Ruining It for the Rest of Us

Last night I attended a screening for the upcoming movie Dredd (very good, enjoyed it a lot, plenty of action, too violent for the youngsters, looking forward to some sequels) and ran into the latest round of backlash and silliness.

No Recording Devices
All Your Cameras Are Belong To Us!

I’ve been to many screenings, so I’m used to them saying that you have to turn off your phones or even saying you can’t bring them in. Sorry folks, they keep making better phones and with 720p HD video recording on your phone, it is getting easier for people to bootleg movies. And that’s really what they are looking for, recording devices.

First off, to all you people there who download shitty bootlegs recorded with camera phones: Stop. For one, there are better bootlegs out there. For another, THERE ARE BETTER BOOTLEGS OUT THERE. I’d say that again in bold and italics, but I figure CAPS should be enough.

Secondly, to the theaters: see the above paragraph. Very few people are downloading bootlegs made on iPhones. Mostly because almost no one is making bootlegs on iPhones. Most bootlegs are made in empty theaters by unscrupulous theater employees, or made as a digital copy right off the discs/camera/stream, however you are getting your digital copy of the movie. If the screening is months before release, then I further understand a desire for “security” to keep screen grabs from leaking onto the Internet, but when you are within a week of release and professional paid reviewers are already dropping bombs and spoiling your film, a kid who snaps a crappy photo of your movie is the last thing you should be worried about.

What really irked me though, was the insistence by security that not only were phones, cameras and such not allowed inside, but no iPods or Kindles or Nooks or any electronic device. That’s right, even devices that do not have cameras because they are not made with cameras, were not being allowed inside. Certainly this was because of lazy – it’s easier to ban everything than to actually know things and selectively exclude devices that are capable of recording. On top of that, though, is the fact that in all the screenings I’ve been to the only thing that ever needs to happen is for security to say, “Put all phones on silent or vibrate. If you use an electronic device during the movie, or a device you have makes noise, you will be removed from the theater.” and then stand in the back of the theater, watching and listening. When that happens, no one pulls out their phones to make calls or text or play games. Because, by and large, people don’t suck when given simple logical instructions.

To top that off, the movie was in 3D. You cannot, to my knowledge, record a 3D movie projected onto a screen with a handheld camera and preserve the 3D. At best, you slap one of the polarized lenses on the camera and record only the left or right eye image, capturing it in 2D – but it will be much worse quality than just capturing the film in straight 2D.

And further insult to injury, the security staff was willing to “bag and tag” phones, but they offered no insurance. One guy actually said, to the crowd, “If you lose your ticket or we lose your phone, you will not get a replacement. It’s just gone.” You know, there is a reason that I keep a photo of myself on my phone at all times, that way I can walk someone through unlocking the phone and opening the photo to prove it’s either mine or someone who knows me. But if that wasn’t enough, the parking garage at this particular theater is a typical parking garage, and thus on your parking ticket states “The management of this garage is not responsible for damage or theft of any vehicle or its contents.” So when the security guys were offering to let people out of line to go put their phones and Kindles and iPads in their cars, they were basically saying “You can’t take those in the theater, with you, where they are safe, you need to put them in your car, where the garage has specifically stated that they aren’t responsible for them.”

I guess people could just not bring their phones and things with them, but who goes around without a phone these days?

Anyway, I’m sure we got this terrible treatment by security because some schmuck somewhere tried to record a movie with his iPhone and then uploaded it to YouTube. If you are that guy, just know, you are ruining the movie going experience for everyone. Cut it out.

Movie Going

In my opinion, there is almost nothing quite as fantastic as seeing a good movie in the theater. The superior sound and the giant screen enveloping your vision and sucking you right into the story. Even the audience matters. Listening to people enjoying the movie too is part of the greatness. The gasps and laughs, the sniffing of stifled tears. It is unique and wonderful. But increasingly it isn’t worth the price of admission.

Before we even get to the literal price, there is so much more that is wrong with the movie going experience. As much as I love the idea of crowds, the reality of them is always so much less. If your kids aren’t capable of sitting still for a couple of hours and watching a movie, don’t bring them – get a sitter. Not only will everyone else enjoy the movie more, YOU will enjoy the movie more. Also, don’t go to the movies if you have trouble following plots. Nothing will annoy your neighbors more than you constantly asking your friend what’s going on. And if you aren’t enjoying a movie, consider leaving and asking for your money back rather than decide for everyone that this drama should be a comedy by adding your lame remarks in your loudest voice.

