Sunday, December 16, 2007

Experience the Movie Magic

Movie-going in New York is an experience like none other. I use the word 'experience' very specifically because it must be a pre-meditated well-thought-out event. Not a spur-of-the-moment kind of thing, oh no. As with much in life, New Yorkers take their movies seriously.

Growing up and even now when I visit my parents, if we want to go to the movie, we usually decide last minute, and, given that the movie theatre (yes, only one) is 15 minutes away, we leave 18 minutes before the movie starts. Those extra 3 minutes allow ample time to park, get tickets, and maybe even some popcorn if there is no line, have our pick of seats, and sit down just as the first preview is beginning. And it's not just matinees that cost single digit amounts of money. Oh yes, you can see the new blockbuster for a mere $8 at 9pm on a Saturday. But you might want to get there 5 minutes before movie starts, just be to be safe.

Then there's New York. It is literally a guarantee that if you show up less than 15 minutes before a movie that has been out for anything less than 3 weeks that it will be sold out. Showing up 30 minutes before the movie starts is the only way that you can truly be sure you will have you choice of seats, particularly if you are going with a group of more than 4.

When you go to movies here you will probably "experience" most if not all of the following:
1) Tickets that are double digits. We're talking $12 baseline. And if you order it online ahead of time, add an extra $1 on to that for "service charges." I don't know what service they're providing, because that ticket serves me nothing other than a seat. Maybe.
2) Long lines. Everywhere. All the time. If it's the weekend of a movie's release, particularly a big-time blockbuster, you can guaran-friggin-tee that there will be a line of people out the door and around the block waiting to get in.
3) Incredibly large theatres. I'm not even kidding you when I say I've been in movie theatres that hold upwards of 1,000 people. And it's sold out. Every show is sold out in fact. And it's playing 10 times in that theatre that day. And that's one of 6 theatres in the city that is showing the movie, also that day. Never fails. Sold out.
4) Cell phones. Like clockwork, there is inevitably that one person whose cell phone not only goes off during the movie so the other 999 people can hear it. But he/she answers it. Like the big fat selfish person he/she is. Because we all want to hear you tell your sister/boyfriend/mom/grandmother in a "whisper", "Hey I'm at the movies right now, I can't talk..." Well if you can't talk, why the heck are you on the phone RIGHT NOW?? "No, I don't really care what we have for dinner, your choice." Again, if you don't care WHY ARE YOU STILL TALKING RIGHT NOW??? Brad is about to take off his shirt and I would like to enjoy that without you adding your own soundtrack. Thanks.

This weekend the New York movie-going experience was hit home for me, as I saw two movies, both recently released, in two of the biggest and most crowded theatres (against my will) in all of Manhattan- Times Square and Union Square. I'm not even kidding you when I say that I get to the movies further ahead of time than I do for most of my flights. Domestic or international. It's kind of what I would imagine a General Admission U2 concert to be like- mayhem. People lined up outside for ages beforehand, sitting reading this week's New Yorker, as if this was the most normal process ever. Then the mad rush once the doors are open to get the best seats with the best view. It's seriously comical.

Take for instance my experience today seeing Juno. Now, the plan was that Kathy would get there early (like 3:30 for a 4:00 movie), get me a ticket, get us seats, and I would call when I got there and she would come down and meet me and give me my ticket. As these things go, that didn't end up happening, and when I showed up at 3:45, beating Kathy, the movie was, yesyes, sold out. So, I assessed the situation and decided that I was there perfectly in time for the 4:40 showing of the same movie. Kathy arrived at 3:50, we waited in line for the ticket kiosks, got ourselves some tickets, and I went to get us seats while she and her friend Ali went to get food/candy outside the theatre. Great, awesome. Only, the whole "getting seats" was really more like "getting in line to get seats at some point in time." No lie, I was there at 4:00 for a 4:40 showing of a MOVIE and there were easily 30 people ahead of me waiting. Ridiculous. By 4:20 I thought all hell was going to break loose, as the previous showing still hadn't let out, and there were a solid 350 people in line. This was clearly a theatre with a balcony, so, say on that holds nearly 1,000 people. We were eventually allowed in, and it was quite hilarious watching from our perfectly central seats as the people scurried about trying to find good seats.

And then there was the actual movie part. Oh my gosh Juno is hysterical. Please go see it. I just can't even get over how funny it was. Who would've thought that a 16 year old getting pregnant was the makings of a comedy. But wow. I will go see it again if anyone asks me.

In other news, yesterday we saw I Am Legend, Will Smith's new movie where he's the sole survivor of a disease that basically wipes out the planet. Of course caused by humans. So anyhow, I knew nothing about this movie prior to going, but kind of thought it was going to fall into the Action genre. Yeah.... not so much. Easily one of the most intense movies I've seen in a long time. We're talking heavy themes of solitude, end-of-world-armageddon-ness, bigger questions of life/death/meaning/science.... PLUS the creepy-ass vampire/monster/creatures in it that seriously freaked me the heck out. Um, woh. There was one scene in particular (I debated about writing a warning to people about this, but I'm not going to, lest I offend someone who thinks that any hint about anything "ruins" a movie) that literally made cry uncontrollably. So it's a Drama/Sci-Fi/Action movie all in one.

I left feeling like I wanted nothing more than to curl up in a ball somewhere. Alone. Sucking my thumb.

But really, a great movie. And obviously effective. I would recommend people see it, and ALL New Yorkers, if only for the really amazing shots of New York. Friggin amazing, in fact. And, the scene down at the South Street Seaport at night- yeah, I was on the highway in a cab the night it was being filmed. Sweet. Did I mention there is a brief scene where Will has his shirt off and is doing pull ups? Um, yes. Mmmm.

Righto, so, that's my story. And given that it's Oscar-movie-release season, I am sure to have many more such Experiences. I think I am going to try to do what I did a few years ago and view every movie that is up for an Oscar in the Best Picture, Lead and Supporting Actor/Actress categories. That will make for quite the experience I am sure.

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