MCN Blogs
David Poland

By David Poland

Here's An Idea…

… inspired by Stella’s Boy…
What if there was a THX for theater service?
Remember, THX wasn’t a specific hardware package, but a standard bearer.
What if a theater offered PMS – Premium Movie Service… ushers that ushered and threw people out… a 2 minute guarantee at the concessions stand… info about the commercial schedule so you could see what you like or skip it if you like

26 Responses to “Here's An Idea…”

  1. Stella's Boy says:

    I would be all for that. I still love going to the movies as much as I ever have, and if someone could gurantee top-notch service and a completely pleasurable theater experience, I’d be there.

  2. Joe Leydon says:

    And the first time ushers toss out of the theater some noisy folks who happen to be members of some minority group — sorry, don’t mean to offend, but we all know how the world works — who pays the lawyers to handle the class action suits?
    And if you think this couldn’t happen: Remember the lawsuits filed by folks over wheelchair-access in stadium-seating theaters.

  3. Lota says:

    so it isn’t mistaken for a women’s self help group about That Time of the Month, maybe don’t call it PMS.
    Also, I’d be willing to pay extra if the Ushers inflict some minor damage on troublemakers before they throw them out.

  4. Krazy Eyes says:

    I had been really fed up with the general theater going experience due to many of the annoyances mentioned in Stella’s orignal post.
    Then we started going to a local theater chain that offers full bar and food service during the movie. Surprsingly the exeprience is fairly unobtrusive and the audiences are really good. The pitcher of beer helps too.

  5. HenryHill says:

    Joe doesn’t mean to offend? That’s priceless.
    Anyway, I think some sort of institutionalized standards for moviegoers is long overdue. I am convinced that just restricting the use of cell phones would improve the moviegoing experience by at least half. Don’t they restrict cell phones at the Toronto film Festival?

  6. David Poland says:

    Ironically, if you were a pirate, TIFF would be your wet dream. They as you to turn off your cells, but you can walk into press screenings with virtually anything in your bag.
    Telluride, for the first time, is enlisting very specific rules about not only cell phones, but the ubiquitous Blackberry too. If you play with your phone, much less take a call, you could be asked to leave the theater. Their materials clearly state that you cannot being these things into the theater.

  7. Joe Leydon says:

    Well, HH, it’s like John Cleese once said: There are some people in this life you should WANT to offend.
    Look, trust me: Nothing would please me more if theater owners were to set up jamming equipment to block the use of cell phones inside auditoriums. And I would be very happy if big, burly ushers could toss out noisy goofs anytime the goofs got too loud. But I can’t help thinking that the lawyers who advise the theater owners have advised them against this, for several reasons involving pricey litigation. (Think about it: Mother sues because she couldn’t get emergency call from babysitter. Aggrieved minority sues because of perceived racial profiling by ushers. Parents sue because their darling little children were held up to ridicule when they were tossed out of a theater. And on and on and on.) Unfortunately, we live in the real world, not in the movies.

  8. jeffmcm says:

    As far as I’m concerned the biggest problem is parents who bring their kids to inappropriate movies in order to avoid paying for a babysitter. There’s no reason why I should hear a baby crying in the middle of my show of Hustle & Flow.

  9. Francis R says:

    I’m convinced that a premium service theater is the cure what what appears to be ailing movie goers these days –OK that and maybe the stranglehold of the distributors could use a little letting go. One can have silver plated popcorn cups and install cel phone blockers but what good will it do you if you can’t exhibit a picture one’s choosing? I’m a resident of the Hollywood area and can choose from several well sited and well appointed theaters. Four of every five showings I attend between Thursday and Sunday evening is practically a sell-out. I get the definite impression that folks will pay to see a showing in large numbers if the experience is worthwhile. As for the required seating policy at the Arclight: You know you can get up and move when the house is one third full, right?

  10. Wrecktum says:

    NATO needs to develop an ad campaign about what’s GOOD about going to the movies. All we ever hear are the negatives: too expensive, talkers, ads, cell phones, getting lectured about piracy, etc, etc. There needs to be a “why we love going to the movies” campaign to remind people about what’s great about the theatrical experience.
    As long as the negative nabobs rule the roost, moviegoers will continue to complain.

  11. Stella's Boy says:

    That’s because there is a lot to complain about. Far too much.

  12. sky_capitan says:

    How about your own pair of wireless headphones.
    Couldn’t hear any of the losers in the theater then…

  13. David Poland says:

    I do think that blocking cell signals would be a legal issue.
    I don’t think that throwing people out of theaters for bad behavior would be… not even close. Essentially, that’s like saying “the bad bahviors of the world are beyond any control, so fuck it.”
    The reason that ushers are ineffective now is that exhbitors started hiring fewer ushers, fewer managers and more kids being paid far to little to care or confront back when the bankruptcy era started. They have not brought these things back to standard because… why should they?
    The era of simple cash maximization is over… it is maximized… the next generation has to seriously consider customer service as an issue. And studios need to share some of the freight.
    “The Slump” can become reality. Another few years of neglect combined with half the studios greedily obsessing on DVD (if you think they care about the quality experience of home entertainment, you are a fool… it’s all just an expanding market platform to them) and the whole thing can get down to the point of real desperation.

