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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

should we demand better popcorn at the movies?

Den of Geek!, a British blog, asks the important question: “Would banning popcorn make cinemas better?” And then it quickly answers the question with a hearty, “No, don’t be so ridiculous.” But apparently some people in the U.K. think this could be a good idea. Like movie-theater owner Daniel Broch, who believes that popcorn doesn’t “[fit] with the culturally sophisticated brand I wish to sell.” The name of his theater? The “Everyman” cinema. Hilarious.
It might be a good idea, though, to ban factory-made popcorn and artificial “golden topping. For snob appeal, what could beat organically grown, popped-on-the-spot popcorn smothered in actual, genuine melted butter handchurned from milk lovingly drawn by hand from small-farm-raised cows who haven’t been treated with hormones? Oh, and it could be accompanied by organic sodas — no high-fructose corn syrup! — and wines from independent vineyards and beers from microbreweries. And all of it could be sold at reasonable markups that ensure the theater owners a realistic but not exhorbitant profit.

And then we can ask that multiplexes install electronic dampeners that prevent people from making cell-phone calls and texting from their PDAs. And then, the atmosphere will become so pleasant that parents will spontaneously stop bringing squalling infants with them to the movies, and everyone will be able to hold off going to the bathroom in the middle of the movie, and no one will ever again blurt out loud during a tense and dramatic scene: “Oh, look, Martha, he’s got a gun!”

And then people will start being nice to one another for no reason at all, even outside the movies, and reality TV will implode and China will withdraw from Tibet and America from Iraq and solar energy will solve the peak-oil problem and reverse global warming, and there will be peace and prosperity all over the Earth.

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  • And then the Earth gets demolished to make way for a new intergalactic bypass. The End.

  • Jurgan

    “and everyone will be able to hold off going to the bathroom in the middle of the movie”

    Hang on- am I doing something rude when I have to pee during a movie? I’ve never noticed. Now, I don’t often go on opening weekend, so it’s usually not too crowded. I can see how “‘scuse me, sorry, coming through” could be kind of irritating. Still, I don’t think it’s fair to expect people to be able to hold it the whole time- it’s a pretty minor inconvenience to others, but it can be very painful for the person who needs to go.

    That was a pretty funny post otherwise, although I’m not quite sure how you got off on that tangent.

  • “and everyone will be able to hold off going to the bathroom in the middle of the movie”

    this is absolutely one of my pet peeves. you’re damned right it’s rude. for the love of zeus, a grown man or woman should be able to hold their water for 2 hours without getting up during the middle of the movie to go to the bathroom. it’s *always* during some tense moment, or during a part where the movie is dark and you have to really pay attention, then right across your line of vision is someone scooting their way out of the seats to go to the bathroom.

    stop drinking the 64 gallon drum sized sodas if your bladder is that small! or make sure you sit in the back on an aisle seat or something!

  • Bill

    whoa…getting up to take a leak is rude? you can’t always choose where you sit and sometimes you just gotta go, 64 oz soda or not. talking, kicking seat backs, not leaving the minute your kid starts to cry – these things are rude. you should try to pick your moment and maybe grab an open aisle seat when you return, but no need to hold it in.

  • Martin

    My personal pet peeve at the cinema is people turning up late. Whilst it’s not so bad turning up during the trailers, I’ve known people turn up as the film’s rolling.

    Then again, I’m a stickler for being late.

    I did have it happen once where a group of kids came in, saw that the back seats were pretty much full but insisted there was enough space for all of them. And even though there were plenty of seats available further to the front, they decided to sit in the aisle.

    I’ve had a few instances of people talking during the movie but the worst was when I went to see Clerks 2 and a couple of people were just trapped in their own little conversation/phone calls.

    And I’ve had two kids playing a game of tag during Hitch…

  • JoshB

    stop drinking the 64 gallon drum sized sodas if your bladder is that small!

    The bladder isn’t the only excretory organ…things could get messy. It’s best to let the ‘rude’ people pass without making a fuss.

  • Scoff if you must, MaryAnn, but I see absolutely nothing wrong with any of your tongue-in-cheek initiatives. Especially the organic soda one.

    And hey, if there was a way to magically stop that jackass 2 rows up from texting during the movie I would pay triple for my ticket.

