Why I don’t Go to Movie Theaters
I stopped going to the movies a long time ago. My decision to avoid the theater experience was rooted in the pricey tickets, a movie I had watched in college (more on this later) and the general anxiety I feel when I’m sitting in a crowded dark room with a bunch of strangers.
It’s really old news but to take my girlfriend and I to a movie nowadays it takes nothing short of an arm and a leg. Between the tickets — around $15 each — the popcorn, the soda, the candy, etc., it’s not cheap. Unfortunately, I’m not made of money, so dropping $60 to go see the latest rom-com or action flick is just not worth it. I’d much rather wait until it comes out on DVD/TV/Digital Download, so we can watch it at home — on my 55 inch high-definition television.
On a side note, the waiting for a movie to be available for download (or Blu-ray/DVD) is not bad at all these days because, well, I can’t remember the last time I saw a movie trailer or read a review and was like “Oh my lord, we have to go see that movie!” Maybe I’m just more discerning now than I was when I was younger or maybe the stuff that Hollywood’s putting out just stinks.
In any event, aside from the money, I never really liked the theater experience. I always fell anxious in a theater. I worry about having to go to the bathroom, for example. What if I have to go and I’m seated in a middle seat in a large aisle (I always try to get an end seat, but sometimes you get there late and you have no other choice but a middle seat)? Do I just get up in the middle of the movie and make that awkward, disruptive walk toward the exit? I hate doing that! I know it annoys people. I feel their eyes on me and can read their inner thoughts: “Why didn’t you go before the movie started?” or “Just because you bought all that soda, doesn’t mean you had to drink it!” or “If I can hold it for 90 minutes, so can you!” I know it’s dark in there, but I can’t help the feeling that I’m being judged for doing what we all have to do.
Plus, when you’re exiting the aisle, there is always at least one disgruntled person — angry at the fact that nature’s calling you in the third act at a critical climactic moment, e.g. the the undercover agent is being discovered as a spy — who refuses to politely move their knees to the side and you either have to try to step over their legs or forcibly move their knees with your own, which in either case usually causes you to lose your balance. The person is seated, you’re standing, they win the center of gravity battle and you end up stumbling, which only causes you more shame and embarrassment.
Then, of course, after you’re done going to the bathroom, you’re filled with even more dread because you have to make your way back to the seat and once again disrupt the movie-going experience for all those in attendance, and run into the same impolite patron who tried to block you from leaving in the first place. It’s exhausting.
I’ll make one other compliant. That is, I tend to laugh at moments in movies that aren’t really supposed to be funny. I guess I have a morbid sense of humor. But in a poorly acted scene, when the old grandmother tells her young grandchildren that she’s terminally ill with cancer, I might let out a chuckle at the predictability of the writing or the campiness of the weeping children. To give you a reference point, I thought “The Sopranos” was hilarious (I know it’s not a movie, but the dark humor in that television series is unrivaled. The Christopher intervention scene is one of the funniest scenes in the entire series.) There’s no doubt that that pisses people off. On the other side of the equation, I can’t stand when people laugh at stupid, lowest-common-denominator jokes. Farts, for example. Really? You’re still laughing at fart jokes in movies? What are you 12-year-old? That drives me nuts. Yeah, sometimes they’re funny, but to watch people fall out of their seats at fart jokes just confuses me and jars my willful suspension of disbelief.
I mentioned that I watched a movie in college that also changed the way I thought about going to the movies. The movie I saw was “Targets,” and it was directed by Peter Bogdanovich. It was released in 1968. To say it was ahead of its time or that it was prescient is an understatement. I don’t want to reveal too much about the movie, for those of you who may want to watch it, but it’s about a sociopathic Vietnam combat veteran who turns into a mass-murdering sniper. It’s been awhile since I watched it, but I believe he kills his entire family before going off on his public rampage where he shoots motorists on a highway and, eventually, folks at a drive-in movie theater. Now, I saw this movie circa 2003, which was post Columbine and almost a decade before the 2013 mass shooting inside of a Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, that left 12 people dead and 70 others injured (58 from gunfire, the other 12 from fleeing and tear gas).
Targets” stuck with me, over the years. It wasn’t a particularly good film, but viewing it changed the way I thought about public safety.