People who text or talk on cell phones during movies should be shot. And I’m not being hyperbolic here. Security should come in, drag the texter out of the theater, take them to a room and shoot them. Perhaps just in the hand. Maybe take off a finger, the little one. I bet if they lost a finger they’d stop texting during the movies. Assholes.

And theaters should be required to maintain a certain level of quality. There is a theater near me that I almost never go to because, as I say, “You pay for one movie and you get to listen to two!” The sound barrier between their screens is so poor that you literally get to hear two movies. If your movie is the loud action pack thrill ride, no problem, but if your movie is the dramatic quiet tear jerker, listening to soldiers bark commands and things explode while the main character of your film is supposed to be silently weeping his loss kind of ruins things. At the very least, theaters with shitty quality should charge shitty quality prices.

But before I get to ticket prices, it would be remiss not to mention the concession stand. I can buy a bag of popcorn at the grocery store for about a $1.50, so I wouldn’t be surprised to have to pay $3 to but the same amount of popcorn at a theater where they serve it to me – the people have to get paid somehow. But having to pay $5 to $7 for that amount of popcorn is stupid. And I’m not even going to bother with the $7 sodas. What?!? But what about those $3.75 to $5.75 boxes of candy that are only half filled? I understand that the theaters need the revenue, but every facet of their concession stand appears to be designed to make me angry and never want to buy anything there. These days I don’t even bother. Despite the hanging of signs saying it is forbidden, I bring my own soda and snacks to the movie. And don’t try to sell me on the “but if you buy a large you get free refills!” stuff, because I never leave the theater during the film if I can help it. Why on Earth would I miss part of the movie I just paid that much to see?

Which brings us to the ticket prices. My local theaters are between $9 and $12 for an evening ticket. The $9 is for a theater that is of lower quality. Of course, when I do go to see a movie, I pretty much always go to a matinée on the weekend, before noon, where the price is often $6, maybe $7, for the better quality houses. Still the price is high. For the wife and I to go see a movie it’s going to cost $12 to $24, just for the tickets. And for my money we get to see the movie one time. Whereas if I wait six months, I can buy the movie on DVD or Blu-ray for around the same price, and own the movie – which I can watch as many times as I want or watch it once and then sell it to get some of my money back.

I haven’t even gotten into the latest trend: 3D. Currently, you pay a premium for 3D, an extra $3 to $5 per ticket. They’ll tell you that the extra cost is to cover the glasses (which they ask you to give back so they can recycle them) or to recoup the cost of upgrading their projectors. If that’s true, though, at some point they should finish recovering the projector cost and glasses production & recycling should level off that the premium should go away. It should become standard. Of course, that’ll never happen as they will be too busy enjoying the extra profits. And you know it’s all about the money as every movie seems to be getting a 3D release – and most of those are post-production conversions, not filmed in 3D with special cameras.

I am a movie lover. And back in the days of tickets being $5 to $6 and a concession combo (drink & popcorn) was $4 to $5, I’d go see a movie every single week. It was what I did on a Friday or Saturday night. Now, they’ve doubled the prices and the result is that I never get concessions and I see a movie once every couple of months. And I have to imagine that I’m not alone. These days, my Friday or Saturday nights are often spent streaming a movie off Netflix or Amazon where I pay a movie ticket a month for unlimited streaming of thousands and thousands of movies. I don’t know who is to blame for the skyrocketing prices – the theater companies, the movie producers, someone else – but I do know that it is pricing me out of the market.

I read an article once, and I wish I could find it again (but I think it was in print, not on the Internet), that Hollywood and theater owners were both lamenting “event movies” – stuff like The Avengers, the Harry Potter films, Avatar – movies that draw people into theaters.  Part of their lament was that smaller films just didn’t sell in theaters, and it was only these giant budget risks that stood a chance. I can’t help but think that they’re looking at everything all wrong. The problem is that it’s only these huge “must see” films that get people to ignore the high cost of admission. At half the price, at $6 or $5… or in my dream world $3, I feel people would be a lot more willing to take a risk on a movie. For $3, I would pretty much go see any movie in the theater – even if it was poorly reviewed, for $3 I’d be willing to judge it for myself. On the other hand, for $12 (or $15 in 3D), the movie better be well reviewed and give me two hours worth of awesome entertainment or else not only will I be unhappy but I’m likely to avoid going to the movies for a while. Once bitten, twice shy and all that.

