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Welcome to All Movie Talk! In this audio podcast, Samuel Stoddard and Stephen Keller talk about old and new movies, famous directors, historical film movements, movie trivia, and more.

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It's a Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad Theater Experience

In the post about good movie theaters Dave suggested it'd be more fun to talk about bad movie theaters. I'm not interested in hearing a whole lot about specific theaters that are just kind of crummy, but if you have a particular experience that's so bad it's entertaining, here's the place to share it. I already talked about my experience with Adaptation in Episode 4, but I have more. Keep reading for some of my worst experiences.


Technical difficulties that are obvious drive me crazy. The theater is only paying its employees a few bucks an hour so I don't get why they can't have people in the booths checking quality. That $15 popcorn I bought that cost the theater twenty-five cents ought to cover the costs of some kid to stand in the booth for the entire movie. Anyway, I missed half the dialog in the first third of Finding Nemo because the soundtrack was consistently replaced with these loud electronic tones. I had to complain three times before it was finally fixed.

I'm loathe to leave a good movie to complain about intermittent technical problems -- sometimes they go away, and I hate missing a single second of a good movie. Almost always in my experience they're sound issues, or other stupid things like leaving the house lights on during the feature.

At least, as mindless drivel said in the Episode 4 thread, you can get a free ticket out of technical breakdowns.

Fade to black means it's done.

That movie theaters turn on the lights during the credits is annoying enough, as everybody stands up and blocks my view (as an aside, what the heck are you people in such a hurry for? To go stand in line with everyone else as they shuffle out of the theater? It's like the people who leave a ballgame in the bottom of the 8th to beat the traffic -- half of the people in the stadium are using the same trick, so you just get to wait in line a bit sooner).

But the worst happened while I was watching Black Hawk Down, which is a fairly accurate retelling of an actual battle. The end of the film fades to a black screen, where we get some more text about the number of people who died in the battle and stuff, a fairly regular practice in these sorts of movies. The theater I was in turned up the lights as soon as the screen went black! We weren't even to the credits yet, the movie was still rolling, and now the lights are up and people are leaving. Way to kill the somber tone. I'm getting angry just thinking about it.

Oh, it came that way.

As in my Adaptation experience, sometimes theater management likes to make stuff up. "Oh, it came that way" is the worst lie they have. I saw Big Fish on opening weekend and there were three big scratches, running down the entire height of the frame, throughout the film.

I complained to the manager afterwards, who reluctantly gave me a free ticket, but insisted the movie came that way. If just a few frames or a single reel of film is messed up, it's very possible it was a mistake made by the lab that processed the film or in shipping. Every reel being scratched, however, is almost certainly the fault of an error by the theater in loading the film.

The worst thing was I am all but the certain the manager -- who just couldn't figure out what the big deal was about some scratches -- was not going to do anything to fix the problem. Everybody else who saw the movie there was likely to experience the wonders of Scratch-O-Vision.

Interactive X2

I saw X-Men 2 in the theater twice, and for whatever reason, I was cursed. The first time I saw it, I was sitting next to some guy who was there with his girlfriend. He clearly wasn't a comics fan, since the first time Magneto exercised his mutant power, this cat exclaimed a high-pitched "Whaaaat!?" in disbelief.

"Honey, they're mutants," his girlfriend would tell him in a hushed tone. "His power is he can control metal. Don't you remember the first one?" Apparently he didn't because he kept this up throughout whenever something strange would happen. And out-of-the-ordinary things happen a lot in that flick.

The second time I saw X2, it was an interactive experience (or as Fox marketing would surely have dubbed it: an interactive Xperience). There was a mutant at the front of the theater whose power was to shout things at the screen. What the heck he was shouting I have no idea. The dude was either drunk or insane or both. "Whazzthefrazzlenugamba!" he'd yell in between bouts of snoring loudly.

My brother, who is not one to tolerate this sort of thing, took to shouting back increasingly obscene things at the not-so-friendly mutant up front. The mutant's response was -- not surprisingly -- to shout back more gibberish. Clearly this mutant was a member of the nefarious Brotherhood of Mutants, sent to ruin our enjoyment of the film.

About halfway through the film, the X-Men arrived, though they were in disguise as a security guard for the theater. As is natural, the drunken/insane mutant took a few swings at his arch-rival the security guard. Fortunately, the X-Guard prevailed and hauled the drunken mutant out of the movie.

At least I got a free movie ticket after I complained (noticing a trend here?) and a good story out of it.

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