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"Show Up Late Or Suffer" (LONG!)

Old 02-20-03, 07:41 PM
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"Show Up Late Or Suffer" (LONG!)

As mentioned in a previous thread post, here's the excerpt from the book entitled "A Year at the Movies" by Kevin Murphy (of Mystery Science Theater 3000 fame). The chapter's title is the same as the thread title: "Show Up Late or Suffer". If this post is too long, go to the next post to see the form that Mr. Murphy has created for you to copy and give to your local theater managerial folks.

"So, for eighteen weeks I have been attending movies, dutifully showing up on time, often early, to make sure my geeky little lighted pen has batteries to log the day's screening, and anally file away the ticket stub in the envelope for that week. As a consumer of theater chain products, I have lived up to my part of the bargain.

But the theater chains have failed me. I have to wait for them to be ready, and I have to sit through an amazing myriad of junk before I get to see what I paid for.

These days there are marketing interests that will give you hotel vouchers or airline tickets to sit through a short presentation during which guys in suits try to sell time shares in resort communities or investment opportunities with which you'll want nothing to do. But if you are patient, good at saying no, and don't mind sitting in a big conference room at the Airport Comfort Inn and Suites for an hour, you'll walk out with a weekend at a resort hotel or a pair of plane tickets that actually work.

In a modern chain theater, you don't get a plane ticket or a hotel voucher for sitting through their endless premovie ads. You don't get squat. You pay your six or eight or ten bucks to get in, then you are aggressively sold a number of products and services from local and national vendors before your feet have a chance to stick to the floor.

It's an advertising posing as entertainment, selling you things you don't want and didn't ask for. In fact, you are subsidizing this advertising.

This is wrong. And it should stop right now.

It's an old and somewhat charming tradition to present local advertisers before the show. The ads are often slide-tape stuff like we used to do in high school AV classes before video cameras came along. One of my favorites happens at Chanhassen Cinema out in the meta-suburban farmland. Dippy music accompanies amateur slides for places like "Someone's House," an unfortunate name for a store that sells the kind of knickknacks you will find in a psychotic grandma's home. The Giant Panda Restaurant offers us thoroughly unappetizing slides of their lunch buffet accompanied by bad pipa music.

One memorable night at the Chanhassen, the slides had been scrambled and the soundtrack was way out of sync. The narrative for a furniture store played under the slides for the Chinese restaurant; the Chinese restaurant music played under an ad for a law firm. A whole ad went by without an address or a logo, featuring men and women talking about something over a desk, and I still have no idea what the ad was for. Trivia questions sped by answerless. Odd pictures of stuffed toys showed up between slides for a flower shop and, again, the law firm. This was fun, it had a local charm, it was like seeing a movie at the picture shows in Mount Pilate - y'know, near Mayberry.

But I'd rather see a short or a cartoon.

Now, when was the last time you saw an actual short or a cartoon before a movie at a major chain? I have to go back to my childhood, or look to the novel exceptions, such as the Roger Rabbit cartoon "Tummy Trouble" that played theatrically before the excessively stupid one-joke comedy "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids." Sure, it wasn't a great cartoon, but it was a cartoon. Roger Ebert, who screens a lot of movies as a paying audience member, God bless him, pointed out in his review: "It was fun to see a color cartoon before the feature, and the kids cheered."

The kids cheered. The little children, they laughed with glee. Now, please, Mister Eisner, Mister Spielberg, please, Misters Weinstein, can't we please have some funny cartoons before our movies? For the little children? Please?

The only places where you can count on seeing a short or a cartoon that's not an ad in disguise are the independent single-screens, the college film societies, the art houses, or the revival houses. If you don't have on of these in your neighborhood, get on a bus. The Oak Street Cinema, our brave and fiercely independent single-screen, will often start a show with a short.

