Going to the movies nowadays costs more than it used to. However, if you are choosy about your cinema, you can get your money’s worth. As sophisticated movie goers, Mike and I have come to appreciate the full experience that comes with the price of the ticket.
We can pay $7.50 each and go to the nearby Northgate Cinema. There, we must wade through hordes of juvenile delinquents just to get to the entrance. Then, the ticket booth will be closed and we’ll have to wait in the snackbar line to purchase tickets. After receiving our butter-flavored tickets, we’ll be directed to one of the derelict theaters in which, oddly, the first half of the auditorium HAS NO SEATS. I’ve theorized a number of scenarios to account for the missing seats. Perhaps they hold “movie and dancing” nights once a week and the vacant area is transformed into a ballroom floor. Maybe tickets are half priced if you BYOC (C = chair). It could be that the local retirement center buses groups of elderly people in wheelchairs to see shows here (although, in our experience, the mean age of this cinema’s theatergoer is 13). Maybe the theater management decided that, since most people sit towards the back of the theater anyway, purchasing seats for the front half of the auditorium is wasted money. I have to admit, once the movie starts, I forget about the sticky floor, springs poking me in the ass, and staticky sound system. When it’s over, though, my surroundings are brought back into sharp relief as I visit The Most Disgusting Restroom in the World on my way out of the building.
For about the same price, but an added 15 minutes of driving, we can see a movie at Cinema De Luxe. This place has it all; our evening is a series of lovely experiences. First, we can purchase our tickets at a machine. This is quite a timesaver. It can also be entertaining as we make fun of the person in front of us who can’t seem to master the cardswipe or is confounded by the touchscreen. Second, the snackbar has every movie snack known to man: hotdogs, nachos, pizza, pretzels, popcorn, candy, icecream, soda. In fact, they not only have soda, they have The Ginormous Soda. The cup is so large that I must hold it with two hands when full. It holds enough liquid to tide even Mike and me through a movie. The best part about the snackbar, though, is that you rarely have to wait in line, even on a Friday night. There seems to be endless supply of pleasant young people waiting to help us. With the bright lights and appetizing smells, the snackbar actually makes me a little giddy. I invariably end up telling the pleasant young person that I also once worked in a cinema snackbar. Eventually, Mike must forcibly remove me from the counter as I become carried away reminiscing about those popcorn-scented days…
Mike and I usually time our arrival so that we have almost no wait before the show begins. If we did have to wait, this cinema has comfy chairs (no benches here!) and a player piano to make the time go quickly. There is even a restaurant, which I believe serves alcoholic drinks, but I’ve never peeked inside.
Of course, the bathrooms are sparkling and all the theaters have stadium-style seating. We recently discovered, though, that if we pay $11.50 a ticket we can see a movie in one of the swanky Director’s Halls. In the Hall, the seats are leather and they lean back a little. If you are attending with someone special, you can raise the arm/cup holder and snuggle close. (Of course, we leave the arm down to hold Ginormo Soda.) People actually behave differently in the Hall. They speak in low voices and do not put their feet on the seats in front of them. No one leaves trash behind. We are all in awe of the upscale experience we’ve paid for.
The contrast between this leather-seated luxuriousness and the Northgate ghetto gets me thinking about how we could improve the cinema experience even further. What if the seats were not only upholstered in leather, but also provided a massage? There could be a small bar with complimentary champagne in the back. While I’m dreaming, I’d especially like it if there was a hole in the seat in front of me through which I could stick my feet and receive a pedicure. I’d expect a small increase in ticket price, but, hey, I’m willing to pay an extra few bucks for a massage, booze, and tootsie touch-up.
We’ve been totally spoiled by the fancy cinema. At a time when gas prices are rising and the economy seems to be sputtering, we can’t seem to refuse its siren call, but, hell, it costs $7.50 just to be tortured at Northgate. The incremental amount we spend to go to Cinema De Luxe is much less than the concomitant increase in pampering.
Ah….so this is how America falls, reclining in soft leather, coated in buttery topping, with freshly painted toenails and glazed-over eyes.