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THE MORNING BUZZ: Why I'm A Theatrical Outtake

19 Dec, 2001 By: Holly J. Wagner

Studios are understandably always competing for box office receipts, as are theater owners. They measure much of their business success in those numbers.

But that may be an obsolete paradigm for studios. Packaged media may be the real measure of how popular an item is with the public. What people are buying at a movie theater is an experience--a big screen, jujubees and a group mind.

One thing you hardly ever see at a movie theater is me. I'm a bona fide theatrical outtake. I take myself out of theaters and choose a home experience, for several reasons:

I'll never forget the day in 1993 when I was sitting down with friends in terrific seats to see In the Line of Fire. Just as the opening credits started to roll, a cell phone rang about two rows behind me. I loudly growled, "I hope he's kidding" to my date as I turned to glare over my shoulder at the offending boor. He folded up his phone. But it dented my moviegoing experience forever and it's still a common interruption.

Kids are another reason I avoid movie theaters and malls. I don't have any, don't want any and especially don't want to listen to someone else's in a theater. If I'm going to a kids' show I try go late in the evening, but kids don't have bedtimes any more so that's often no solution.

It's a foregone conclusion that you'll pay high prices for theater concessions, but for myself and many others, popcorn is a fundamental part of going to the movies so you pay anyway. I went to the show over the Thanksgiving holiday and the $4 popcorn (with extra imitation rat poison butter 'cause I have no illusions that it's health food when I order it) was stale. If I was Orville, I wouldn't want my name on that. It's another part of the movie theater experience that's been largely spoiled.

I'm not short, but in most theaters seating isn't stepped enough to ensure I won't spend half the movie looking at the back of some tall guy's head. I don't get replays or half my ticket price back if that happens. It must be a real bummer for short people. What is less of a bummer for them is the shortage of legroom, which is always a problem for me.

People who went to drive-ins (yeah, I'm old) remember there was a little more formal etiquette in the group setting of an indoor theater; if you wanted to chat with friends during the show or had little kids, you went to the drive-in. Now people seem to chatter in theaters like they did then in their cars.

About the only thing that will get me into a theater now is a movie so improved by seeing it on that scale that a big screen is the only answer. Face it, dinosaurs just aren't that scary when they're 10 inches tall.

I'm really not as much of a curmudgeon as I sound like, but I do respect a group experience and appreciate when others do the same courteously. Which seems too seldom in movie theaters any more. I think a lot of people agree with that and it keeps them out of theaters, too.

So you can load your films with trailers, outtakes, featurettes and commentaries (most notably on rereleases)--most of the time, it still won't get my or my like-minded compatriots' cheeks into the seats. There are plenty of us who won't be among your box office head (and money) count. We'll wait for the DVD.



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