In 2003, several years after 911, we were all on guard, all looking over our shoulders. What I was on the lookout for wasn’t a lone gunman, but another coordinated attack on government targets (buildings, banks, monuments). It had never really occurred to me what one determined individual could do if they were hellbent on taking innocent lives. In Columbine, there were two gunmen. And I guess I viewed it as an aberration, an isolated incident where depressed and over-drugged kids randomly lashed out against those they viewed as the perpetrators of their misfortune. Of course, there was a lot more to it than that, but at the time, that’s how I saw it. I never really thought that much about what it would look like if it were to happen again (I also didn’t have much knowledge of the mass shootings that predated Columbine; I wasn’t aware of any trends). Then I saw “Targets.” And it struck a nerve. And I began to think that not only was another Columbine possible, but it was downright inevitable. Moreover, an attack of that magnitude didn’t require a team of two or more, it could be carried out by one resourceful and calculating sociopath.
I wasn’t really into guns at this point in my life. But the seeds were being planted. See, I began to assess the situations in which I was the most vulnerable: movie theaters, sporting events, concerts, classrooms, churches, airports, government buildings. Soon I realized that they all had something in common. In addition to being crowded venues, they were gun-free zones. Places were law-abiding citizens were defenseless against an attacker. I didn’t know much about self-defense or concealed carry at the time, but I did reckon that some armed resistance is better than none. And gun-free zones just didn’t make any logical sense.
Regal Cinema Bag Check Policy
A lot has changed between now and then. Both you and I know full well the damage that these soulless mass killers can wreak: Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Isla Vista, Washington Navy Yard, Charleston Church, etc. The real question is whether we are better prepared to face this threat then we were before. I guess the answer to that question is a resounding “NO” if we are to take a look at the recent move by Regal Cinema to check the bags of patrons before they enter the movie theater. Apparently, it’s a strategy to help enforce the company’s ban on firearms.
“Security issues have become a daily part of our lives in America,” said the company in a statement on its website. “Regal Entertainment Group wants our customers and staff to feel comfortable and safe when visiting or working in our theatres. To ensure the safety of our guests and employees, backpacks and bags of any kind are subject to inspection prior to admission. We acknowledge that this procedure can cause some inconvenience and that it is not without flaws, but hope these are minor in comparison to increased safety.”
I don’t need to tell you how stupid this bag-check policy is. But just to entertain the the thought, some things to consider. First, I don’t know a lot of criminals who carry guns in a purse or bag. Typically, they’ll carry it on their person, around their waist. Is Regal Cinema going to pat down every patron? If so, how extensive will the body search be? Lines are already long at movie theaters. Second, I think this policy will unfairly target a lot of women. After all, they are the ones who typically bring bags and purses to the theaters. Just to ask the obvious, how often do women shoot up movie theaters, schools, churches? Answer, pretty much never. Lastly, bag checks don’t work. Even the most well-trained, well-funded professional bag inspectors equipped with the best technology fail approximately 95 percent of the time. That’s correct. You’ll recall the recent report that found the TSA’s failure rate on airport breach tests to be 95 percent. If TSA agents can’t do it right, and they’ve been extensively trained (or so we’re led to believe) then how does Regal Cinema expect its employees — a bunch of disaffected, acne-faced hipsters — to do it right?
Long story short, the bag check is an ineffectual policy that will does nothing to improve the safety of the theaters. Regal Cinema executives have to know that, which makes me wonder if the whole bag check policy isn’t just a ploy to go after the contraband that the executives are really concerned about: imported bulk candy, soda cans, kettle corn, etc.
Truth be told though, even if Regal Cinema wised up and said, you know what, we’re going to do a 180 and go from gun-free to gun-friendly, I’m not sure that would change how I feel about going to the movies. From a safety standpoint, even if you’re armed, you’re still a sitting duck. And let’s say shots do ring out, how well are you going to be able to get a bead on the shooter? It’s dark, it’s crowded, everyone is presumably in a panick. Do you draw your gun? Do you shoot in the direction of the shooter? Do you shoot it in the air to draw attention away from potential victims and startle the shooter (but thereby giving away your position)? What if there is another armed good-guy in the audience? Does he now think that you’re apart of the attack?
There are a million questions. There are. And I’m not suggesting that theaters should be gun-free zones, just merely pointing out that even if they’re gun-friendly, they still leave one relatively vulnerable. Gun-friendly is always better than gun-free but gun-friendly doesn’t necessarily mean optimally safe and secure. In a movie theater atmosphere, you’re an easy target, armed or otherwise.
Needless to say, it’s up to you to evaluate how and where you want to spend your hard earned money and the risks associated with those activities. For me, for a multitude of reasons (some discussed above), I’m going to pass on going to the movies. I’ll wait, and watch the next movie I want to see at home, on my 55” television, with my GF, my puppy, and a shotgun by my side (well, the shotgun’s in a conveniently located area, I’ll put it that way). And if nature calls during the viewing of the film, I’ll simply pause and take a free, unencumbered stroll to bathroom.