The Movie Theater Experience

"Dinner and a movie", probably the most common entertainment outing for veteran and new couples alike. In fact, heading out to see the latest summer blockbuster is the one thing that people of all ages, from the youngest youngster to the most senior... senior, will agree is a great time. Except me. I stopped going long ago.

I get strange reactions from people when I tell them I never go to the movies anymore. The wide-eyed, somewhat bewildered look doesn't change from person to person. I'd know it anywhere, and it never really goes away either. Even my closest friends, who know I practically never head out to a theater, will always ask me what I thought of some new popular flick. But the looks change from bewilderment to disappointment after a time, realizing that it will be months until I can talk about and share in that experience.

Would it explain it if I just wasn't into movies? I hate to disappoint, but I'm a pretty big movie buff... at least just as much as the moviegoers in line to see a new release. I really do see movies (lots of them), just not in the theater.

Well, I recently broke my long streak of not setting foot in a theater, and wound up standing in line with an old friend ready to buy tickets for a new release. For a brief moment, I was actually excited to be in a theater again. It had been at least two years since stepping foot in a theater, and probably another two prior to that. Maybe I was wrong about the theater? Maybe it really is a great way to see a movie?

Then I bought my ticket.

Reason I Don't Go to the Theater #1 - It Costs 45 Million Dollars to See a Movie

$9.50 for one ticket?! Are you kidding me? The last time I saw a movie it cost me $7, and it was $6 the time before that! I know the value of a dollar has dropped, but given this level of inflation, it will cost $17 for one person in the year 2015.

From a sheer value perspective, based on the ticket price of my local theater, it costs $19 for a couple to see a movie, and that's just to get in the door. Tack on two youngsters for a family outing, and even at a discounted $6.50 ticket price for children under 12, the total at the ticket line is $32 bucks!

Now, I can buy the same movie on DVD, with all the deleted scenes, commentary, and bonus features you don't get at the theater for 14 to 17 bucks the first week it's on sale. And it's not like it even takes long for movies to hit retail anymore. These days, a month after my theater stops showing it I can buy it on disc. So not only do I SAVE money BUYING the movie, I get to watch it as many times as I want to.

So my friend and I begin our trek to our designated theater, number 6 in this case. Theater 1... 3... ah, there's 6! As we walk in, I just so happened to read the sign on the door, "Theater 6", with the number 6 being half the sign. Underneath the big number, I read something that totally pisses me off.

Reason I Don't Go to the Theater #2 - It Sounds Better at Home

Dolby Surround??? You're joking?! I paid $9.50 to see a movie in analog surround sound?

Okay, I'll admit that's an upgrade for some folks, particularly those who rely on the 2" driver in their 20" TV to fulfill their audio experience. However, anyone that has put together a system in the last eight years is at least equipped with Dobly Digital 5.1 sound, and the greater majority of those are setup for DTS playback as well. In my case, I've got a crazier system than most... a 7.1 channel M&K THX system, so I guarantee that the sound is better in my living room than in that theater.

Not to skip ahead too much, but I even noticed that the system was totally out of whack as the movie played. The left front channel was too low, the center was overpowered, and surrounds were cranked up so loud that it ruined the ambience.

So back to the story...

We got there early, so I decided to head off to the concession stand to grab a little coffee before the movie.

Reason I Don't Go to the Theater #3 - Concessions = RIP OFF

Now, concessions at a movie theater have always been expensive, so I don't want to say that I had no idea how overpriced they are. However, a small popcorn should not cost $4.50! A small Diet Coke (well... Diet Pepsi in this case) should NOT be 5 bucks! In fact, while I'm on it, a freaking small soda should be SMALL, not 24 oz. A box of Sno-Caps (basically frosted chocolate movie fav) shouldn't cost more than six pounds of chocolate chips from the grocery store. It's not that I don't understand why they charge so much for these things, I just can't believe there was a line of people waiting to fork over so much money for it. Seriously, they lady in front of me spent 28 bucks on concessions... WTF?

"Do you have coffee?", I asked the surprisingly pleasent girl behind the counter.