So what do I recommend? First off, do some research on the movies you are going to see. Check this list, and if the movie says it was originally filmed in 2D, see it in 2D. Don’t reward people for going for the 3D cash grab. Second, go to weekend matinées. See the movie at 11am, then go for lunch, do some shopping, whatever, make a day of it – but start with the movie. Plus, if you eat breakfast, and then see a movie with the plan to get lunch after, you don’t need movie snacks, just sit back and enjoy the show. And third, find local theaters with good quality sound setups and stick to them. Reward theaters for being good theaters.

That third step can be the most difficult as movie distribution is a scam just like everything else. The best local theater nearest me doesn’t get all the best movies. They have 24 screens and didn’t get The Avengers, the 16 screen house down the road with lower quality got it. Two different movie theater companies, but they are serviced by the same distributor who ensures they take turns on the blockbusters and don’t compete. Lame.

You know… on second thought, you should probably just invest in a quality home theater instead.

This isn't my personal home theater... yet.

Movie Round-Up: November 5th, 2010

For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Megamind When The Due Date Is EnufFor Colored Girls: (official site)

As always, I remain not a fan of Tyler Perry’s work.  I’m sure other people like it, they must since he keeps on making movies, but it just isn’t for me.  If it’s your thing though, I’m certain it’ll be worth the money to see it in the theater.

Megamind: (official site)

Animated kids movies are all the rage.  Seriously.  When I was growing up I don’t recall there being so many.  Maybe I was too busy buying tickets for Transformers: The Movie and seeing Aliens instead.  And every single animated kids movie is in 3D.  This certainly looks like a lot of fun though.  I may not catch it on the big screen or in 3D, but I’ll definitely watch this the first chance I get.

Due Date: (official site)

In Hollywood, movies are often pitched by shorthand.  You say, “This movie is like Die Hard, only it happens on the Goodyear Blimp!” or something like, “It’s like Steel Magnolias meets The Godfather!”  I imagine the pitch for this film as being, “It’s as if Planes, Trains & Automobiles and The Hangover had a baby!”  And if that was the pitch, if that was the intent, then this movie delivers.  Two guys traveling cross country together.  One just wants to get home to his wife for the birth of their kid, and the other is going the same way, is a little weird, and really wants to be friends.  And the whole story is told with the comedic style and tone of The Hangover.  I got to see a screening of this last week…. I laughed.  I cried (with laughter).  I wet my pants (when I laughed so hard I peed, just a little).  To say that I loved it would be an understatement.  It was fantastic.  Well worth your hard earned dollars.

Movie Round-Up: September 24th, 2010

You Legend of the Wall Virginity Street Hit Guardians AgainLegend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole:

3D animated owls.  Part of me just wants to shuffle this movie under the rug with all the other children’s fare that we’ve seen at the theaters.  Perhaps see it someday on Netflix when I’m bored.  On the other hand, this is Zach Snyder, director of the Dawn of the Dead remake, 300, Watchmen, and next year’s Sucker Punch (which does look totally wicked).  That alone has me wanting to go see this in the theater.  Plus, you know, 3D.

The Virginity Hit:

Two weeks, two films about virginity.  Easy A, to me, looked to be the better of the two films.  I’m not a huge fan of the mockumentary form of film unless it is done really well, and I’d rather watch them at home instead of at the theater.  So, this one gets a pass from me for now, but I’ll probably see it when it is available through streaming on Netflix.

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps:

Everything old is new again.  I’ll give these people props though, instead of remaking Wall Street they are doing a sequel.  I enjoyed the original, and despite the presence of Shia LaBeouf this movie actually looks like it might be pretty good.  Not $10 in the theater good, but I’ll definitely catch this on Netflix when it is available.

You Again:

The only film this week I’ve already seen, You Again is the story of a girl, Marni, who survived high school and a bully, Joanna, only to have her older brother be marrying that bully eight years later.  And if that isn’t enough, it turns out that Marni’s mother, Gail, was a high school rival of Joanna’s aunt, Ramona.  The twist being that while Marni was the loser of her generation, Gail was the winner of her’s.  It was a pretty funny movie, and I think women will definitely enjoy it more than men.  I’m not sure I’d want to spend $10 to see this, but I think I’d be happy if I’d seen it at matinée or early bird prices.

