About a month ago, Mrs. G. and I decided to go to the movies, which is something we had not done for two years. Oh sure, we watch movies, but we do it at home where there’s no line for the bathroom and the food is better. Here’s the thing though—with the lights up and distractions aplenty, do we really watch movies? I’d guess it’s more chatting, playing with the dog, and phone gazing than actual movie watching, so we miss a lot. We’ve both re-rented movies we’ve previously seen because we forgot we watched them.
Towards the middle to end of December though, a bunch of movies were released that looked interesting enough to see in a theater, so we bit the bullet and decided to go see The Revenant. Much was made out of this movie because of the brutal filming conditions and that the star, Titanic DiCaprio, ate a raw bison liver.
The movie was also based on an actual person named Hugh Jass, or maybe it was Hugh Glass, who has been dead for so long that he wouldn’t care that a heavy amount of poetic license was used to tell the story. Still, we watched it and it was long and intense and the cinematography was beautiful and thirty seconds before the emotional and climactic ending, my wife checked her phone to see what time it was and accidently activated Siri. She quickly tried to cram the device back into her purse, but it was too late. While the entire theater was rapt with attention to the screen, Mrs. G.’s phone shouted, “I’m sorry, I didn’t understand that.” Pins that were dropped looked up and said, “Hey, what the heck?”
OK, so eager-to-please Siri notwithstanding, the experience was great and here’s why. Since the last time we went to the movies, theater owners have realized that movies are released to buy or rent only a few weeks after they leave the theater. Once movies are available to people, they can watch them on televisions the size of billboards, so why would anyone go to a theater? Why indeed, so here’s one big reason: The theater we went to accepted reservations. Let that sink in for a second. One can go online a couple of weeks in advance to select and reserve seats. The actual seats. 13B and 13C. What this does is eliminate the triple risk hassle that drove most people out of theaters in the first place:
- Not getting in at all and having to either go back home or watch Ride Along 5, because it was the only thing available.
- Having to sit so far to the side that the actors appear in silhouettes.
- Sitting in the front row, which meant a seventy-five dollar trip to the chiropractor after gazing up into the nose holes of the actors for the entire movie.
The individual theaters within the multiplex were also stadium-sized, which meant that people who have never heard of the word “babysitter” could wander in on the spur of the moment with a barrel of popcorn, and spend the next two hours teaching their pre-school aged children how to use stairs during an R-rated movie. For whatever reason, reservations weed out the oblivious moviegoer who still thinks they are home in their living room.
Being able to make reservations isn’t the best part though. They also ripped out all of those seats that they won’t even use in a Trailways bus station, and replaced them with big, fat Naugahyde recliners that, even when reclined, still have two feet of space between the soles of my shoes and the back of the seat in front of me, and I’m over six feet tall. Plus, each seat has its own wide armrest so there’s no nudge wresting with guy next door for armrest real estate.
These super-chairs cut down the capacity of the theater to about one hundred souls, all of which are quietly reclining in comfort while actually being able to watch a movie. It’s so ridiculously decadent that I felt a little guilty. All that was missing was one of those tableside chefs who flip shrimp off of a cleaver.
The premium for all of this was maybe two bucks per ticket over the cram ‘em in places, and even less depending on what time one goes and if one is eligible to take Señor Discount along with them. For the occasional night out, I’m sold. After The Revenant, we made plans the very next day to see the new Star Wars movie. I haven’t seen a Star Wars movie since 1983, but we were on a roll now. Watch out, pop culture.
We invited our daughter and son-in-law to come along with us, reserved four seats together, and met up the next day at the theater. We all dropped into our seats, inched the chairs into full recline mode and settled in with our clandestine snacks. One trailer led into another and then another until the warning came up to silence our cell phones and for the enjoyment of others, s-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h, no talking. OK, let the force be with me in three … two … one …
The lights came up, five minutes went by, and a staffer announced that the projector or whatever they use in 2016 to show movies wasn’t working. Much grumbling ensued, and we were given a refund plus free passes for another movie. These things happen, I suppose, and the theater staff did the right thing with the free passes. Come to find out, those passes couldn’t be used for online reservations, and since the bulk of the seats are reserved online (and thus unavailable), we’d have to old-school it and show up, hoping for the best. This led to something my wife and I have never, in our mutual history of movie going, ever done.
At 10:30 in the morning, on a Wednesday, we went to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens with the rest of the retired, the shift workers and the unemployed. I think there were ten of us in the theater. Nobody brought a light saber, although I did see a Millennium Falcon walker with tennis balls on the feet. The movie was what I expected it to be, no better or worse, and the experience was grand enough that I forgot what time it was. OK, so seeing a movie in its entirety before lunch was a little odd, but even if we didn’t have free passes, the tickets would have been less than six dollars, which is not bad at all. With two movies under our belt, we mutually agreed to do this again, albeit at a more conventional movie-going day and time.
A week or so went by, and we reserved two seats to see a movie on Valentine’s Day weekend. As I write this several days before Saturday, the weather is forecasted to be five degrees below zero that night with angry snow squalls as the frosting on that cake. The theater is a thirty-minute drive from our house on a good day, which includes a necessary and harrowing drive over an expansive bridge that is known to have it’s own climate zone. We’ll see how that goes.
We made it there in one, frigid piece. The winds died down and the parking lot was surprisingly crowded. Since the show started at 7:00 (p.m., thankfully) we left the house almost an hour early and got there at seven on the dot. It was slow-going the entire way, but with reserved seats and the knowledge that there were a solid twenty-minutes of trailers, we knew we were safe.
By the time the movie was over and we headed back to the car, it was three degrees below zero, but the traffic was light and we made it back home in forty-five minutes. Not bad for a white knuckle crawl on slippery roads. By the way—we stopped at a Redbox on the way home. Sunday was looking cold again, and as nice as those seats are, I’m not going back out there until it’s above zero.