"Well, we have NesCafe", she replied.

Given that answer, I'm guessing that it's a pretty sorry excuse for coffee. I didn't see it listed on the menu; so of course, I was curious how much this cup of so-called coffee would set me back and how big it was.

"Four dollars", she replied. "We only have one size."

For NesCafe? Are you serious? I can get 2 huge cups of Starbucks for that, and I used to think THEY were overpriced.

Then she held up the paper cup so I could see the serving size. Remember those cups you pee in at the doctor's office? Well, it was a little smaller than that. Why is it they serve soft drinks in 64 oz. sizes, but a four dollar cup of crappy coffee comes in a 8 oz. size?

Suffice to say, I walked back to my seat without coffee. Not because I'm a total cheapskate, but because I'm not a sucker.

When I sat down (in my not uncomfortable, but not exactly plush seat), I still had twenty minutes to kill before the movie started. What do we get to keep us entertained until then...

Reason I Don't Go to the Theater #4 - Paying to See Advertisements

I got to see twenty minutes of local advertisements, national advertisements, then a pizza ad, then a piece of movie trivia brought to me by Cingular (apparently, these haven't been updated to call them the new AT&T), then an ad for a chiropractor, then an 30 second interview with the director of some chick-flick brought to me by Cingular, then more ads, and then Cingular was proud to present their advertisement for the hip Samsung Sync now available at my local Cingular store, and on and on and on and on. That's what I get for being early I guess.

Just before I completely went insane, the lights dimmed... the universal sign that I'll have to sit through a ridiculous number of previews, but at least the movie is on its way.

Wait! What the hell? A commercial for Chef Boyardee? Why do I have to pay $9.50 to watch a TV commercial? I can handle previews; they're movie related, and a part of the theater experience. What does Chef Boyardee have to do with movies?

Then it gets worse...

"Cingular and ***** Cinemas would like to remind patrons to turn off their cell phones and pagers," said the loud voice and still text on the screen. Okay, my cell ringer was already off, but it's good they want to enforce a positive experience for everyone. Thanks Cingular and ***** Cinemas!

Then, finally a movie preview. Whew!

What?! A Honda commercial? I want to see a movie, not shop for cars!

Another movie preview.

"Cingular and ***** Cinemas would like to remind patrons to turn off their cell phones and pagers." Again? This is obviously a serious problem these days. Thank you again Cingular and ***** Cinemas! Wait, "thank you" didn't mean I want to see another Cingular commercial, but that's what I had to endure.

Then another movie preview, and a Pepsi commercial later...

"Cingular and ***** Cinemas would like to remind patrons to turn off their cell phones and pagers."

For heaven's sake! IT'S OFF! At this point, if I hear the word Cingular one more time, an usher is going down.

And then a miracle happened. The movie actually began playing... 17 long, tortured minutes later. By now, you'd think all was well. No, it didn't take long before I noticed another problem.

Reason I Don't Go to the Theater #5 - Something is Always Wrong With the Screen

I'm a videophile, meaning really picky when it comes to the images I watch. One thing that the theater has a real advantage over my home rig is the enormous screen.

Now, my HDTV is calibrated, clean, and tuned perfectly. Yet, the screen here has a three by four foot or so stain about 2 feet over and slightly down from in the middle, which screws up the picture in that spot. You'd think they could afford to clean it just by selling about 10 tickets and 4 medium sodas. To put a little salt on the wound, the image was shifted slightly to the left, and the focus could have been a wee bit better.

Can I live with it. Yes. Will I eventually forget about these problems during the movie? NO! That spot irritated me the entire time. Every single time my eyes went over it, I wished I was at home watching it on my HDTV. It was like it was...

(BUMP!)... (BUMP!)

Reason I Don't Go to the Theater #6 - That Guy, and that Kid, and that Other Guy

I swear, if that guy kicks the back of my chair again...

Sure, there can be something compelling about sharing a movie experience with a lot of other people. Except, I want the group of 200 other people to sit there, be quiet, not make me get up so they can use the bathroom (no doubt because of the 7 dollar 64 oz. soda that was brought to them by Cingular), not hog the armrest, and above all, NOT kick the back of my chair.

