Wednesday, August 03, 2011

“I Felt Dirty After That Film...and Not in A Good Way”

Pop quiz: What do washrooms, nail polish and nachos all have in common? The answer is that they contributed to one of the worst theatre going experiences I have had in my life. A few weeks ago my wife and I went to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 at the Coliseum theatre. It is part of the Cineplex theatre chain here in Canada. By the end of the night I felt what can only be described as a combination of disgust and sadness...though mostly disgust.

I was not even going to write about the experience but it has been bothering me of late. I think it is just a symptom of a larger societal problem, one that I am not sure can ever be fix, but I am getting ahead of myself... The thing that started the evening off poorly was the condition of the washrooms. Granted I can be like Seinfeld’s George Constanza when it comes to public restrooms, as I generally try and avoid them at all cost, yet on this particular Saturday night it looked as if a nuclear explosion had hit the restrooms. You know that scene in a comedy where the protagonist needs to use the washroom and only the filthiest of stalls is available? Well picture that stall repeated six or seven times in a row, even the stall reserved for people with disabilities suffered the same fate. The urinals did not fair any better, as patrons had to stand in pools of water, streaming from the one aforementioned toilets.

Now I understand that theatres usually have staff do a check on the washrooms ever hour and sign their name on a sheet verifying the check. However, I am not exactly sure what they are looking for? The right levels of hand soap? Enough paper towels? Clearly the washroom had been in this state for a while. The weird thing is I cannot completely fault the theatre for this, the customers who left it in that state have to take responsibility as well. The lack of respect, or even consideration, for others was prevalent the entire evening.

Which leads me to my main area of complaint the cinema itself, or more specifically the people who frequent the cinema. Where do I even begin? There was the young woman who was sitting two seats away from my wife that decided to use the seat between them as her personal napkin on which she wiped her nacho cheese laden fingers. Not subtle mind you, but openly commenting to her friend that she “was glad no one was sitting there so she can use the seat to wipe [her] hands.” Did I mention there was still another 15 minutes before the film started? So there was still a chances that someone could take that seat.

Or how about the couple who came in just at the commercials starting playing and the female of the two decided it was a good time do her nails. The strong stark smell of nail polish engulfed the air and the people sitting beside her did not seem to enjoy the fact that their popcorn was right beside her nail polish. Last, but not least, who could forget the person that needed to answer their cell phone in the middle of the film. They did not even bother to sneak outside and chat real quick, just opened the phone and started gabbing.

Now I know in the 18th Century the theatre going experience was vastly different than it is today. People would go to the theatre for the social aspect rather than to see the play going on in the background. The invention of film eventually curbed that ritual, but it seems to be making a strong comeback. I think what irks me the most about all of this is how self-important we have become as a society. Everyone assumes their life, or their actions, are far more important than anyone elses. That is why people can wipe their hands on a seat without even considering that someone in the next show might be sitting there.

As a blogger, I am guilty of falling into bouts of self-importance as much as the next person. However I was raised to have consideration for others, especially when in public. I go to the cinema to be entertained by what is being projected on the giant screen in front of me. Yet more and more I find myself distracted by what I witness around me.


  1. sounds like an horrendous experience. but not exactly unusual. do you mind if i share my most recent experience?

    at the rpiff when i reviewed autoreiji people were turning up 10 or 20 minutes in to the screening (which was packed) making everyone move so they could find seats, using their phones to light the way, talking to each other and the people who they were disturbing before then getting up and deciding that they wanted popcorn/beer/toilets before watching the last half an hour of the movie they had paid for. and this was at a film festival.

    i was appalled but at least i didn't have nacho cheez on my seat. and they say cinema audiences are dropping in numbers....wonder why.

  2. Wow, that sounds awful. I can't say that I have ever been to a theater when its been that bad. Sure, we have to put up with the cell phones and a little mess in the bathroom, but never anything that nasty. I guess it comes from living in a slightly smaller city....Thank God

  3. The act of cinema going has lost all appeal for me. I'd rather wait those extra couple of months and purchase the film on DVD (usually for not too much more than the price of a cinema ticket) and watch it in the comfort of my own home than suffer the morons of the public.