This week, before screening the original theatrical release of "Blade Runner", the Oak Street presented Canadian short filmmaker Guy Maddin's latest, "Heart of the World." Guy has a love for the era of silent spectacle - the in-camera effects, the oddly erotic nature of very pale women in gossamer clothing - so expect this short to be weird. And weird it is, an amalgam of at least a dozen silent-era motifs, all rapidly cut and set to rich swirling music. I've now seen this short three times, and I've enjoyed it every time. It never fails to get the audience unsettled and on edge, ready for the feature.

Also recently, before the restored print of Hitchcock's 3-D "Dial M for Murder," the Oak Street gave us the only 3-D Bugs Bunny cartoon ever made: "Lumberjack Rabbit." Boy, was it fun to watch people squirm when the Warner Brothers' WB shield popped right off the logo into our laps.

Shorts are fun. Cartoons are fun. Isn't this why we go to the theater? To have fun? Then why in God's name have we allowed shorts and cartoons to disappear and be replaced by ADVERTISING?!

Ads push the edges of my patience. Chain theaters have plagued my mind with product-sponsored trivia I don't want, facts I can't use, and ads that make me hate the product, the theater, and humanity at large. We've all sat through these things, listened to the smelly guy behind us answering all the trivia questions correctly and loudly, while we develop a headache waiting for the film to start.

In London, at those lovely, sumptuous theaters in Leicester Square, a whole reel of ads unspools before the film starts. However, because London exhibitors have respect for their audience, the ads stop promptly when the movie is scheduled to begin. What's more, I think British advertising and marketing are in general less pernicious. The English are far more savvy about advertising, and less likely to sit there and take it when their paid movie entertainment should be starting. I have found the same to be true in France. Perhaps it's the fact that these countries have actual cultural traditions that go back more than fifty years and which they honor as living elements of the public personality, rather than simply bits of rubbery nostalgia they call up when they need a campy way to sell sneakers.

Now, I'm not anywhere near a Europhile, but I do know that we show no respect for our own culture, probably because we have no real culture; and that leads to the anarchy of irony and self-parody that nibbles away at any budding public aesthetic like a flesh-eating virus, and which explains why audiences will sit patiently, or at the very worst mumble quietly to themselves, as we pay to watch bad advertising before our movies start. This causes me no end of pain, and has compelled me to arrive at least five minutes late for any screening at any national chain.

A great contributor to my pain is caused by National Cinema Networks' wide variety of prepackaged products offered to theater chains to punish the captive movie audience. The first thing you'll see when you sit in an NCN-supplied theater might be "On-Screen Entertainment," a name theyv'e had the shamelessness to trademark. An offshoot of this is the Coca-Cola "Screen Play," featuring many Coca-Cola images and brands. We are constantly advised to remain refreshed, to bubble up some answers, and of course to enjoy Coke. Movie facts are given punny titles like "Personalities that Pop," "Bottled-Up Passions," and "Big Openers." I have a few more suggestions for nifty names, such as "Tooth-Rotting Tidbits," "Kaffeinated Kiddie Kwiz," or maybe "Abdominal Cramping Due to Excessive Gasertainment."

More insulting is NCN's "Pre-Show Countdown," another brand name that offers "entertainment," otherwise known as "advertising." An ad intended to stir us into giving shows Lance Armstrong running the Olympic torch through a serene Americana landscape, passing it off to some earnest dope who is helping to keep the Olympic dream alive, as if major sports equipment manufacturers aren't waiting in line to do that already, with their own brand prominently featured. Coca-Cola paid for the ad, so I was half-expecting Lance to hand off a two-liter bottle of Caffeine-free Diet Coke to the next runner.