  • Martin

    I have found that IMAX is pretty good for movie lovers and I’ve yet to have a negative experience there.

    There was one kid during Transformers that shouted “Optimus!” and “Bumblebee!” when they appeared on screen, as well as saying “Oh look! Transformers!” when any vehicle was on screen but that didn’t bother me, it was kinda sweet (especially the last one, if that kid could entertain that any car he could see from this point on could be a giant robot, Bay has done his job).

  • MaryAnn

    Scoff if you must, MaryAnn, but I see absolutely nothing wrong with any of your tongue-in-cheek initiatives. Especially the organic soda one.

    I’m not scoffing at the idea of organic popcorn and soda, but at the likelihood of such things ever coming to pass.

    And yeah, I think getting up for any reason in the middle of movie is extremely rude to others. It also totally mystifies me that anyone would pay 10 or 12 bucks for a movie and then miss some of it. Walking out and not coming back I can understand. Skipping out for a few minutes I can’t… and then *that* inevitably turns into the skipper-outer asking his friends what he missed while he was gone.

    I had a total stranger do that to me a film recently! He obviously went out in the middle of the movie then couldn’t find his friends when he came back. So he sat next to me and had the gall to ask me if anything exciting had happened in the last few minutes. I said, “Yes,” and glared at him.

  • Bill

    “I think getting up for any reason in the middle of movie is extremely rude to others.” – MAJ

    We have to allow for life to get in the way sometimes, I think. I was on-call a lot while in the Coast Guard and had to step out of a movie or two. And, yes, I have left to use the restroom. The last thing I want to do is miss a chunk of a movie and I can appreciate the fact that it is an annoyance, but “extremely rude”? Seems a little harsh.

  • MaryAnn

    But it’s not like people getting up in the middle of a movie is an extraordinary occurrence that happens only in rare emergency situations. It’s impossible to sit through a movie *without* someone near you disrupting the experience for everyone else by climbing over people to get out, for the bathroom or to get more popcorn or whatever.

    The overarching problem with the moviegoing experience today is this: People act like they’re in their own living rooms, not in public. People act like they have no responsibility not to disrupt others, whether it’s by talking or bringing their babies or being restless.

    I don’t think it’s too much to expect that someone who has medical problems that necessitate regular bathroom breaks would choose a seat that allows quick access to the bathroom. I mean, I would expect that person would have to do that *for him- or herself,* never mind everyone else. But everyone else should be responsible enough to 1) go before the movie, 2) not consume anything during the movie that will cause discomfort, and 3) hold it like a grownup until the movie is over if Nos. 1 and 2 aren’t enough.

  • Bill

    “People act like they’re in their own living rooms, not in public. People act like they have no responsibility not to disrupt others,…”

    Very true. Getting up to get refills, the babies, the talking to the characters in the movie, the chit-chat – I throw the universal sign for “you’re being a shit head” to people doing these things. I just make an exception for potty breaks:)

  • Hear, hear. MaryAnn for president.

  • Aderack

    To be honest, the main reason I rarely go to the cinema isn’t the price or the inconvenience; it’s that I don’t want some jerk who was never taught to eat properly alternately crunching popcorn in my ear and rattleing the bag.

    I’ve had occasions where I’ve just walked out of movies because, in the mood I was in, I couldn’t take the distraction.

    Movies and popcorn really aren’t compatible. I don’t think there’s a good argument for why they might be, except for familiarity. Get rid of the popcorn, I might go to the movies way more often.

  • I am very lucky to live just a few blocks from the Arclight in Hollywood. Their ticket price is about $2 more than the average here, but for that you get no commercials, and they pop some fantastic popcorn, and make a home-made caramel corn that’s delicious. Also, the extra $2 keeps the yahoos out for the most part (oh, and while they have kids prices, a ticket for a baby costs as much as an adult – keeps the babies out too). I’m always disappointed when I find out that a movie I want to see won’t be at the Arclight.

  • Well, that’s much of the reason I take an aisle seat. I’ve never been able to sit through a whole movie without having to go to the washroom, even if I’ve abstained from drinks or snacks during the film.

    Yes, it sucks. At least I cam minimize it for others.