  4. It reminds me of air travel. People used to get dressed up to fly or go to the cinema. Now you really see the worst in people, and it's disgusting.

  5. I've never had a really horrible cinema going experience, probably because I rarely ever go to the cinema.
    Still, this sounds appalling, definitely enough to put one off going to the cinema.


    Only partially connected, but still relevant.

  7. That is terrible. There's a few things that I don't like about going to my local multiplex. One is that whenever I enter the theater, it's a bit messy and at the end, it's even more messy. I don't buy nor eat food or drink at the theater anymore.

    I'm also annoyed by seeing people with their cell phones on during the movie flashing by. I also don't like the fact that when I'm watching a movie, there's always going to be some young kids screaming around with their parents always chasing after them.

    I don't endure a lot of that at an art house theater. At least people are quieter there than at the multiplex.

    And I don't like public bathrooms either. They're always messy and I try to clean up anything on the sink.

  8. The worst thing is this is exactly why people are deserting cinemas in droves. That and high prices, inadequately trained and slow staff, the grubbiness of it all... While studios handily point to piracy as the only cause of dwindling audience. And even worse, I have noticed this behaviour at film festivals, people turning up very late, talking during the film, bringing trays of smelly nachos, texting compulsively...

  9. Wait, what? You are supposed to wipe your dirty hands on the seat next to you???

    I just hate the smell of the food, especially pop corn drenched in butter. I seriously want to kill anyone who chooses to eat that at the theater. Also the sound of people repeatedly grabbing pop corn out of the paper bag... so annoying!

  10. @Toby – My wife’s pet peeve are those types of people, especially if it is opening night of a big film. They come in at the late, or at the last possible moment, and expect to get the same type of seats as the people who got their 30 minutes in advance.

    @Real People – The sad thing is this type of stuff happens in big and small cities. There just seems to be a general shift in attitudes regarding what is considered proper behaviour. The cell phone problem, which is only getting worse, is proof of this.

    @Liam – I am starting to see why more and more people are choosing the at home options (DVD, VOD) instead of going to the cinema. Still, there is something about seeing a film on the big screen that I just love.

    @Andrew – The air plane is a great example of this. It also reminds me of life working in an office. Everyone pretends to be upstanding employees but, the more you get to know them, their disgusting habits eventually come out.

    @Jack – I have had a few bad experiences before but nothing to this level. Hopefully your streak of avoiding these types of experiences will continue. No one should be subjected to it when they are expecting an enjoyable night out.

    @Rich – Thank for sharing your article link, I will give it a read in the next day or so.

    @thevoid – What kills me about the whole cell phone thing is that theatres keeping telling people to turn off their phones. However, they make sure to have one or two cell phone ads (promoting texting, Facebook, etc.) before the film starts.

    I find art house theatres to be somewhat better as well. Granted, they do not see the same volume of customers as the multiplexes do.

    @Laurent – I can understand the showing up late during a film festival as sometimes the previous film may have run late. You think people would understand though that if you come in late at a festival all the best seats are taken. I make it a rule at festivals, if I am late for a film, to head straight for the first three rows (always the last to fill). I wish more people adopted this attitude.

    @Castor – I have no problem with people eating food in the theatre as long as they are not going overboard (i.e. crunching too loudly, slurping their drink, etc.). I do have issues with people who leave their half eaten food in the isle. Or place their drinks right by their feet...only to knock it over minutes later and make every row in front of their seat sticky. The drink issue happens at TIFF more option than I wish to count.

  11. Lack of decorum at the movie theatre is sadly becoming all too frequent these days. People talking during the film, throwing popcorn at other patrons, texting and surfing on their smartphones as though the bright light of the screen isn't disruptive - it detracts from the movie-going experience and from the film and it's such a shame. Spending $10+ to be annoyed for two hours stinks.

  12. ew me no likey!! Not one bit!!

