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Why Going To The Theater Isn’t As Good As It Used To Be: A Horta Top 10 List

March 21st, 2003

The smell of popcorn in the air… the sounds of mechanical ticket dispensers and soda fountains in the distance… the subdued light warmly embracing you, tickets in hand…date in tow… show time is quickly approaching. You settle down into your seat, organize your goodies and drinks and then, the lights go dim, the buzz and theater chit chat dulls. The clicking and clacking of the projector behind you is audible just until the previews begin, and you enjoy watching them all. Your already planning your next movie excursion based on coming attractions… could there be anything better?

At one time, an evening or day at the movies was perhaps one of the most enjoyable things I did on a somewhat regular basis… I allowed myself the indulgence of candy and treats I normally wouldn’t bring into my own home, and I would settle back to enjoy a story that begins and ends in one sitting. No holds barred, no expense spared… big time entertainment at its best.

I really miss those times

The Problems…

Where do we start? I could possibly write a book full of anecdotes and issues in regards to problems I face when trying to enjoy a movie at the theaters. But for the sake of time, how about we try a good Ol "Letterman Style"

Top 10 list of "Why Going To The Theater Isn’t As Good As It Used To Be"?!?!?!:

Number 10: Lack of Volume Control

I don’t know how prevalent this problem is for other people, but for me it’s a pain. Studios pay big bucks for just the right dubbing, music, sound effects and scoring. The audio is a huge part of the movie experience. So much so, that a theater advertises what movies are playing with what audio type: THX, Dolby Digital. So why then, must I either hold my breath to hear the movie because its so low or have to bring cotton because the movie is so loud my ears start bleeding? Either way, there has to be a happy medium that the theater can test for prior to filling seats. I know this is all subjective, so I didn’t place this higher on the list.

Number 9: Rising Costs At The Concession Stand

At almost $9 a ticket [Ed note: At over $9 a ticket in San Francisco and New York!], a trip to the movies is still a very good and inexpensive evening out. Even with a date, you’re only talking about $18 for 2 hours or more entertainment. That is until you hit the concession stands. With large popcorn, 2 large sodas, and some candy for two… your bill has just doubled. I would have placed this problem closer to number 1, if it wasn’t so easy to just go to the dollar store and sneak in your own candy.

Number 8: Cellophane

Didn’t anyone test this material for db levels before they decided to wrap every piece of movie theater candy in it? I mean, the sound of someone opening a box of Snowcaps or Goobers in a theater can be deafening during the more lax scenes of a flick. This could have placed higher on my list, if not for the fact that most people know that they should wait until a busy loud scene to break open certain goodies.

Number 7: Laser Pointers

Small in size and big in distraction power, I’ve on occasion had to see the dancing red dot bounce across the screen in a crowded theater. Some people just should never be let out of the house.

Number 6: Cell Phones

How about using vibrate people. If you don’t know how to use the silent feature on your mobile phone, or you don’t have a vibrate feature, then just leave it in the car. Even worse are those people that will actually answer the phone and chit chat, not leaving their seat to do so. I guess they don’t want to miss any of the movie.

Number 5: The "Preview and Collect" Scam

OK, now before I provide an explanation, allow me to preface it with some info. I donate to charities when I have money and time. Pocket change mostly, so no, I wont have a building dedicated in my name anytime soon, but I try my best. Animal shelters, MS cans, and my favorite, and the one I will make a real effort to send money to, Ronald McDonald House. While in the Marines, I even allotted some money out of every paycheck to a couple of funds; So don’t think me a cheap and heartless wretch. But, don’t sucker me with a "Preview and Collect" scam. Seinfeld could have had a field day with this one.

We all know that move, where the lights go dim, you think your the movie is going to start, and then Danny Glover or some other actor, comes on in a preview and asks you to donate to this or that charity, and that movie employees will be passing cans around for an immediate pay off.

It’s tantamount to holding my movie hostage. At $4.25 for a large popcorn, and $3.50 for a large drink, do I really need to drop another buck into a can for what ever? This could have been number 1 as well, but I haven’t seen this scam in a while so its will reside at 5.

Number 4: Unprofessional Cinema Employees

You really can’t expect much for minimum wage, but at least put down your dime store paperback and look me in the eye when I purchase my ticket. This problem could have easily been number 1 since I believe it to be the pre-cursor for numbers 3 through 1. To be honest, these next 3 and this one now, are really all neck and neck.

As a cinema employee, you’re just as much part of the overall experience as the movie itself. Enforce some rules and keep the area clean. But, I will delve in to this more later.

Number 3: Underage Children In A Movie

I’m not talking about the bubbly sounds of laughter from toddlers, or the high-pitched screams of a baby at Jungle Book 2 because there, it is expected and even desired. I’m talking about the 5-year-old sitting in on the premiere of Resident Evil or Unfaithful.

You’ve never seen trauma until you have seen the eyes of a 4 or 5 year old witnessing a zombie rip the esophagus out of a women with its teeth, or Diane Lane on her back moaning in ecstasy; "Mommy, why is that man on top of that women hurting her?"… A question I heard a child ask after both fore-mentioned scenes. The screaming and yelling of a baby during PG and above movies is no better. Parents, please find a babysitter rather than bringing an infant to see a loud busy flick like The Core or Cradle 2 The Grave. Even more annoying is the Ol "Rated R Drop Off" where the parent buys tickets to a movie for a child that they would not otherwise be able to see on there own, and then leaves. All of these scenarios should be handled by the box office employees, but aren’t, due to number 4 on this list. Remember the days when cinema personnel would go through a theater with a flashlight and eject people as required?

Number 2: Senior Citizens

Alright now, I am not talking about every senior citizen so if you don’t fit the description, then don’t get offended. However, many seniors seem to think Sunday morning cinemas is the right time to hold long conversations with their friends or spouse. Conversations about how this actor or actress looks like their granddaughter or grandson, or how movies weren’t so violent or dirty in their day. And no, whispering isn’t OK either, it’s worse.

And the number one reason going to the theaters isn’t as great as it used to be is:


And again, I am not talking about every teenager, so if you don’t fit the description, then don’t get offended. Please note, that I’m not considered old by any stretch of the imagination. I’m only 28 so I think this says a lot coming from me. Teenagers, the movies, and any one who wants to actually go to the movies and pay attention, just don’t mix. Mind you, I’m not only talking about Saturday night at the cinema watching Varsity Blues or some other teen flick. Any movie where there is even a small group of teenagers will ruin most any movie going experience. It seems that parents today don’t raise their kids with courtesy and respect for others, so we all suffer when they sit in on a film, especially if it contains any type of adult content. Teenagers are just as bad as if not worse than the senior citizens and generally are the reasons numbers 6 and 7 appear on this list. Theaters also staff themselves with teenagers, which is why number 4 is on this list, which subsequently produces the type of environment where items 3 through 1 can flourish.

Well, that is it! My personal top 10 list as to why the overall theater experience isn’t as great as it used to be. I know many people feel the same way as I do, experiencing their own problems to which they could create their own top 10 list. But not to leave you on a sour note, I plan to post the answers to many of the problems that face us serious movie-goers. And the tools we’ll need for making our next cinema excursion better… are right here on The Numbers.

George W. Horta III