With HBO and Netflix, Sue and I probably watch more movies at home than we ever saw in a theater. But sometimes we just want to get out of the house, watch something on the big screen, share a bag of popcorn and go get a burger after the show.
"What's playing?" she asks. I look in the paper and find the movie we really wanted to see has already come and gone. It was nominated for six Academy Awards, won three, and didn't make a dime. No wonder they dumped it so quickly. The movie that replaced it -- a low-budget, formulaic, teenage horror movie (is there some other kind?) -- will make a million dollars between the time we park and the time we walk into the multiplex. In three weeks, no one will remember its name, unless one of its stars suddenly marries a Kardashian. That sounds like a horror movie right there.
There's a movie based on a ride at a theme park, one based on a video game, one based on an app, one based on a fast car and one based on Liam Neeson's last 10 movies. We wonder if he even shows up to act in his movies anymore or if they just use stuff from his last five films.
The movie we've decided to see got a rating of 72 on RottenTomatoes.com, which means we won't hate it, but we're probably not going to buy it when it shows up in the $5 DVD bin two years from now. Besides, every now and then we see a film that we liked better than the critics.
The movie starts at 4:30. Like idiots, we arrive a few minutes early so we won't miss anything. What is wrong with us? Surely we know by now that the coming attractions start at 4:30; the movie starts at 5:15.
But it's tough to break a lifetime of habits. Part of me still expects them to show a newsreel and a cartoon before the main feature, and wonders if we have time to sit through an entire double feature.
Instead of making us want to come to the theater more often, each coming attraction screams, "Stay away, you'll hate this! Just when you think movies couldn't get more vapid and violent, watch this! If you don't get sick, we're not doing our job! Sick of seeing people wearing clothes? Watch this! We spent $100 million on this movie and you won't see a penny of it on screen! Don't get enough fighting and screaming at home? There's plenty of it in this movie. And don't forget to stop by the snack stand in the lobby!"
Is it any wonder that most of the seats in the tiny theater are empty? It's like the exact opposite of being on a plane -- there's plenty of room to stretch out. Finally, another person walks in. He sits down several rows in front of us and pulls out his phone. He's watching a movie on his phone, and not the one that we have come to see. His movie ends about halfway through ours.
Door to door, it took us 3 1/2 hours to watch a 1 hour and 40-minute movie. But we did get out of the house and see a movie together, and we ate a bag of popcorn, and we talked about the parts we liked and didn't like on the way home. A week later, we were at dinner with friends and they asked us what we'd been doing lately. We said we'd gone to the movies.
"Which one?" they asked. Neither of us could remember the name of the film or who was in it. Maybe we will buy it from the $5 bin after all, because we won't remember that we've already seen it.
Contact Jim Mullen at JimMullenBooks.com.