  14. Sanchez says:

    And pigs can fly. Right?

  15. Joe Leydon says:

    David: I have to respectfully disagree, even though I share your concern. It’s going to take more than hiring a few ushers. In fact, it may take some steps that, frankly, a lot of folks will be extremely reluctant to take.
    I was in Boston last December, at a megaplex where, right in the middle of a screening of “Alexander,” an usher AND a uniformed cop came into the theater to “persuade” a woman (who had been yakking on her cell phone) to leave the theater. (Evidently, some members of the audience had gone out to the lobby to complain.) She left — after a few minutes of very loud, very outraged blather from the lady — and the audience actually applauded her departure. But I can’t help but think that, had the usher not been backed by a cop, there would have been trouble.
    And, yes, if this scenario had unfolded here in Texas, the licensed-to-kill concealed handgun capital of America, there might have been even more trouble.

  16. joefitz84 says:

    Who goes to a movie and listens to an usher? It’s real easy. Just watch the movie, keep your mouth shut, cell phone off, kids at home, and keep your feet off my seat.

  17. Lota says:

    It’s not real easy JoeFitz. There is a severe lack of parenting skills in the modern US and it shows.
    The only thing that will work is if there is severe lack of revenue AND the theatres know why–people have to complain about it and demand money back en masse or nothing will change. I do. Managers have always thrown out people being a pain when I complained and when an arsehead won’t cooperate, they phone the fuzz. Especially at IMAX which is $15 a pop.
    I love seeing movies on the big screen, still a great joy. However, recently I had the loan of a fancy NEC projector and was able to watch some beloved movies via mac link projected on my wall. If the theatrical experience becomes impossible to drift off into the movie due to talkers/phones etc., I am saving up for one-o-those great projectors.

  18. PandaBear says:

    When I was a kid we used to love pissing off people in the theatre especially for a really bad movie. Not exactly with talking but with laughing really hard. Nothing would have stopped us unless it was a big guy saying it who could have killed every one of us. Then we shut the heck up. Kids. They do crazy things.

  19. nudel says:

    Well, hell, I’d be happy if I even had a THX theater around here. None of the new ones have it, and I can certainly hear the difference.
    Didn’t the NYT just do an article about the amazing cinemas..I think there are chains in Miami, and the New Jersey/New York area, that already do what you’re suggesting?
    I’d definitely visit a large screen/great sound system every week, even at $15-$20 a pop, if they didn’t allow children, cell phones, etc.

  20. jeffmcm says:

    How would blocking cellphone signals be a legal issue? I’m pretty sure they do that at the Arclight.

  21. KamikazeCamelV2.0 says:

    Maybe it’s just because the cinemas I go to are never as bad as people here seem to make their’s out to be – it sounds like 20 phones go off her session, there’s babies everywhere and nobody ACTUALLY watches the movies – but it’s all a bit silly, non? Sure if a phone goes off it’s annoying for the few seconds until they run out of the cinema embarassed. But then you continue watching the movie.
    Until I experience it for myself (and I have yet to) I will just not believe that people will carry on a conversation in the cinema on their phone.
    I mean, i know there’s teenagers who can be noisy but they’re teenagers with nothing else to do, an usher coming along and politely asking them to be quiet ain’t gonna help.
    Do no American cinema chain have babysitter sessions? Where people can come along with their baby and see a movie (the movie of the week) and they don’t have to fear being yelled at or kicked out. They should.
    And if there’s nobody sitting in front of me, why can’t i put my feet up? I have a bad knee (twisted it 95 degrees when skiing) and it can get very sore having it in the one position for 2 hours. And stadium seating doesn’t allow for stretching of the legs at all.

  22. jeffmcm says:

    American cinemas do not have ‘babysitter sessions’ and there are indeed people who feel free to have extended phone conversations in theater. Not a lot, but some.
    But I find stadium seating allows for better leg-stretching than normal seating.

  23. Joe Leydon says:

    Actually, the Angelika Cinema here in Houston has a “babysitter session” each week. They’re called “Cry Baby Matinees,” and they’re offered around noon on Fridays and Saturdays. This past weekend, the feature was “Junebug.”

  24. Angelus21 says:

    You know what I do when I hear someone on a cell during a movie? I sit next to them and fake a phone convo and just ge really loud and obnoxious. Really lay it on thick. It works everytime.