But the most insidious thing Coke has thrown at me is the Refreshing Filmmaker's Award, the result of a competition for students at eight major universities and probably the only short film most Americans will see in a chain movie theater for years to come. I am all for encouraging young filmmakers to take a chance and show their talent, and I did enjoy this year's winner, called "You Too Could Be a Winner." It was mildly funny and bluntly cynical, featuring an obese woman who sits in her trailer home, obsessively stuffing her face and watching game shows. The short is introduced with rapid-cut pictures of the winning filmmaker, Peter Hunziker, nattily dressed in conservative director wear and leaning smugly against a massive Coke sign. The judging panel included actual talent, Billy Bob Thornton, as well as those amazing film artists Burt Reynolds, Sherry Lansing, and sensitive auteur Michael Ovitz. This means that artistic merit was everything and marketability wasn't even considered, right?

I don't know what I am expecting. What the hell else is Coke going to do if they fund a film competition, leave their name out of it altogether? But they should make no pretense that this is a competition designed to advance the art of the cinema. This is advertising, as bald-faced as it gets, and a glaring, neon red-and-white sign that popular film in this country is co-opted to the point that people will make no distinction between ads and arts. They are now one and the same.

Well, I think it sucks. Most of this happens on my time. When any ad happens after the advertised start time passes, I complain. I complain loudly and frequently. Excuse me, Mr. or Ms. Chain Theater Manager: You, the film exhibitors, are making me pay for something you already get paid to show. And you're doing it on my time, so you're going to hear about it.

Generally I demand my money back. Generally a thin guy with bad skin and thick glasses tells me that there's nothing he can do about it, but he has a form I can fill out and send business-reply mail to the chain theater's regional headquarters. Well, now I have a form, too. It follows this chapter, and I invite you to copy it and use it whenever appropriate.

I have a fantasy of organizing about a hundred people to storm the manager's office with torches and pitchforks the next time I have to sit through a bunch of ads in the theater, but what would that accomplish? Not much, but it will widen the gap of alienation between the people who show films and the people who watch them. I'll be branded some sorta hippie Marxist, which I'm not. Not really. I suggest instead that if you find yourself being advertised to, head out to the lobby, complain to the management, and people-watch for a few minutes. If you fear losing your seat, then bring a copy of "Adbusters" magazine into the theater with you and inoculate yourself. Practice that meditation exercise you've been putting off for months. Write a letter to the editor of your local paper. Do anything but sit there and take it.

Be an enlightened consumer. It'll be good for your soul."
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Old 02-20-03, 07:46 PM
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Here's the form promised in the previous post:

Dear Theater Manger:

I object to the presence of advertising on your theater's screens. I particularly resent these ads playing after the time the movie has been scheduled to start. Having shown up on time and paid admission, I have fulfilled my part of the deal; sitting through advertising only serves to subsidize your theater owner's income, and it detracts from my enjoyment.

I ask you to respond in some way to my request, either by changing your procedures or personally explaining why you won't. I ask you to remove advertising from your screens, begin your features closer to the advertised time, or in your print ads include "Movie will begin after trailers and five or more minutes of advertising," or words to that effect.

I'll take my business elsewhere if you cannot respond in any of these ways, and I'll inform all my friends that your theater would rather take money from advertisers than satisfy its customers.

Ultimately, WE fund your paycheck; more than any advertisers or soft drink vendor.

Sincerly,

name_____________________________
address___________________________
_________________________________
phone____________________________

Courtesy of A Year at the Movies by Kevin Murphy.
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Old 02-20-03, 09:08 PM
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http://www.howstuffworks.com/movie-distribution4.htm


Shorts and animated pieces cost money.. another cost on the theater itself will actually raise up your ticket prices. So what is it? Do you want to pay more to cover the amount of time the ad space will pay for the space and the cost of production of a short infront of the film?

Archlight in los angeles charges 13 bucks, but you get the works.. No ad's, doors close when movie starts, great big theater. great seats. A perfect movie going experience.. But at a cost. You folks bitch about paying 9 bucks and having to deal with ad's. Theaters are already on the brink of going under. Look at the link and realize that they don't make much off the movie unless it has some legs and stays around for a while.. then again.. when do you go to a new movie 4 weeks after it's released? You have to deal with ad's. so be it. if you want to show up late and skip the stuff fine.

