Monday, October 20, 2008

Movie Lines

Every Friday night I go to the movies with the same guys - we’ve been going to the movies together for years. Some weekends there may be 3 or 4 movies opening, but only one real choice - so that’s what we see. But some weekends there is a big discussion of what we should see over dinner - and it’s like a movie debate. Kind of Siskel & Ebert, but based entirely on the trailers and poster and cast and director and writer - we haven’t seen the film, so we argue about the elements that went into making it and any clues from the trailer on how it turned out.

The trailer for a comedy with only a couple of good jokes loses - if that’s the best they have, why pay $11 to see the jokes that weren’t funny enough for the trailer? Action movies and thrillers can be the same - if the action scenes in the trailer look lame, imagine how bad the ones in the film are? And sometimes you see a trailer a half dozen times and still have absolutely no idea what the film is about - hey, if *they* can’t figure out what their film is about, how can they expect me to figure it out?

Sometimes it comes down to actors. As a group of guys we have discovered that any film with Jessicas Alba or Biel is an instant “yes”. It could be an awful movie like CHUCK AND LARRY or INTO THE BLUE, but we’ll watch it. Sometimes you will see a movie you know is probably going to be bad because there’s someone in it who gives a great performance every time - which explains why I’ve seen almost everything Sam Jackson has ever made. But you have to convince me to see a Nic Cage movie. But some of the Friday Night Guys like Cage - and we debate other elements of the movies.

By the time we get into the line at the cinema, we know what we are going to see. We know what time the show starts, and we are prepared to buy our tickets. Because we may all be in different lines, there is often a kind of race to see who can get their tickets first. I use cash, some of the others use credit cards and the automated machines. If it’s AMC, I have a frequent viewers card and get free stuff sometimes. I have thousands of points, and go to the cinema often enough to snag free tickets or popcorn or drinks. I also have a card at the Arclight, which I go to less frequently. But by the time I’m next in line I am ready with movie title, time, cash, and card.

Which puts me either in the minority or in a slim majority. Maybe it’s just my luck - which is usually bad. But the people in front of me usually don’t have their money ready - and spend all kinds of time digging through their purse or wallet... and then they don’t have their card handy... and then they want to pay with coins that are also at the bottom of the purse or pocket... and then they don’t know the time their movie is starting (and there’s a 7:30 show and an 8:00 show, and they buy a ticket, then realize they wanted the other one)...

And more and more often I’m behind a gaggle of teens who don’t know what they want to see, and don’t discuss and debate, until they get to the front of the line. They could have figured it out before getting in line, but that never occurs to them. The strange part of this as a movie consumer - an something that is critical doe us to understand as screenwriters - is that these kids are *going to the movies* but not going to a specific movie. Sure, they will decide what movie they want to see eventually (please not at the front of the line while the rest of us are waiting and waiting and waiting behind them) and they will use the same criteria that my group of Friday night guys do - trailers, story concept, cast, poster... okay, maybe not the Jessicas part - but they are going to the movies more for social reasons than to see a movie. They are there every Friday night (holding up the line) to see some movie... any movie. They are the true movie consumers. They aren’t there because they can’t wait to see MAX PAYNE, they are there because they are there every Friday night with their group of friends to see *something* - to be decided later... when they get to the front of the line.

So when you wonder why they don’t make more movies targeting (fill in the blank - women over 40, men over 40 (that’s me), Asians, Lesbians, Lebanese-Americans, Liberals, Conservatives, Nudists, Albinos, People In Wheelchairs, Pleasantly Plump Americans, men over 70, women over 70, Lebanese-Americans over 70, etc) - the reason is that those groups don’t just show up at the cinema on Friday night to see a movie - whether there is something they want to see or not. My guess is that if every Friday night for 3 weeks there were 3 new movies and all of them were about Lebanese-Americans Over 70, those danged kids would still be at the front of the line every week trying to decide which movie to see.... then texting their friends about how much it sucked from inside the cinema - their cell phones giving off more light than that Jamie Faar movie on screen. They are regular movie goers, and the other subgroups are not.

But can we get them to figure out what they want to see *before* they get in line? And can we teach these new generations to think about people other than themselves (like me, standing behind them with my money in hand - exact change sometimes, decisions made, card ready, prepared to buy a ticket (that is what the line is for) and not talking on my cell phone or texting or doing anything else that will distract me or in any way slow down the purchasing of the ticket so that the other people can get to their movies on time and not have to sit in the very front or very back rows)? “Be considerate of others, the world doesn’t revolve around you,” as my mom would say. It takes the same amount of time to decide at the front of the line or not in line - so why not do it the way that doesn’t get in the way of others? What’s the matter with kids today? Why can’t they be like we were, perfect in every way?

Standing in line... bitching at the hands that feed me.

- Bill


E.C. Henry said...

I wanna go to the movies with you and your friends, Bill. When do I get to be one of the "cool guys?"

- E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA

P.S. It would be cool to see a movie with a seasoned pro such as yourself.

wcmartell said...

What you really want to so is see a *bad* movie with us. A good movie or an okay movie - we just sit there and watch. Boring. A bad movie? Well, it turns into Mystery Science Theater.

- Bill

The Moviequill said...

Bangkok Dangerous must have been a hoot -- or did you use the Nic card on them?

Sandford said...

I have watched the line ups at theatres while waiting for my movie to start. Everything you stated is correct, although I noticed the age of the constant goers rangers from 13 to 25. Either way, they do argue with each other about what to see when purchasing tickets and not before. This happens repeatedly and supports your observation.

I meet with fellow writers and watch DVD's at home on the big screen. We usually have all read the screenplay and then get critical. All in a day's work/fun to improve our screenwriting abilities.

The next time you are in Vancouver, the movies on me!
Sandford Tuey - Hollywood North

Milli Thornton said...

I loved the closing line for this blog post: "Standing in line... bitching at the hands that feed me."

Just as I was getting really depressed ("I'm learning screenwriting to write for these kids? They probably don't even pay attention to the movie!") you put it all into perspective and made it funny.

But it does suck that model customers have to suffer through that.

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