Sunday, August 23, 2009

Going to Movies Really Stinks

It's a rare occurrence that we paint the town with dinner & a movie on a Saturday night, but feeling cheeky, we took in the new Tarantino movie, Inglourious Basterds, rather than executing our regular waiting-for-home-video operandi.

What made it spectacularly plucky was the second venture into the local cinemaplex in the same week, which almost never happens. Perhaps we were seeking to expunge the earlier funk of GI Joe from our brains by attempting another foray into corporate moviedom, or maybe our subconscious has sufficiently buried the horrors of General Hawk, Snake Eyes, Duke, and Ripcord and we were ready to love again. We also weren't taking a 9 year old to his choice of films, which helps.

Seeing two theater movies a week calls attention to everything that's wrong with going out to see movies these days. It used to be an occasion. Now it's an ordeal.

Taking the route to purchase tickets seemed the intelligent option. Who wants to stand in line on a Saturday night, especially for a new release? Unfortunately, AMC Theatres did everything possible to thwart enjoyment of the pre-movie experience.

AMC Easton in Columbus has four - count 'em - four ticketing kiosks, each with four automated-teller gizmos to either purchase tickets via credit card, or to pick up tickets purchase online - from, for example, rather than snaking through the maze to hand your cash to a live person. It's an excellent concept, poorly executed.

For the second time in a week, nearly all of the ticketing kiosks were out of paper, rendering them as impotent showtime viewing screens and nothing more. One out of sixteen was operational, so we stood in line, for the second time in a week, to pick up tix we had pre-purchased online. Sort of defeats the entire advance-ticketing process, me thinks.

Riding the escalator to the upper level lobby, the spectacle of the newly-designed concession area unfolded. Gone is the wide expanse of counter, with patrons queued up for crates of popcorn and barrels of beverage, replaced with a smaller area to order your regular popcorn offering to free up space for the shelves upon shelves of pre-wrapped, high-margin gourmet popcorn, fancy boxes of candy, and machines that jizz out fake butter, nacho cheese sauce, pickle relish, and gosh knows what else.

So rather than twelve semi-orderly (but slow) lines of folks gathering their grub, it was a hundred-person free-for-all of self-service remisicent of an old-time demolition derby. What's slower than 15 concession workers getting your popcorn, drinks, and Milk Duds? 100 untrained consumers with nacho cheese on their shoes, schlepping toward the multitude of registers prepared to take your debit card, providing you can extract it from your wallet with fake-butter-coated fingers crusty with fine salt granules spilled by the snacking hordes.

Once seated, we endured an endless loop of the very same advertising that assaulted us four days previously. Do you know what would prevent me from ever following in the footsteps of Microsoft and SMC and hosting a meeting at an AMC Theatre? Being repeatedly forced to watch (and listen) to how wonderful it is to host your corporate gig at an AMC Theatre. Oh, and ABC? The shows I might have watched on your network will never be viewed in my house. The more clips I saw while waiting for the movie to begin, the more lousy your new offerings seem to be. Blame exposure therapy.

Minutes past scheduled showtime, the lights dimmed, and we were assailed by more advertising, even before being subjected to the very same coming attraction trailers seen earlier in the week. I didn't pull out my iPhone to check the time - being a courteous movie-goer - but I estimate Inglourious Basterds commenced nearly 20 minutes after the time printed on my stub.

I get it. I'm a captive audience. In order to get a decent seat that won't result in some freaky neck injury from staring straight up at the massive screen, I need to arrive 10-15 minutes prior to the posted showtime, or be satisfied with the leftovers. But can we cut a deal?

Can you publish the actual time the movie will start? Not when the ads start, or the coming attractions begin, or the dancing popcorn box busts a move. And enough with the cutesy reminder messages of how annoying crying babies and ringing cell phones can be. Anyone who has been alive since 2002 understands.

Make it easy for me to get my tickets. Streamline the process that allows me to spend way too much money on overpriced, highly-profitable snacks that are terrible for my health. And when I finally park my ass in the butter-slimed chair and plant my feet on the Coke-drenched floor, spare me the revenue-generating visual annoyances on the big screen.

I paid too much for the tickets, and too much for the snacks. Stop trying to squeeze the last cent of potential gain out of me.

Just show me the damned movie.

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