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maryann johanson, ruining movies since 1997

question of the day: How do you cope with ‘cinematicus interruptus’?

I’m stealing today’s question directly from Peter Martin at Cinematical, because it’s simply too perfect. After relating a story about how the power went out in the middle of his press screening of The Other Guys, he says:

After a couple of false starts, and a break of 10-12 minutes, power was restored and the movie picked up where we left off. But it wasn’t the same. The movie had been playing for about 45 minutes before the break, and its comic rhythms had been established, for good or for bad (depending upon how you feel about Will Farrell and director Adam McKay). The break, ill-timed as it was, meant that we had to jump back into an ongoing story and try to latch onto a narrative train that was slowly pulling away from us.

I call such an occurrence ‘cinematicus interruptus,’ inspired by coitus interruptus.

It’s been years since I’ve experienced such a severe disruption to a movie-watching experience: On the opening weekend of Return of the Jedi in a Long Island multiplex, the film got caught in the projector and we watched it burn up (in silhouette) on the screen. It was right in the middle of the speeder bike chase, and I think that mob of rabid teenagers that exploded was the closest I’ve ever come to being in a riot. The film got going maybe 10 minutes later again, and no riot occurred. I don’t recall feeling that the flow of the film had been interrupted in any detrimental way, but I was only a kid, and not yet the finicky movie watcher I am now.

But I have had other similar experiences. Recently the NYC press screening of Salt went through four or five false starts — the screen curtains weren’t fully open, the auditorium lights were still on, but worse of all, there was no sound — before whoever was running things got everything right. Though this did not happen mid-movie, it was deeply aggravating, enough so that it took me a few more minutes that it otherwise would have to get into the movie. (It’s not unusual, alas, that the mere environmnent of big all-media press screenings are so frustratingly insane that it puts me in a foul mood.)

Mostly, though, the kind of disruption I do experience regularly comes in small screening rooms (the kind not open to the public), when projectionists don’t pay attention to reel changes, and we’re left staring at dark screens for long moments before the film gets going again. That is indeed a severe interruption that can totally ruin the flow of a scene.

How do you cope with ‘cinematicus interruptus’? Well? Poorly? Or are you lucky enough never to have had it happen to you?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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