Time Travel Tuesdays: Five Star Cinema

Once again, friends, we roll back the clock. This time we journey to July 12, 2003, when I faced a persistent problem that has gotten no better in the ensuing years: crappy movie theater experiences.

Oh — and listeners to the Evercast podcast will find some of this hauntingly familiar…

Let’s journey, shall we?

Five Star Cinema

There’s something about the movie theater experience. As great as DVDs and other home entertainment media are, some strange, ethereal quality keeps calling me back to the darkened chamber with the sticky floors and the eardrum-splitting sound systems. I love all of that stuff.

Now, however, I’m seriously pondering a road trip to Kansas City to see if I might not just find a way to love it even more. A movie theater in Kansas City — the one in Missouri, it’s a city that has the frustrating habit of existing in two states at once — has banned children under age six from attending the theater. Furthermore, it will not allow anyone under the age of 16 to be admitted without an adult.

I am so there.

How many times have you been in the movies only to hear some baby screaming or a five-year-old shouting out questions at the screen? And I’m not blaming the kids, folks. I love kids and I know they don’t know any better. I’m blaming the parents for bringing small children to see movies they are not ready for. When I saw Spider-Man last summer there was a little boy behind me, probably about four years old, repeatedly asking his father why Spider-Man was fighting the Green Power Ranger. It got even worse for the climactic battle scene, which featured a pretty violent death. The kid started bawling in horror.

I wanted to grab this kid’s father by the lapels and shout, “If your son is this scared, how could you have been stupid enough to bring him into a PG-13 rated movie in the first place?” I restrained myself, however, using the rationale that the kid would probably start asking why Friar Tuck was banging his daddy’s head into the railing.

So I think this move in Kansas City is a great thing. In fact, I don’t think it goes far enough, because while poorly behaved children are a big problem in this nation’s multiplexes, I think poorly behaved adults are even worse, because they should know better. I can’t remember the last time I saw a movie without some idiot’s cell phone ringing or pager going off. During a screening of 28 Days Later, I actually saw someone take out their cell phone and begin playing a video game during the movie. As I watched the film I realized early on that it relied on suspense and implied danger rather than buckets of blood to generate scares, therefore stupid people would not enjoy it. But I never thought I’d see someone so inconsiderate as to try to beat their high score at “Snake” while the rest of us were waiting to see if the world was going to end.

The worst, however, was when I went to see The Hulk. I very much enjoyed the half of the movie I saw. The other half of the time was spent by me turning my head to glare at people, trying to ignore pagers and lifting up my feet to avoid the spills of popcorn and drink trays on higher levels.

This theater was also full of people who didn’t seem to understand that other people who paid money actually did so with the intent of watching the picture and not having a conversation. One woman in particular — the one seated directly behind me, of course — said something so incredibly moronic even I, documentarian of human stupidity that I am, could not believe it.

Lou Ferrigno, who played the titular rampaging beast on TV in the 70s, has a brief walk-on cameo in “The Hulk.” As he appeared on the screen, I heard a voice behind me cry out, “Look, baby! That’s the real Hulk there!”

I wanted to hurl myself into the screen and let the monster have me.

So I’ve decided to open my own movie theater, friends. It will be like most other theaters, with one major difference. In regular theaters, ushers show up about every hour and walk up and down the aisles just to make sure nothing’s on fire or anything. In my theater, all of the ushers will have “Vinnie” on their name tags, and will be a constant presence in the theater. When a baby cries, when a pager goes off, when a cell phone rings, one of the Vinnies will politely escort that person the heck out of my theater, explaining to them that the continued use of their legs is more important than the ending of Charlie’s Angels.

The Vinnies will also be equipped with rubber band guns. When someone speaks above a whisper, snorts at a piece of ironic dialogue or says anything so stupid that more than two people in the immediate vicinity roll their eyes, the Vinnies will take their rubber band guns and shoot the perpetrator in the forehead. Repeated transgressions will result in a removal from the theater and injection with a radioactive dye that will dissipate harmlessly in a month or two but which will, in the meantime, cause them to glow in the dark, alerting the Vinnies (should this person return) that they are temporarily banned from my theater.

I think this will make going to the movies a better experience for everyone, don’t you? Really the only major drawback will be that the tickets will each be about three pages long so that everyone gets a warning right up front. Otherwise they’ll try to sue me, and as we’ve learned from the movies, all lawyers not played by Julia Roberts are evil.

Blake M. Petit is pricing bulk rubber bands as we speak. He invites anyone with comments, suggestions or who can tell him what happened in the other half of “The Hulk” to contact him at BlakeMPetit@gmail.com

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