Sharing Cinema

posted by Michael Zoldessy on June 29, 2007 at 11:15 am

While writing comments on Cinema Sightlines the other day, I remembered a dreadful moviegoing experience only a year ago.

Unbeknownst to me, residing in Hollywood for almost 2 years at the time, I had been living in a bubble. Going out drinking at the local bars, eating at hole in the wall restaurants, visiting ArcLight and the Sunset 5 for an evening flick; I really never would bump into children. Surely on my evening jog to the gym down Sunset Boulevard, the families walking hand in hand were nowhere to be seen.

I was going to the El Capitan on opening night to see the film, “Cars,” when I got quite a rude awakening. As soon as I entered the auditorium, I was greeted with crying babies and toddlers throwing popcorn on the floor. The start of the movie didn’t make it any quieter and for the next two hours I heard as much soda slurping as I did Owen Wilson and Paul Newman. It felt like it had been ages since I’d even been inside a theater with someone not allowed to see R-rated picture, much less 1,000 people under the age of seven.

Needless to say, I’ve chosen each animated film I’ve seen since wisely and it sure got me thinking twice about ever having children. I know. I’m going through this selfish 20’s phase where it’s just all about me. But wouldn’t I be doing a disservice to myself if I ever lower my moviegoing standards? Plus, I don’t want to go to all those mediocre kids flicks. Unless it’s Pixar, count me out.

Then there’s another side of me, that’s a bit more sympathetic. A few months ago, I loaned a friend my copy of “Double Indemnity.” Of course, she loved it. It got me thinking about how amazing it would be to see it again for the first time. Now that really would be something.

I think about all the great movie memories I have of discovering my favorite films and subsequently reviewing them over and over again. I want to share that with someone else. Even if the person is already pretty schooled, you can always turn them onto some lesser-known geniuses like Samuel Fuller or Powell & Pressburger.

Sharing films is something I find really rewarding. A lot of times, it blows up in your face and you totally don’t account for your friend’s taste. Then there’s a discussion. Then there’s an argument. Then you don’t talk for a few days. (Not that that’s ever happened to me!) But when you hit it right and total connect with someone, that’s special.

So maybe I’ll lighten up one day. The prospect of sharing all my favorite films one day with children might prove to be all too tempting. This weekend though, I’ll be going to a slightly later show at the El Capitan for “Ratatouille,” hoping for a more peaceful audience.

(Thanks to djwhelan for providing the photo.

We encourage you to share your thoughts on the subject. For comments on the article or the blog itself, feel free to email me. We’re also open to any suggestions for future columns!

Comments (17)

Michael Furlinger
Michael Furlinger on June 29, 2007 at 1:20 pm

Cars and kids a deadly mix……………

Eric Friedmann
Eric Friedmann on June 29, 2007 at 1:31 pm

MZ – You’re not alone. I’m 40 years-old, I have a toddler whom I love more than anything and I still feel like I’m going through my selfish 20’s phase, especially when it comes to when and who I’ll see movies with. When I have the time to go to a movie, and if it’s a film my wife is not interested in, I’ll always go on a school night, when kids are at home.

Two stories of my own for you: back in Christmas 2002, I was one of the first few to sit down in a New York City theater to watch GANGS OF NEW YORK. The show was sold out, with every seat in the theater taken, except the one next to mine. Just as the film started, a woman sat down next to me with her NEWBORN! My facial reaction went into immediate “You’ve got to be f—king kidding me!” mode. I gave it about ten minutes, thinking it might be okay. Not so. The baby started crying and I stormed out of the theater to get my money back before I reached the 20-minute refund deadline. A week later, I tried again and successfully saw the movie.

About a year later, my dad and I went to a neighborhood theater one Saturday afternoon to see MIRACLE. Big mistake! The theater was full of rowdy children. I told my dad we should leave right away and get our money back because there was no way we were going to enjoy this. We got our money, drove to another theater and saw MONSTER instead.

One of the best movie-going experiences I ever had was during the summer of 2005 when my wife and I decided to see WAR OF THE WORLDS on opening weekend in the middle of a beautiful, warm, sunny Saturday. The theater was empty except for us; just like a private screening! It definately payed off to waste some great weather to go to the movies in the middle of the day.

Like you, I prefer sharing old black and white classics with family and friends. Because they simply don’t make the movies like they used to, the classics evoke much better reaction and discussions, in my opinion. I look forward to when my son will be old enough that I can share some of my favorite classics with him.