  • misterb

    Well, you’ve pretty much nailed the reasons I watch 90% of my movies at home. Here I *can* act like I’m in my living room, eat food as gourmet or organic as I like (drink alcohol), and not be offensive to anybody but myself. With a good TV and sound system, you don’t even lose much in the way of production values.

    … probably wouldn’t work if I was dating – and commenting on reviews 6 month later kind of misses the point – but hey aren’t the movies what matter?

  • While it’s true that you can replicate much of the theatre experience at home with a really good HDTV and sound system (and I have), there really is no substitute for the big screen.

    I am going tonight to see a showing of Blade Runner (the original 1982 version) at one of our art house theatres here in Charlotte. I’ve watched this movie hundreds of times at home, on VHS and LaserDisc and DVD and HD-DVD and Blu-ray… but this will be only my second time seeing it on the big screen, the first being in 1992 when the Director’s Cut was released. I haven’t been this excited for a movie in a long, long time.

  • jenn

    When we saw Indiana Jones this summer, a dad was sitting with his little kid, and the kid was drinking a pop that was bigger than he was. I swear this kid got up at least 6 times to pee. And of course they sat in the middle of the aisle. Oddly, I thought it was funny, it was such a dad thing to do. Be the big man and buy your kid a huge pop, and I don’t think it occured to him “what goes in, must come out”.

  • Stu

    I’ve posted this elsewhere before but it seems pertinent. And before I go on I should also say that despite being 33 years old I can’t get through the average film without at least one bathroom break but I only try and do it if I know I’ll not be disrupting someone else’s experience and never if I’m in the middle of the row in a packed cinema. The problem is that people who’ve not been taught cinema etiquette are treating the place like their living room, have no thought for other people, just see the cinema as somewhere else to hang out rather than somewhere to go and watch a film. Which is a bit odd considering the ticket prices these days.

    I saw The Dark Knight at a multiplex in Manchester. I sat at the front of the cinema so that I wouldn’t have anyone in front of me. But it filled up behind with people shouting at each other across rows and shouting into mobile phones and though this calmed down slightly as the film started, as soon as the Joker appeared, the mirth began and continued throughout the presentation.

    One particular group found every scene hilarious and in particular enjoyed any moment when someone was shot, knifed and particularly when the Joker was on screen, even when we’re supposed to be shocked, this bunch were laughing and one particular member thought himself a comedian and hurled monosyllabic comments which everyone could hear but no one but his peers thought amusing. You know that scene when Harvey Two Face is revealed? I don’t know what emotion I was supposed to have at that point, but I’m sure Chris Nolan wasn’t looking for comedy. In a film which is all about mood, to have your mood wrecked by these kinds of goons is catastrophic. I’d eventually had enough. I got up out of my seat, went out of the door and across the foyer and complained to the staff who called security.

    Security consisted of a short man who bore an unlikely resemblance to Burgess Meredith in Rocky (which is sort of in keeping I suppose for a cinema). He was silent and deadly and there was some calming down in the last quarter of the film. The climax though heralded some more unprovoked laughter and the guard appeared and walked directly in front of the screen during that final scene in the place with the thing where thingy decides that the best way would be to do the thing, which was a bit distracting. So on the whole, I simply couldn’t concentrate on the film as much as I’d like to so I can’t really tell you what I thought because I really don’t know. But when I say that there’s no point in seeing Hollywood films in multiplexes anymore, I mean there’s really no point in seeing Hollywood films in multiplexes anymore.

  • Anne-Kari

    Gonna weigh in on the whole ‘rude if you go to the bathroom’ thing.

    Well, I gotta say that when I was pregnant I went to the movies a few times and I KNEW that even if I went to the restroom 10 seconds before the opening credits, I would without a doubt need to go again at some point during the film.

    What to do? I went to matinees (much less crowded), always sat in an aisle seat, and would never dream of asking someone “so, what happened?” upon returning.

    Nature calls, but you don’t have to be rude about it. Nor is it, in my opinion, a huge offense against the other movie-goers.

  • MaryAnn

    While it’s true that you can replicate much of the theatre experience at home with a really good HDTV and sound system (and I have), there really is no substitute for the big screen.

    Home theaters also cannot replicate the crowd, which isn’t *always* obnoxious. There’s nothing like sitting in an audience in which 1000 people are all laughing or gasping at the same time.

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