    I have been lucky enough not to have that experience in a cinema, but I have in other places. It is made worse when you are trying to find somewhere for your daughter to go. Then your standards go up even higher!!!

    My pet hate at the moment is this....

    I have been lucky enough to now get in on some early screenings at the flicks (which is nice cos I probably could not afford to go if this didn't happen) and what gets me is late arrivals. The show has started, everyone else has been in there seat for a good 30 mins, waiting. We got there early as it was going to be busy and we wanted to get a good seat. But these guys are here 5 mins late standing in front of me blocking my view trying to find a seat in a packed out cinema!! It has happened twice to me lately and if it happens again tonight I am going to be like Michael Douglas in Falling Down!!

    OK Maybe I won't go that far, but I will be miffed!!

    Sorry CS for my mini rant!

  13. @Custard – No apologies needed, that kind of stuff irks me as well.

  14. I guess Harry Potter just brings out the worst in everyone. Did you complain? If you complain about anything at Cineplex they will give you free movies. Shoot them an e mail and tell them the bathrooms were disgusting and you'll rethink ever going there again and you'll be set.

  15. I don't go to the theaters as much as I used to, but that makes stuff like this even worse. It's a rare treat to see a movie on the big screen, and dealing with people texting, answering cell phones, talking, etc., not to mention the horrible conditions of some theaters, is really disappointing.

  16. @Mike – I did not complain to the theatre as I was more disgusted by the individuals who left the washrooms in that condition in the first place. I will look into sending Cineplex a message.

    @Dan – I think people take the whole aspect of going to the cinema for granted. It is no longer viewed as a treat which is a shame.

  17. Wow, this is a great post. There should be more of us to speak out about this issue.

    People should respect the theater going experience, but to do just that, one must understand what it means, and I think that is where the problem begins: people have no concept of what paying a ticket to watch a movie means anymore, even though it's one of the easiest activities in the world.

    Very, very good post. Sorry to read about such a horrid experience though.

  18. I used to manage a movie theater many years ago and if our bathrooms had been like that I would have been ashamed.

    The theater experience is such a quandary anymore. I always prefer to see a movie in the theater - even small indie ones - because there can be something magical, if I may use that word, about getting lost in a great film in the darkness. But it just seems like with each passing year you hear more and more horror stories like this one.

    I sincerely hope your next trip to theater is more pleasant.

  19. @Nicholas - I think technology has spoiled us in regards to films. The fact that people can watch movies on their cell phones has caused some to forget how magically the cinema experience can be.

  20. I rarely see movies in the theater anymore, for the reasons you cited and for others. I remember attending a packed movie theater where almost immediately a very young child started crying down front. At first I was pissed at the kid for crying, but then he/she started these big, wracking coughs. It had a horrible cold, or even whooping cough, and it was no wonder it was crying. As the movie went on I felt worse and worse for the baby and more and more angry at the parents. They sat there for the entire movie, with their horribly sick child coughing every 15 seconds and crying every couple of minutes. I have never done this before but I literally tried to find them as we were all walking out the door. I wanted to confront them and tell them to get their child to a doctor. I couldn't find them, though. Not only was this child too young to be in the theater, it was much too sick to even be taken out of the house, except to get treated.

  21. Wow...just wow. The nachos bit takes the cake for me. Sadly, that's because I/we are probably just used to people acting like pigs in restrooms and being assholes talking on the phone.

    "Granted I can be like Seinfeld’s George Constanza when it comes to public restrooms..."

    And here I thought you were gonna say you take off your shirt like he does when he hits the can. Had me scared there a bit...

  22. @Chip – I don’t have a problem with a child being sick as that is something uncontrollable (assuming they were not sick prior to leaving the house), yet it annoys me when parents bring kids into films that is not age appropriate for them. If they do not understand the film, then the children often find other ways to amuse themselves for two hours. Unfortunately these “other ways” often involve annoying the rest of us who came to see the movie.

    @Dylan – I keep the shirt on but I have contemplated the logistics of sleeping underneath my desk at work though.

    The nachos and nail polish were the tipping points for me. It really showed a new low in the class department


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