And to top it all off, two people got cell phone calls, and I'm sure they were ringtones downloaded from Cingular.

That's why I don't go to the movies anymore. And if things keep going the way they are, I won't be the only one that chooses to bypass the theater experience entirely. I have no problem giving my money to Best Buy, where I can buy everything I need for a good movie experience: the movie, an HDTV, DIGITAL surround system, and even a Cingular phone (are you listening Cingular?)... all for less then the cost of a tiny cup of NesCafe and a box of Sno-Caps at the theater.

Who's with me? Tell me about your theater experience.

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We are with you!

We just saw "Live Free or Die Hard"

First of all the Theater smelled bad and was as lame as they come. Infact, we wished there was paper to line the seats with, kinda like the restrooms had.

 We too have a great sound system at home, and comfy seats and I can pause the movie to go to, well you know...

The sound was not as good as we have at home, our 65" TV gives me a better HD picture,  and I don't have to put up with other people I don't know.

From what I saw, my HD picture at home was better than I saw in the theater.

What we paid to go see that movie, even at matienee prices, would almost cover an HBO bill for a month and I can pop my own popcorn, pour my own soda and pause the movie to go.....

We forgot to mention the commercials before hand.

We saw tons of commercials before the movie started, in fact we ran out of popcorn beofre the movie even started or "The Feature Presentation"

When we saw "Now ...The Feature Presentation" logo come up we were almost ready to leave, it had taken so long.

At least it started on time... :)

Last comment, apparently they do not turn off the ambient lights in the theater anymore, because of liability reasons. So the theater is now no longer dark as it usede to me.

I thought last comment... I miss the movie soundtrack playing in the restroom like they used to have. That's because they use one restroom for 6 or more screens.

Why can't they have a estroom per screen, then I can hear what I aqm missing while I....

Course, I don't have that probelm at home, I just pause then resume....

You are so right!

I love my home theater compared to the movies! 

The key is to arrive ten minutes late. Then you miss all the commercials! And you should always smuggle your own coffee into the theater. Sealed

You must have crappy theaters out there! The theaters I go to here are clean.

#1: It's no so bad here, especially with a military discount. As a matter of fact, a Carmike theater here only charges $5 for evening shows (no discount required), and all of their screens are DLP.

#2: Better at home—probably. At least you have control of that at home.

#3: Always have your date bring a large purse, and stop by Target on the way to the theater. WinkSomehow, I didn't think the $3 Raisinets taste better than the ones I get for $1.

#6: A while back, some guy seemed to have a problem with me texting on my phone and threw a piece of popcorn at me. After I turned around and said a few words, he didn't say another word (I guess he figured he would end up being the stain on the screen mentioned in #5).

I agree with this, going to theater is a commercial experience now, stay home and build your own home theater.  I personally have the comfy home theater seating berkline 090's comfy and wide. 

I don't go to the theater anymore as my screen is 100 diagonal, and about 8 foot wide.

I even got the popcorn maker

Movies are coming out faster than ever to dvd now so there is not that big of a wait time in between the movie releasing in the theaters and in the stores. Plus at home some nice home theater seating makes a huge difference in watching a movie.

Very nice blog! This guide helped me tons :) really appreciate it. thank you.

I've encountered almost all of the problems above and it rarely changes. except for the ushers, they are lazy ****ers I've seen minors simply walk into a theatre without paying and without getting kicked out or hassled over the fact that it's a MA/R rated slasher flic.
However one that really stands out from the is when I noticed a small group of people who had prepared for the worst. they had talked to the ushers and staff beforehand so that for ONCE they stood by the to make sure that people went to seats indicated on the ticket (that never happens any more) they had two of their mates go to the seats early to make sure noone tries to steal them (centre row in the middle), while the other two went home. they came back 5mins into the film (not long before the main feature started) with an esky of cheap drinks and a bag of microwave popcorn
I remember thinking to myself "OMG THEY CAME PREPARED"


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