And so, yet another reason why I chose to call myself – LOVE MOVIES – HATE GOING!

biograph68 on June 29, 2007 at 1:39 pm

I understand how young children can be very disturbing to an audience. I have a 1-½ year old daughter and, because she does not yet have the patience for a movie, we do not take her to the theater until she is older. That said, prior to being parents, my wife and I went to as many as 4 films in a month. And I can’t recall any visit were we didn’t purchase at least one item at the concession stand. I know many theater operators at this forum may cringe at this, but it may be worth considering either an on-site child area (think hourly daycare) or the less expensive alternative of a “young family screenings” of age appropriate films where young children would be welcome. For now, an occasional visit to the drive-in (we are fortunate to have two in our area) is the best we can do.

Eric Friedmann
Eric Friedmann on June 29, 2007 at 2:25 pm

Jay, my little boy is nearly a year and a half, and like you, I’m not taking him anywhere near a movie theater until he’s old enough not to disturb others around us.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on June 29, 2007 at 3:16 pm

My rule is never to see a Disney film unless it starts after 9pm. Kids are less likely to be there and some towns will not allow them in that late by law. Avoid weekend matinees at all costs.

Remember a kid’s attention span. Add sugar, other kids and a boring movie and you should not be surprised what happens.

I do remember a matinee of the live action 102 DALMATIANS where, during an action sequence, some three-to-four year old near-fetus screeched out:
“That scene was animated!”

Although I am sure most of those words were unknown to me at that age her useful information was probably correct.

KJB2012 on June 29, 2007 at 3:38 pm

Actually I don’t seem to ever have problems with kids in the cinema. I’ve been to El Capitan for Disney fare many times. Yes, most of the crowd was under 10, but they were just as attentive to the film as your average “adult” crowd over at the Chinese!
In fact I’ve sat through all the Harry Potter films in cities from L.A. to Minneapolis to Toronto and I’ve never had a rowdy bunch of kids. The kids loved the movie and were glued to it.
I would say they most noisy audiences are first seniors (they think they are in their living so talk and talk), teenagers (they are trying to be soo-cool)and finally the 20-60 year olds, yes, I’d say on the whole the kids are the best.
Now that is only true if you watching a movie that kids can understand. Sure if you sit a 6 year old down to watch “Citizen Kane” they will be rowdy.
Meanwhile I can’t wait for next Harry Potter. Maybe I will go on a weekend matinee.

Eric Friedmann
Eric Friedmann on June 29, 2007 at 4:13 pm

I can’t even remember the last time I went to a movie where I didn’t have to “Ssshhh!” someone at least once!

Actually, I think I can. David Lynch’s INLAND EMPIRE at the IFC Center in NYC on a Friday night last January. This was a real deep art film and the majority of the audience were New York University students. The theater was dead, dead, dead, you-could-hear-a-pin-drop silent! Man, if only every movie I went to see could be like that!

Back in the day (decades ago), part of the thrill of going to the movies was sharing it with the audience. Today, that seems to be reason enough to watch a movie in the privacy of your home instead.

Chris Utley
Chris Utley on June 29, 2007 at 6:14 pm

Seeing “Ratatoulle” tonight at 10:00 PM in Tustin. Surely that’s gotta be a kiddie free experience!

A few months ago we took my 1 year old to see “Happy Feet” at the dollar movie. BIG MISTAKE. Little dude only kept still in 1 minute -30 second spurts. No more indoor movies for him…heck, he can barely withstand drive-ins!

Chris Utley
Chris Utley on June 29, 2007 at 6:14 pm

Forgot to mention: Tustin is in CA.

exit on June 29, 2007 at 6:39 pm

A couple years ago, I sat in the next to last row of the El Cap with a toddler on a Booster seat kicking my seat every couple minutes. I finally turned back and politely as I could manage, said “PLEASE, DON’T DO THAT!” Soon it began again. I turned and a bit more emphatically, said ‘WILL YOU PLEASE STOP KICKING THE BACK OF MY SEAT!!“ Mom finally spoke up with something to the effect that I was behaving badly! I mustered the nerve to point out that I wasn’t the one with a hyperactive kid. Got up, climbned over seven people, went out to the lobby and got an usher who came back and watched for a couple minutes, then soon as she left, the kicking resumed. If the MOTHER can’t be bothered to make her kid behave, what hope is there?

Unfortunately, many of today’s adult audiences are themselves part of a generation that haven’t much of a clue about proper behavior in a theatre…

I once sat in the Hollywood Bowl to see THE MUSIC MAN, and the couple in front us had brought their darling brand-new fetus with them. This poor little creature looked like the cord was still attached. Oddly enough the kid didn’t seem to enjoy the show, and very clearly expressed that thought several times. Then in the middle of a very quiet sequence, mom decided it was time to feed the baby. “The natural way.” As if all this action in front of us wasn’t enough, just as Kristin Chenoweth is standing in a pin-spot on the dark stage singing a quiet song, Dad decides that that baby’s first breast-feeding at the Bowl is a Kodak moment. Right in our faces, in a pitch dark amphitheatr, he took a FLASH picture. I wish I had reacted more quickly because having to crop out my hand expressive gesture over Mom’s head, might have reminded them that there were about 5000 other people around.