  25. KamikazeCamelV2.0 says:

    The baby sessions are usually around the 10-11am time so that the parent can drop off the other kids at school and do some errands before sitting down for a movie. Last week it was Kicking & Screaming (it’s just been released here), before that it was Bewitched, Crash, and so on…

  26. Jim says:

    ya i aslo like to have such facilities.

The Hot Blog

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This is probably going to sound petty, but Martin Scorsese insisting that critics see his film in theaters even though it’s going straight to Netflix and then not screening it in most American cities was a watershed moment for me in this theatrical versus streaming debate.

I completely respect when a filmmaker insists that their movie is meant to be seen in the theater, but the thing is, you got to actually make it possible to see it in the theater. Some movies may be too small for that, and that’s totally OK.

When your movie is largely financed by a streaming service and is going to appear on that streaming service instantly, I don’t really see the point of pretending that it’s a theatrical film. It just seems like we are needlessly indulging some kind of personal fantasy.

I don’t think that making a feature film length production that is going to go straight to a video platform is some sort of “step down.“ I really don’t. Theatrical exhibition as we know it is dying off anyway, for a variety of reasons.

I should clarify myself because this thread is already being misconstrued — I’m talking about how the movie is screened in advance. If it’s going straight to Netflix, why the ritual of demanding people see it in the theater?

There used to be a category that everyone recognized called “TV movie” or “made for television movie” and even though a lot of filmmakers considered that déclassé, it seems to me that probably 90% of feature films fit that description now.

Atlantis has mostly sunk into the ocean, only a few tower spires remain above the waterline, and I’m increasingly at peace with that, because it seems to be what the industry and much of the audience wants. We live in an age of convenience and information control.

Only a very elite group of filmmakers is still allowed to make movies “for theaters“ and actually have them seen and judged that way on a wide scale. Even platform releasing seems to be somewhat endangered. It can’t be fought. It has to be accepted.

9. Addendum: I’ve been informed that it wasn’t Scorsese who requested that the Bob Dylan documentary only be screened for critics in theaters, but a Netflix representative indicated the opposite to me, so I just don’t know what to believe.

It’s actually OK if your film is not eligible for an Oscar — we have a thing called the Emmys. A lot of this anxiety is just a holdover from the days when television was considered culturally inferior to theatrical feature films. Everybody needs to just get over it.

In another 10 to 20 years they’re probably going to merge the Emmys in the Oscars into one program anyway, maybe they’ll call it the Contentys.

“One of the fun things about seeing the new Quentin Tarantino film three months early in Cannes (did I mention this?) is that I know exactly why it’s going to make some people furious, and thus I have time to steel myself for the takes.

Back in July 2017, when it was revealed that Tarantino’s next project was connected to the Manson Family murders, it was condemned in some quarters as an insulting and exploitative stunt. We usually require at least a fig-leaf of compassion for the victims in true-crime adaptations, and even Tarantino partisans like myself – I don’t think he’s made a bad film yet – found ourselves wondering how he might square his more outré stylistic impulses with the depiction of a real mass murder in which five people and one unborn child lost their lives.

After all, it’s one thing to slice off with gusto a fictional policeman’s ear; it’s quite another to linger over the gory details of a massacre that took place within living memory, and which still carries a dread historical significance.

In her essay The White Album, Joan Didion wrote: “Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969, ended at the exact moment when word of the murders on Cielo Drive traveled like brushfire through the community, and in a sense this is true.”

Early in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, as Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s characters drive up the hill towards Leo’s bachelor pad, the camera cranes up gently to reveal a street sign: Cielo Drive. Tarantino understands how charged that name is; he can hear the Molotov cocktails clinking as he shoulders the crate.

As you may have read in the reviews from Cannes, much of the film is taken up with following DiCaprio and Pitt’s characters – a fading TV actor and his long-serving stunt double – as they amusingly go about their lives in Los Angeles, while Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate is a relatively minor presence. But the spectre of the murders is just over the horizon, and when the night of the 9th finally arrives, you feel the mood in the cinema shift.

No spoilers whatsoever about what transpires on screen. But in the audience, as it became clear how Tarantino was going to handle this extraordinarily loaded moment, the room soured and split, like a pan of cream left too long on the hob. I craned in, amazed, but felt the person beside me recoil in either dismay or disgust.

Two weeks on, I’m convinced that the scene is the boldest and most graphically violent of Tarantino’s career – I had to shield my eyes at one point, found myself involuntarily groaning “oh no” at another – and a dead cert for the most controversial. People will be outraged by it, and with good reason. But in a strange and brilliant way, it takes Didion’s death-of-the-Sixties observation and pushes it through a hellfire-hot catharsis.

Hollywood summoned up this horror, the film seems to be saying, and now it’s Hollywood’s turn to exorcise it. I can’t wait until the release in August, when we can finally talk about why.

~ Robbie Collin