Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Movies at home: the premium experience

I recently went for a movie in a theater. This is something I do once a year, even though my wife and I end up watching a lot of movies at home. This time around, we went to watch a new movie, "Kung Fu Panda", which has been getting glowing reviews. Our experience was not a pleasing one. It is not something we plan on repeating.

Firstly, there was the issue of parking. We went to the AMC Mercado, which is a short drive from our place. Our first attempt was to go there on Friday evening to watch a movie called Wall-E, another critic favorite. Alas, we couldn't find parking. After twenty minutes of driving around searching for some place to abandon our car, we drove back home. The second attempt was made on Sunday afternoon, when we hoped all sane humans would be at home sipping tea and having savories to go with it. I did find parking this time, since I started looking for parking in lots very far away from the theater entrance. The parking spots near the theater were crowded with cars waiting for parking. While this is not a fault of the theater owner: they must know how many people to expect, and they're all going to drive. That said, I don't hold parking against them. My wife and I could just as easily have bicycled to the place. The bigger problem was with the audience.

The movie we watched is a children's animation. No fault then for the hall to be filled with lots and lots of kids. But I had underestimated how noisy the hall could be. There was the chatter of kids, and laughs, giggles and cries that one expects. But the kids were the best behaved. The worst behavior was by the adults. A person sitting behind me had his phone ring, loudly, during the call. And he answered it! I turned back and gave him an astonished "que?" look, but he was unperturbed. And he had come there with some kids, perhaps his own. During the movie, adults left the hall, and entered with snacks and popcorn. It felt more like a crowded bar than a movie hall. We had taken a friend of ours along for the movie, and he watches many more movies than my wife and I. He is too young to enter a crowded bar, but he agreed that the theater was remarkably noisy, and distracting.

Lastly, the movie started with trailer after trailer of upcoming movies. I guess there were at least five trailers. Even at two minutes each, that is ten minutes of forced advertisements. I thought I paid for a movie here! One of the advertisements was for a movie that is due to be released in January, 2009! That is more than six months away. If I am expected to get excited about it early, the promoters failed horribly -- I don't even remember the name of the movie. If I am paying for content, I don't want it preceeded by brainwashing.

It could be that after watching movies on our tiny 19" computer screen at home has spoiled us. At least we get peace and quiet, and we can pause it to prepare snacks, or answer a telephone call. Further, we can skip the advertisements. Our home movie watching rig is not comparable to home theater systems that can be purchased these days. All it involves is a single Linux computer, and speakers that have been donated by a friend.

Our original intent was to watch Wall-E in theater. After this experience, we have decided to wait for the DVD, and watch it at home instead.