Movie Round-Up: July 23rd, 2010

Ramona and Beezus:

Based on the Beverly Cleary book Ramona Forever, obviously this is a family film.  From the trailer it looks to be fun and probably worth the trip to the theater with the kids.


I really wanted to be able to come here and say you should run to the theater and see this movie.  I wanted to, but then I saw it.  Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t suck.  It has some good action and the plot twists are kinda neat (if a tad predictable), but I’m over my “My god! Angelina is so beautiful! Lust lust lust!!” phase.  Sometimes she is a good actress, and sometimes she isn’t.  She just didn’t get me to care about her character one way or the other.  On top of that, I’m getting to the point where I don’t buy her as an action star.  It could be my aversion to ultra skinny women, but her lack of a substance, to me, hurts because I can’t really get behind her toting around big guns and simultaneously kicking the asses of a half dozen guys when I think the kick of the weapons would knock her down or that any one of those trained fighters she’s up against could overpower her.  Anyway, if you don’t mind that and you just want to go see an action movie, this one is worth seeing, though I suggest going to an earlier show to get a cheaper price.  If you don’t need to see the movie, skip it, and wait for the rental.

Lines in the Sand

Recently, I’ve been thinking about theft and piracy.  Mainly because some people I know have been tossing around invites to various torrent sites, and while I don’t join most of them, I don’t mind scanning the content just to see what’s out there.

For me, there are lines I won’t cross.

Movies: I will not pirate movies.  I’ll go to free screenings, I’ll pay for in the theater, I’ll wait for the DVD or Netflix.  I won’t buy one ticket and then see multiple movies at the theater.  In part, I think this is because I want to work in the industry some day, and I would hope if I was trying to make my living off movies that people wouldn’t be stealing my work.

Books: Nope, don’t steal them, don’t download pirated eBooks.  Again, I think this is because I want to be a published author and I wouldn’t want people stealing my stuff.

Games: Way way back in the day, I admit, I pirated some games.  I was 12, maybe 13.  Ever since I could afford to buy them, I’ve stopped pirating.  Once again, an industry I want to work in.

Music: By and large, I don’t pirate.  I say “by and large” because while the majority of my collection comes from ripping my own CDs (some of which I have since sold at garage sales), I have also ripped CDs from other people, or been given mixes from friends that I’ve ripped.  I will say, however, that the majority of my music theft is limited to CDs that are no longer available.  I’d buy them if I could, but I can’t.  This is changing as music companies are finally embracing digital distribution and it doesn’t cost them much to cart out old catalogs and put them up for sale.

TV: On the other hand, I torrent TV shows like there is no tomorrow.  Mostly though, I do this because of the roadblocks they (the networks and cable companies and everyone else) put in my way from enjoying all the shows I want to see.  All I want is a 100% OnDemand service where the episodes are available “on time”.  No holding shows back for a week to try to get me to watch the broadcast.  You can even leave the commercials in.  (Unlike some people, I don’t mind commercials at all, it’s how I learn about other shows, upcoming movies, products, etc.  I don’t record/torrent TV so I can skip commercials.)  The Upfronts are this week and so later I’ll be doing my usual rundown of the fall season and like every year I will illustrate why I have to record/torrent shows.  Things are getting better with services like Hulu out there, but they still don’t have everything.  And frankly, cable TV charges WAY too much to their hostages, I mean, customers.  I’ll happily stop torrenting when I’m given unlimited undelayed time shifting.

Anyway… just thoughts in my head.  Are there lines you cross?  Do you try to justify it?  How?

Movie Round-Up: January 29th, 2010

This week is “three word title” week…

When in Rome:

Since I’ve already admitted to liking chick flicks and romantic comedies, I won’t bother pretending I don’t want to see this.  And Kristin Bell is just all kinds of awesome.  Her performance in Veronica Mars means that I’ll see anything she’s in for decades.  Besides, this looks to be hilarious.  I may not make it to the theater to see this one because of time and money constraints, but I want to.  If you have the means and the desire, go see it.

