Fellowship of the Cinema

Posted by Arlo on Jan 17, 2007 under Here's an Idea

Movieslut!Here’s an idea.

How many times have you gone to a movie and had the experience ruined by others?  The ringing cell phones, the obnoxious laughter, the giggling teenagers, and those damn kids with their laser pointers!  My wife and I are not averse to paying $30 for a couple hours entertainment, but that’s only if we’re not seated next to an inconsiderate lout.  Despite the lure of the big screen, it’s easy to understand why people wait for DVD.

The tragedy is that seeing a movie with an audience can be a great experience.  You don’t get moments like these sitting at home on your couch:

  1. Throughout the epic car chase in the mediocre Matrix Reloaded, tension in the audience was wound like a spring.  It was released all at once when an onscreen character, echoing our own feelings, thrust his hands in the air and yelled, “Yes! Yes!”
  2. In Jacob’s Ladder the audience created a loud shifting sound when a needle was slowly injected into the protagonist’s forehead.  It was the sound of hundreds of people squirming in their seats. 
  3. Seeing a fan favorite like Serenity on opening night was even better.  There’s nothing like hearing 300 people gasp at the same time when… well, you know which scene I’m talking about.

People complain about the price of tickets and concessions nowadays, but I’d gladly pay that and more if a theater could guarantee a good, respectful audience.  No cell phones, no talking, no crying infants, no drunks looking for a warm place to sober up.  Give me that, I’ll give you cash.

Theater owners should work to form Movie Clubs.  For an annual fee, cinemaphiles would be guaranteed a movie-watching experience shared with others of their kind.

Here’s how it would work.

  • The theater collects dues from all Movie Club members.  I think a guaranteed-good audience would be worth, say, $50/year.  The market may dictate a higher or lower fee.
  • Movie Club members are guaranteed a private showing of at least one new movie every week.  Only dues-paying, card-carrying members in good standing would be allowed into these select screenings.
  • Which movie get the special treatment each week may be voted upon by the Movie Club’s members.  Say the latest Harry Potter movie opens against The Texas Chainsaw Massacre IX.  The theater establishment doesn’t get to decide what the Movie Club watches – they just decide which screen and at what time.  It is assumed that the Movie Club would likely not get to see popular movies in their opening week, nor any movie on a Friday/Saturday evening.  The Movie Club would only get private screenings during the cinema’s off-peak hours (get used to the Thursday late show!)
  • The Movie Club would be self-policing.  Rules would have to be decided upon (no cell phones, no gratuitous chatter after the previews, etc.) and then enforced.  I favor the “two-strikes” formula – you’d be excused for forgetting to turn off your cell phone once, but do it again the next week (or any time throughout the remainder of your annual membership) and your fellow club members will inform the theater management that your privileges have been revoked.  No more Movie Club showings for you!

The benefit to the cinema
Concessions at cinemas are priced so high because it’s the only way the theater can make a profit.  As I understand it, movie studios demand a huge percentage of the box office receipts.  If a local Movie Club can grow to 300 people – about the size of an average cinema screening room – a theater could pull in an extra $15,000 a year in dues (at $50 per person per year.)  All they need to do to rake in that extra cash is to set aside one showing per week… during hours when the theater is close to empty, anyway.  The Movie Clubbers would still be paying the full ticket price, remember; the yearly dues only guarantee them a like-minded audience.

The benefit to the club members
Those of us that value being a part of a respectful audience would reap the rewards of an uninterrupted movie experience.  Furthermore, I suspect sub-groups would spontaneously form within the Movie Club.  There’s nothing like that after-movie, coffee house discussion!

Great, sounds good.  All we need now is a name!  I’d call my club “Moviesluts,” but I recognize that cinemas may opt for a more family-friendly designation.