I'm sorry, but some of you guys are a bunch of cry babies. You guys don't want commercials, yet you don't mind trailers. Do you know how stupid that sounds? Trailers, if you didn't realize is just another form of advertisement. You act like the 5 minutes for commercials will destroy your movie experience and push you past the limit you have to stay in a theater. Mommy want you to come home right after the movie? Heres the perfect thing to do.. Go out and take a bathroom break while the ad's are on. or go support the theater by buying some candy or something. this way they don't have to resort to selling space infront of a movie to advertisers for the lack of profit they are getting from food.
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Old 02-20-03, 09:52 PM
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I do support the theater by purchasing popcorn and soda, spending an additional 7 to 8 bucks for it. As I said before, I'd not show up late for fear of being forced into the front row for seats. Go out and get snacks or some such while the ads roll? A pretty good idea suppose, unless....

One time a family came in, probably about 5 to 7 folks...and 3 or 4 of them got up to get refreshments, bathroom etc. While they were gone, a family of 4 or so came in...and an older (40's?) asked "are these seats taken?"

Without waiting for a response, she said "They are now." I could not believe it. And neither could the family when they came back. It truly was just flat out rude.

Anyways, back on topic, if I know that in one month's time after the opening weekend that there will be no ads on the screen, I'd wait it out.

Yes, while trailers ARE ads, they at least are related in some capacity to what I'm there to see. I'm here to watch a movie, sure let me know what's coming out. But to sit here and watch Dan Marino and his wife talk about some jewelery dealer, what's the deal there?

For now, what I do when the ads come on is I just have an internal dialogue of sorts, and I do a MST3K style goof on the commercials in my mind. That's just me though, I keep myself amused...but I still think it sucks....
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Old 02-20-03, 10:19 PM
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Personally I think it's ridiculous that the theaters get such a raw deal on what they get from actually showing the movie. Unfortunately it's not like they can refuse to pay these costs because most people like to see a big blockbuster on its opening weekend. It's sad that theaters are getting basically none of that money. Personally I refuse to see a movie on opening weekend because I hate the behavior of most crowds when I go. I would rather wait a month and see it in a practically empty theater than deal with people who feel the need to yell at a screen.

I find myself rarely going to the movies anymore, and it isn't because of the cost. I would pay more than the 9-10 I am currently paying if I was guaranteed freedom from jerks in the crowd.

I do think there is one way to make advertisements more bearable because I don't think they are going to go away. If they are going to keep ads for God's sake change them every now and then. Make them into short entertaining stories that happen to have product placement. (Terry Tate commercials are a good example of this.) I went 3 months without going to the movies, and practically every ad was the same at this particular AMC.
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Old 02-20-03, 10:50 PM
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Originally posted by Jackskeleton
Theaters are already on the brink of going under
I highly doubt it. There may be some theaters that struggle, but I would say relatively few. There will always be public demand for them. The studios need theaters to show their films; so why would studios drive theaters out of business?! Nonsense! Your generalization implying all theaters are in financial ruin is ludicrous. You won't catch me crying for any business that charges 3 or 4 bucks for a freaking coke. I support the theater by paying their ever-skyrocketing admission. That ought to be enough. I don't have a problem with the ads before the show. But I refuse to give sympathy or charity to any theater. You might want to consider toning down the preaching a little bit, IMO, if you want anyone to take your opinions seriously.
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Old 02-20-03, 10:54 PM
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adds don't bother me much, the bother me about the same as other things that are annoying at theaters. all combined, i rarely ever go to the movies. people talking, lights not going out when they should, uncomfortable seats, people walking in late, high ticket price, and not being in control, ie, a/v distortion. and then the commercials/ads. it sucks that theaters get short changed but that is the business they are in. movie goers do have a right to complain. maybe it would work out best if people just boycotted... or maybe it is naive for me to think that the studios would broker fairer deals if there would be no more theaters left to show their films. regardless, the theaters lost me along time ago and with dvd there is no reason to go back.
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Old 02-21-03, 02:43 AM
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Originally posted by taa455
I highly doubt it. There may be some theaters that struggle, but I would say relatively few. There will always be public demand for them. The studios need theaters to show their films; so why would studios drive theaters out of business?! Nonsense! Your generalization implying all theaters are in financial ruin is ludicrous. You won't catch me crying for any business that charges 3 or 4 bucks for a freaking coke. I support the theater by paying their ever-skyrocketing admission. That ought to be enough. I don't have a problem with the ads before the show. But I refuse to give sympathy or charity to any theater. You might want to consider toning down the preaching a little bit, IMO, if you want anyone to take your opinions seriously.
Theatre chains that have declared bankruptcy over the past couple of years:
Loews Cineplex
United Artists
Regal
Edwards
Mann
Carmike Cinemas