Edge of Darkness:

I went to a screening of this on Tuesday and just before the show I tweeted and posted on Facebook that I wanted this to be good.  Luckily, it was.  I haven’t seen the original mini-series.  I want to, it is in the Netflix queue.  But word on the street is that it is great.  While I wouldn’t call this movie great, it was intriguing and kept my attention the whole time.  The only real downside to this film is Mel Gibson’s accent and nasally voice.  At times it threatens to ruin the film, but never quite does.  Every other performance here is nearly flawless.  I would warn, however, don’t go in expecting an action thriller.  There is action, but most of the story unfolds slowly over its almost two hour length and is only punctuated by action.  To me, this movie is worth the price of admission.

Movie Round-Up: January 15th, 2010

Now commencing, the week of “The” …

The Spy Next Door:

Our first “The” film is this little throwaway kid friendly family film starring Jackie Chan as a secret super spy who also babysits.  Or something like that.  Take the kids, sure, but don’t expect to be anything other than predictable.  Not worth my money, and I had the opportunity, three times, to see this for free and never did.

The Lovely Bones:

Our second “The” film is an adaptation of a very successful book.  I’ve actually wanted to read the book, however, I put that idea aside once I heard there was to be a film.  Films always have to excise content from the book, sometimes that’s good and sometimes that’s bad.  If the film is good, I’ll read the book in a couple of years.  Anyway, if you don’t know, its about a girl who is raped and murdered looking in on the world after her death.  She follows her family and the man who killed her and she watches her family fall apart and the murderer prepare to go after another girl.  I’m not sure I’ll make it to the theater for this one, mostly because dramas don’t really benefit from the big screen (and often are hurt by people who won’t shut the hell up), but if I head to the cinema, this will be on my list.

The Book of Eli:

Our last “The” film is this post-apocalyptic tale.  I was lucky enough to get into a screening of this last night, and let me tell you, in my opinion, this is one damn fine film.  The Hughes Brothers have taken Gary Whitta’s script and painted it beautifully on the screen with excellent use of Denzel Washington and Gary Oldman.  I know some people in the theater were bored, because their shuffling and chatting occasionally distracted me, but I was enraptured.  Even having already seen it, I may pay to see it again.  Well done, gentlemen.  Well done.

And here ends the week of “The”.

Movie Round-Up: November 20th, 2009

Not only am I under the weather, but its November and I’m trying (and failing) to do the NaNoWriMo… but enough about me and my lack of posting, on to the week’s releases.

New Moon:

I’ve never read the books, and doubt I ever will.  The first movie was horrible, and I suspect this one will be horrible too.  You would have to pay me to see this in the theater, my rates begin at $30 per hour.

Planet 51:

It looks like a fun family movie… and that’s all I have to say about that.

The Blind Side:

A better family movie, if you are inclined to see one, would be The Blind Side.  It follows the story of Michael Oher, a boy who is taken in by a wealthy family and plays football.  Based on a true story, it is funny and heart warming, and frankly I enjoyed it far more than I expected to.  I can’t say for sure if I would pay full price to go see this in the theater, but if you are already taking the family out to see a movie, already willing to pay money for a couple hours of entertainment, you can do much worse than this inspiring tale.

Movie Round-Up: July 31st, 2009

Aliens in the Attic:

Looks like good family fun.  Not something I’d pay $10 to see in the theater, but I can imagine plenty of worse ways to spend two hours at the movies.

Funny People:

I want to see this film, but I’m not sure I’m going to make it.  It will definitely find a place near the top of my Netflix queue when its available if I don’t.  If you haven’t seen the RAAAAAAAANDY clips, do yourself a favor and watch them.

The Collector:

Did you see Saw?  Yes?  Then you’ve pretty much seen this.  Sure, its not exactly the same, but this movie isn’t much more than elaborate MacGyver like traps that hurt and/or kill people all designed by a faceless nameless villain whose motives we never learn and *SPOILER ALERT* who wins.  It would be nice to see more horror movies that aren’t just an introduction to a series of low budget ultimately high grossing pieces of crap.  But its show business; as long as people keep paying for this junk, they’ll keep making it.  I wouldn’t pay for this even if it were the only way out of one of this guy’s traps.


All I really knew about this film before seeing it was that it was about a guy with Asperger’s Syndrome.  Its only open in four theaters at this point, but it may show up in more and if you look you might still find screenings of this in some markets, and it is worth seeing.  I think it really depicts quite well people with this illness and how they and their loved ones come to cope with it and make it part of their lives, working with the illness instead of railing against it.  A warm, funny, touching film that I really enjoyed watching.