Once upon a time I used to go to movies at night: queuing up at the box office, paying the full price of admission, waiting in long lines for the theater doors to open, and jockeying for the shortest line possible at the concession stand.
Quite a number of years ago I decided to forgo this patience testing ritual (or, perhaps, had it thrust upon me by being single and apparently undateable) and began catching my movies early in the morning at matinees. The advantages of a matinee are many: no interminable waits, cheaper prices, and clear sight lines to the screen. Plus, if you are able to catch the first showing of the day, not only is your ticket a buck or two under the normal and already discounted fare, you still have an entire day ahead when the film lets out and you step outside into the daylight.
In the many years that I have been following my weekend coffee with a celluloid chaser I have observed several unwritten Rules of Attendance that are obediently observed by those who make matinees a weekly ritual. And, as I’ve also irksomely observed others (surely used to the anarchy of the primetime cineplex) not following these rules, I’ve decided that it is my duty to share, educate, and rudely exert my opinion on anyone who might consider taking in the early showing of their favorite new film.
1. Staggered Seating
As with any other film, seating at a matinee is on a first come, first served, basis. But this does not authorize you to grab that cherished seat two thirds of the way back on the aisle if another earlier arrival is seated in the chair immediately behind. In fact, this is the most egregious of matinee behaviors. Never, never, ever sit yourself — or anyone in your party of two, four or six — immediately in front of another patron. There are plenty of seats and seldom a lot of people in the audience. In fact, there’s usually more than enough free seating for vast expanses of rows to remain empty between groups of people. A good rule of thumb is to select a location that leaves at least one empty row between you and anyone who might be sitting behind — and even then, please choose enough seats for your party so that no one (especially your 6 foot 8 friend) will be positioned in front of the person two rows back.
2. Just because it is a matinee does not mean you should bring your baby
Apparently, there is a strange misconception amongst parents that the fewer people in attendance at a given event somehow makes it more acceptable to subject an audience of filmgoers to the whimpers and cries of a small child. I’m not sure why a parent would believe this, but I think it comes down to one of three reasons: (a) matinee crowds are more tolerant than their nighttime cousins, (b) people at a matinee have no life and are therefore less important than “normal” people who see movies at night, (c) I’ll never see these people again, there’s not many of them here, and I can surely outrun them when little Joshua becomes truly unbearable.
3. Foreign movies are films, not a reason to conduct a travelogue of your homeland
This rule may not be unique to matinees, but I sure do notice it happening a lot. Film, as the saying goes, is an international language, and I enjoy seeing films from all around the globe make their way into my local movie house. So how is this a problem? Well, it’s like this… People are very, very proud of where they are from (San Diego! Yay!), and understandably want to go out and support culture and arts from their native land. Wonderful!! Each time there is a buzz in the local international community about a film from the motherland coming into town, hordes of those who don’t ordinarily go to the movies (let alone, matinees) turn out to experience a comforting bit of home. Unfortunately, they forget that the movie is not being shown in the living room at home, and all those other people in the dark are not nieces, nephews, grandchildren (yes, this does seem to be a greater problem with those over the age of 70), or people they know from their village in France. All too often these once-in-a-blue-moon matinee attendees, there to take pride in their cultural heritage, spend much of the film provide running commentary on everything from fondly remembered scenery and event of their youth, to the quality of the subtitle translation (and why are they reading the subtitles anyway when they already speak Finnish?!?!)
4. Divorced dads should not take their small children to see 8mm
Seriously. I actually witnessed a father with two kids under the age of 8 sitting in the theater watching a movie about snuff films. Again, this must assume that the small crowds at a matinee won’t notice bad parenting skills, whereas the masses at an 8pm showing would surely intervene and haul the jerk off to Child Protective Services. Wrong. I walked out, told the manager, and shortly thereafter Mr. Lack Of Judgment was asked to leave. Hey, Divorced Dad! How about choosing something for the kids next time, okay? I felt good about my part in this saga, having rescued the kids from inappropriate subject matter… and Nicolas Cage.
I just realized that there are many, many more matinee rules ; we’ve barely scratched the mid-morning surface! But I’ll leave you now with the above four and promise to return to this subject at some point in the future.
Follow these rules and I hope to see you at the movies! (Just don’t sit in front of me…)