The Village Idiot

Movie Bluffs

I went to see one of the big summer movies yesterday. The papers say it was the highest-grossing film last week, and there’s already a sequel being planned. The publicity for it is relentless.

Everyone in the world wants to see this movie. Would it be sold out, I wondered? Could I even get into the theater?

Luck was with me: There wasn’t even a line at the ticket booth. I got a medium popcorn for $6. I could have gotten the large popcorn -- twice as big for 50 cents more -- but I didn’t think I could eat that much. Besides, I wanted to leave something for all the other customers.

More businesses should price things the way movie theaters price popcorn. “Buy our new midsize car for $25,000, or trade up to our full-size model for only $50 more!” The math of movie theater popcorn seems to defy the laws of economics.

Actually, someone should look into all movie theater food and whether it somehow turns us all into slobs. After I eat a bag of popcorn, my seat, the floor around it and the seats on either side of me look as if a particularly messy raccoon had been living there for a couple of weeks. And I’m a neat freak compared to some people I’ve seen in the theater. It doesn’t help that they sell you an overflowing bag to begin with. Half of it ends up on the lobby carpet before I even sit down.

What’s weird about this is that movie theaters know the customers can’t eat popcorn without getting it everywhere. So what have they done in response? You guessed it. They’ve started selling nachos with gooey, hot cheese. What could possibly go wrong?

I remember all the double features I used to see as a kid every Saturday like clockwork. Pay a quarter and you’d see two movies, a newsreel and some cartoons. I’d go with my friends or my brothers or sisters and kill the best part of an afternoon. I didn’t know the difference between a good movie and a bad movie. They were all good, as far as I was concerned. To me, “The Thing That Came From Outer Space” and “A Man For All Seasons” were of equal quality. The joy of watching someone else’s story unfold in front of you for a few hours was enough. Real life takes years to unwind; the movies had a beginning, a middle and an end in an hour and a half.

Anyway, overpriced popcorn in hand, it was time for my next worry: that the theater would be so crowded that I’d have to sit in the front row. My neck would never be the same.

It seems I worried for nothing. There was only one other warm body in the theater -- 10th row, dead center. Exactly the seat I would have taken had I gotten there first. He was doing something on his phone waiting for the film to start.

It took me a couple of minutes to find the second-best seat. This must be what a cat feels like when it turns in 20 circles before it can lie down. He must do that because some jerk is sitting in the place he actually wanted.

I was tempted to sit right behind the guy and put my feet up on the back of his seat. But no, that would be rude and antisocial. After all, he was a kindred spirit. Instead of waiting the three months for the movie to come out on DVD, he had made the effort to get off the sofa and leave the house. Good on ya, mate. Maybe we’re the only two people on Earth keeping movie theaters in business.

A few minutes into the movie, I realized he was recording it on his cellphone. He wasn’t even looking at the big screen; he was watching the movie on his tiny phone to make sure it wasn’t jiggling or shaking. Worse, he hadn’t even bought any popcorn.

It seems you can’t snack and steal at the same time.

(Contact Jim Mullen at mullen.jim@gmail.com.)

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