Saturday, December 31, 2011

Why I'm Saying No to Movies in 2012

I'm making a New Year's Resolution to stay out of the movie theatres in 2012. At least the major ones like Cineplex/Silver City. Here's my shortlist why:

1. I'm not your $$%%^&^ 'guest.'

As we approached the ticket booth, both my husband and I recoiled visibly (yes, there was even some twitching) when we heard, "Can we help the next guest in line?"

It's true, I'm a word nerd, but really. Guest???? In my understanding of the word, when you are someone's guest, they treat you. They do not stick their hand in all your pockets and shake you down for every last cent.

At my friend's party, I am a guest. At the theatre, I am a customer. Have the civility to not insult me by trying to construe our relationship as something it is not.

2. 3D.

At it's best, 3D only thrills for the first 30 seconds. Then you stop noticing the effect at all, except for that queasy feeling in your gut and the headache that forms between your eyebrows. I don't like it and don't want it, and definitely resent having to pay more for it. But guess what? I'm gonna get it. Even though we "guests"  have clearly communicated our lack of enthusiasm for 3D to the film industry. But so what? they can charge us more for it!

So don't expect 3D to go away anytime soon.

The only option I'm left with, then, is for me to go away. So I will.

3. Ads

This item is actually about 150 items. Because that is at least how many advertisements we were bombarded with at the theatre. Ads for movies are ok with me - promotional POS displays in the lobby, trailers for coming attractions - these belong in a theatre. Every other kind of ad - and let's not mince words here - sucks.

When theatres first started showing paid advertising way back when, I was one of those folks who booed and hissed. Here in polite Canada, I was pretty much alone in voicing my disapproval. As a result, the ads, which are universally despised, not only stayed, but multiplied exponentially. 

We now get ads on the screen before the curtain goes up and the lights dim. We get more ads for 15-20 minutes after the lights dim and before the movie trailer. We also get ads during the movie, in terms of product placement and video game plugs (more on this below).

The other night, we were treated to 45 freaking minutes of ads. Yes,we kept track.

This is a misuse of the cinema/customer relationship. I am paying the theatre to be entertained. Instead, they treat me like a captive pair of eyeballs that can be sold to third parties. I am no longer the customer, I am the product.

If my eyeballs are being sold to a 'real'  customer, (oh, right, I'm a 'guest!') then don't charge me for this privilege. Pay me, goddammit.

154. Interactive 'games.'

Gosh, you really think the audience is stupid, don't you, Cineplex? You tell us you are unrolling a new and exciting 'game' for us to play on our cell phones. Then you show us a tricked out 'interactive' car ad.

Sure, some of the audience is stupid, but not all of us. How long do you think it took the audience to realize you have sold our eyeballs, our cell phone IDs, and your own souls, yet again, for ad sales (at a premium)?

It took this eyeball-holder less than a nanosecond, and during that nanosecond I decided that I was not having fun anymore. In fact, I was thoroughly disgusted by your cynicism and naked opportunism. I could practically smell the greed rolling off the screen. It smelled like...sniff sniff....a bag of vomited-up popcorn.

In fact the experience sickened me so much, I decided there and then I might never repeat it. And I'd certainly never buy that tacky lo-rent red car you were flogging.

Go sell that interactive customer feedback (at a premium) to Ford.

155. Product placement.

We saw the movie Tin Tin. It  would have been a pleasant enough pastime if it hadn't cost us $36; The cost/benefit ratio was not there vis a vis the quality of the film.

But what really tanked the whole thing was that the film wasn't really a movie at all, but rather a vehicle for more product sales. Gee, how lovely those chase and action scenes will look when translated into the video game, which was of course advertised before the movie started, sandwiched between all those car and phone ads. Platforming game, perhaps? Chase game, perhaps? Crane battle game perhaps? Gross, obvious and lame, lame lame.

And how about all those damn Snowy toys we'll be seeing in mass market merchandisers? A Captain Haddock ringtone (Blistering Barnacles!) perhaps? Take-apart Unicorn Lego (complete with secret scroll!)? The movie doesn't even pretend  that this isn't its primary goal: to sell more shit.

And it is shit. You know it, we know it, they know it.

So I'm saying no to shit.

I'll only go to independently run theatres and small chains that treat me like a paying customer, not a pair of pockets to be turned inside out.

I'll only go to films at festivals, in which Toronto is blessed - the TIFF, The Jewish Film Festival, Hot Docs, etc. And I'll go to the Lightbox, which screens great movies and treats its patrons like intelligent beings.

In every relationship, both parties need to benefit. Sure, movie theatres have to make a buck - I don't begrudge them that. But there's a quid pro quo that is supposed to operate: you make a buck, and I get entertained.

But that's not how it works any more. My demands and desires are treated with disdain, and the theatre's naked self-interest is predominant and dominant. Our relationship is broken when the benefit all goes one way.

I know I don't represent the mass market. But I'm hoping this time I represent the front edge of the wedge, and the rest of y'all will also say no and stop paying for naked opportunism and corporate disdain.

I've got teenagers, so I can get my disrespect at home, for free. So my 2012 New Year's Resolution is to avoid cinemas that treat their 'guests' like pockets with legs.


  1. According to Cineplex's C.E.O., the ads will help keep ticket prices "low".

    A quote from the article:

    "Much to the resentment of some movie fans, advertisements preceding trailers have grown incrementally. “Ads allow me to keep ticket prices down,” said Jacob, who ordinarily watches two films per month but many more when film festivals roll around."

    The reason why Cineplex calls its customers 'guests' because it is to be polite. The funny thing is they use "inviting your friends to your house" example to train their employees.

    You are right about Cineplex charging movie goers for Real D technology because they don't want to pay for it.

  2. Loved this post Helaine. Nancy and I saw TINKER TAILOR, etc. etc. in the Cineplex on Queensway (over the hols) and were 'treated' to 45 mins. of garbage. Thank you for voicing our opinion so exactly, and with such passion. We will no longer be attending movies, as guest or otherwise. They've driven us to our 46-inch flat screen. Forever.


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