There will indeed always be a public demand for theaters. but at what cost. Do you think that soon, after the bigger fish eat each other out that their will be one chain of theaters? How about having all of them get bought out by a few theaters.. lowers competition and theaters can be more narrow minded.. Showing less and less of a variety. You stated you don't mind the ad's. thats good enough. My comments about supporting the theater by buying the candy, was addressed to those who would rather boycott a theater then just deal with it. You might want to reconsider sounding like an prick in your response, IMO if you want to have your comments taken more on a discussion level. My preaching is very minute compared to the amount of bitching going on in the forum about ad's infront of a theater. Most folks can't seem to make up their minds on what they want.. Lower prices, no ad's, good seats but not wanting to sit through crap to hold them. A lot of people in life seem to enjoy complaining for the sake of complaining.
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Old 02-21-03, 03:17 AM
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Originally posted by Jackskeleton
A lot of people in life seem to enjoy complaining for the sake of complaining.
I wish to complain about that statement!

[John Cleese]Of course I'm complaining about anything and everything, I must do so for the sake of having an argument. An argument consists of two people saying "yes it is, no it isn't" back and forth at one another, thus I must take up the contrary position. [/John Cleese]

On a serious note (GASP!), how about if they are in such dire need of money at theaters that they do what sports stadiums have done, and become "Coke presents Muvico Theaters" or some such? Just a thunk...a think....a thought....whatever.
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Old 02-21-03, 03:31 AM
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Originally posted by Jackskeleton

I'm sorry, but some of you guys are a bunch of cry babies. You guys don't want commercials, yet you don't mind trailers. Do you know how stupid that sounds? Trailers, if you didn't realize is just another form of advertisement. You act like the 5 minutes for commercials will destroy your movie experience and push you past the limit you have to stay in a theater. Mommy want you to come home right after the movie? Heres the perfect thing to do.. Go out and take a bathroom break while the ad's are on. or go support the theater by buying some candy or something. this way they don't have to resort to selling space infront of a movie to advertisers for the lack of profit they are getting from food.

Corporate tool.

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Old 02-21-03, 11:36 AM
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I HATE ADS!! I will flip through the TV during commercial breaks at home. However I would not mind the ads at the theater so much if they would begin the movie on time or lower their ridiculous concession prices. I would sneak food into the theater before I give $10 for a large popcorn and drink. I do not like that the studios are screwing theaters, but lets face it the theaters are passing the screwing to us.
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Old 02-21-03, 04:47 PM
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Originally posted by Jackskeleton
Archlight in los angeles charges 13 bucks, but you get the works.. No ad's, doors close when movie starts, great big theater. great seats. A perfect movie going experience.. But at a cost.
Yeah - about 3 bucks more than I'm already spending. To get away from the 6-packs of the world and see a movie in quality, hell yeah I'd pay that kind of bread. In a hot second.
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