question of the day: How do you find the right balance between knowing too much about a movie before you see it, and too little?

You may have heard by now about the filmgoers in Liverpool who have demanded refunds after discovering — after they were in the cinema and the film had begun — that The Artist is silent, black-and-white, and not widescreen.

Apparently, the story broke once cinemagoers started reporting that they were being asked by multiplex staff if they were aware that the film is silent, in order to forestall refund requests.
This reminds me of the signs I saw in multiplexes in New York when Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was playing, alerting ticket buyers to the fact that the film was not in English and that seeing it would require reading subtitles. This signage was clearly the result of angry moviegoers storming out of the cinemas once they caught on to this reality.

Now, it’s hard for me to understand how anyone could buy a ticket for a movie they know absolutely nothing about. And you really would need to know absolutely nothing about The Artist not to know that, at a minimum, it’s an old-fashioned sort of flick. I mean, okay: You’ve read nothing about the film. You’ve heard nothing about the film. You’re standing in the cinema deciding which film to buy a ticket to, and you see this poster:

The Artist poster

How do you not at least guess that this is gonna be in black-and-white? I’ll grant that most people would probably not expect to encounter a silent movie in a multiplex in 2012, but is this really so misleading about the nature of the film?

This isn’t about picking on ignorant people — we did that with the woman who sued over Drive’s “misleading” trailer; I also thought we’d done that for the Connecticut arthouse that refused refunds to people who hated The Tree of Life, but I can’t find a post here about that. (But, hey, if you feel like picking in ignorant people, please feel free.) My question is this:

How do you find the right balance between knowing too much about a movie before you see it, and too little? I understand that many people like to avoid trailers and reviews before seeing a film in order to know as little about it as possible, but still: you must have some scrap of knowledge about a film before you decide to see it, right? So how do you make that work? Would you see a film that you knew absolutely nothing about… and how would that work, logistically? How does one possibly “decide” to see a film one knows nothing about?

(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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