There is simply no excuse for bring babies into a theatre, It’s child abuse. How would you feel if you were tiny and new in a giant’s world, and you were taken from your warm comfortable bed into a big dark noisy room surrounded by other giants? All the rest of us in the audience have learned to interpret the baby’s plaintive cry as something like “Get me the hell outta here!” Why don’t the child’s loving protectors get it?

I think it should begin with how you watch movies with your kid at home. Watch with them, get them used to paying attention, and gauge from their behavior when they are ready to appreciate and concentrate on a movie in public. Then pay close attention to the kid through the movie… This all sounds like an article on movie manners that I read somewhere…

JodarMovieFan on June 30, 2007 at 2:42 am

Wow, you West Coast people really have some audience issues don’t ya! ;) (“Love movies-hate going” being the east coast exception, so far.)

I’ve seen many child oriented films such as the recent Disney/Pixar/CGI fare and have encountered full auditoriums with mostly kids. Sometimes the kids are louder or more boisterous than others but its usually as a result of something happening on screen. On occasion, maybe a crying baby but the mother or father usually takes the child out and all is well. Just about all the CGI animated movies of late are shown in a THX-cert DLP theater near me that plays the movie loud. As such, its usually enough to keep kids quiet as they are pretty much drowned out by the movie sound. And my usual seat is the one in the auditorium that’s midway, along the entryway that has no patrons sitting behind me, so no one can kick my seat from behind. Now flying food debris is another issue, but that’s a rare occurence.

As far as the age of kids allowed in theaters, I was under the impression that the chains had policies to address this issue. A few independents, like Baltimore’s Senator, has a no child under 6 policy that seems to work well, but I believe they have made exceptions for some kid movies.

So, yes, moviegoing may not always be the perfect experience that one may expect it to be, but I’d always choose going out to see that (weekly) new movie and enjoy it with a few hundred others than watching one at home.

KJB2012 on June 30, 2007 at 1:39 pm

I think any “thinking” adult, which there are few these days, ought to know enough to leave the baby, the dog, the lap top and the CELL phone at home when you go to the movies. Even Disney movies are really not made for the 6 month old.
If you can’t afford a baby sitter, and sister Anne is living India, maybe you should just watch DCD’s for a few years.

Eric Friedmann
Eric Friedmann on July 2, 2007 at 8:59 am

Roadshow – Amazing, isn’t it? That woman’s kid is kicking YOUR seat and she has the nerve to regard YOU as the problem.

Perhaps all of this raises a good argument to bring back the drive-ins; bring all the kids you want and keep them in your own vehicle where they won’t disturb others.

I like it, I like it!

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on July 2, 2007 at 9:28 am

Having been a theatre manager I can tell you that parents are the brunt of the problem. They often ignore the kids so much that toddlers wander out into the lobby and into other screens. We kept them at the concession stand until the movie ended and someone came out to claim them.

After evicting unaccompanied darlings for throwing eggs, loud cursing, fighting and otherwise disrupting the show, I was very often confronted by angry parents claiming their child would never engage in such behavior and demanding that theatre must keep the little psychopaths on hand until they get collected.

It appears that many are under the impression that the local cinema is a cheap and safe babysitter. By the way, it is always “that other kid” who did it.

Marcel on July 3, 2007 at 1:27 pm

The biggest problem today is that both parents have to work two jobs to support their families and the rare moments they are with their kids is not spent disciplining them, it’s spent spoiling them to make up for it. In the seventies, my mom brought us to the movies at four/five years old and you were told to be quiet once, then you were disciplined. If you are “afraid” you couldn’t make your child behave in a public place, guess we know who the parent is…

Eric Friedmann
Eric Friedmann on July 3, 2007 at 2:30 pm

You know, given all the griping I do about people talking during a movie, the ironic thing is that when I was a kid, I WAS a talker during the movie. I can remember being “Ssshhed” many times by grown-ups.

In the Summer of 1981, my friends and I went to see the re-release of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK at the Westhampton Beach Theater. We carried on like you wouldn’t believe during this exciting movie! It’s a wonder we all didn’t get tossed out on our asses!

MPol on December 4, 2008 at 11:14 am

The Somerville Theatre, in Davis Square, Somerville, MA has a policy of NOT letting children under 8 years of age into their evening screenings due to their propensity for making noise. The more I think about it, the more I think that it’s probably a good pollicy. Young children and infants don’t belong in movies, but, even though I’m not a parent, I can understand why parents of infants and young children don’t want to always get stuck at home with their kid(s), and want to do something else once in awhile. However, a number of theatres do have matinee afternoon showings for parents with infants, and I welcome that change even though I’m not a parent.

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