona movie theater like the one you describe. Frankly neither one of us cared that much for it because, like at home, when a good movie is engaging and working its magic you forget to sip on your beverage or eat the food in front of you. So why pay more (a lot more) for food and seats that you'll only think about if the movie isn't good-enough to hold your undivided attention? And though I zoned them out (again, "Argo" being a really good movie helped this immensely) it was annoying hearing noises of utensils and glasses around me, not to mention the less-than-dark lighting needed so that employees carrying the food don't trip on a dark theater.

      I'll stick with the uncomfortable seats and the sticky floor of an average movie theater. The only time ticket prices are worth the premium is if it's a really good movie properly done in 3D.

  8. Great article and well-timed for me - I am a jaded movie-goer turned almost exclusively home-theatre-stayer and I am trying to get back into it - made it my movie-related New Year's Resolution in fact.

    So I saw my first theatre movie of the year this past weekend - The Hobbit (in 3D - which I really like when done well, which this was - I don't get the hate though I do agree that there is a Riske of it being used as a crutch - Riske Business: 3D Movies?) and yeah, I was really glad I went and I am totally committed to doing it more often. I think your "Communal Experience" is the big one for me as I enjoy reacting WITH other people and it seems to be genetically encoded that we react MORE when we're reacting with other people - I am anyway. Things just seem funnier, scarier, etc. The Communal Experience then extends outside of the theatre because you can actually talk about recent films with your friends instead of plugging your ears and screaming, "SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!" in the middle of the food court as soon as its mentioned (I'm a big hit with my friends).

  9. Great comments everyone! Sorry, I'm having trouble replying to them directly (Javascript protection) so I'll just do it all here.

    @Rik..No trailers? I wish I had that discipline.

    @Sol...Riske Business 3D movies will go in my list of topics, although it might be along the lines of "it sucks, waah!" I hope you keep going to see movies in the theaters!

    BTW...what's up with studios doing 10pm shows the night before instead of midnights? It screwed with my plan to be the only person at a midnight screening of Movie 43! BTW...why is it called Movie 43? Do I have to see Movie 43 to find out?

    @Mark - I went to the Alamo Drafthouse last Fall and while it's good for movies you've seen before, the whole ordering food and getting a check while the movie is going is inconvenient for something new.

    Amour is sad. Good thing I had a brownie sundae. I win Amour! - Adam Riske, F! This Movie

  10. I needed this! I've become really frustrated at the theatrical experience. I still limit my trips to the cinema for financial reasons, but this is great stuff. I wish we had a good repertory theater here. We have one, but they only show occasional movies (it's more a venue for live music shows) and from what I understand, they're DVDs projected onto a screen. And like Riq, I avoid trailers as much as I can. I enjoy them before a movie, but I will not seek out a trailer on the internet. Trailers more and more frequently show the entire plot.

    Again, this is great.