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« Doing What You Love for a Living Redux | Main | Another Web Crawl »

February 27, 2003

The Proper Use of a Cineplex


I think I’ve finally figured out the proper way to use a multiplex: for movie surfing. (Okay, so I’m a little slow—better late than never, I say.)

The other night I needed to get out of the house and see a movie. Unfortunately, when I got to the movie theater, I realized that I had arrived between waves of movie start times—it over an hour until the next showing of a movie. I thought, I can’t wait that long, I’ll just walk into some movie late and it’ll be okay. I chose “Gods and Generals” (by alphabetical order) and sauntered in.

Well, I promptly sat through about 15 minutes of snore-inducing character development, apparently designed to show that the ferocious Stonewall Jackson (a guy who could have given Osama Bin Laden lessons in fanaticism) was secretly a sensitive soul. It all made me pine for the greater candor of one of Jackson’s real-life soldiers, who famously remarked that Jackson would have a man shot at the drop of a hat and would drop the hat himself. When the movie got around to a scene establishing that Ambrose Burnside, the Union commander, was a world-class moron, I thought, well, we know how this turns out and left the theater.

I went over to see how Michael Caine and Brandon Fraser were doing in “The Quiet American.” While this was a superior product to “Gods and Generals,” perhaps half an hour of it was enough for me to absorb the essence of this little morality play as well. On a roll, I hopped out of my seat and went to check out the remaining offerings.

Finally, I spotted “The Life of David Gale” and wandered in. Well, the less said the better about this particular offering.

Nonetheless, although it was my first time movie surfing at a Cineplex and regrettably turned out about as well as channel surfing on T.V. usually does—a lot of shows and nothing absorbing to watch—it made me realize that given the formulaic nature of most movies, wasting a whole two hours watching one is rarely necessary. And, you don’t have to worry about when they’re playing, either. When you need to kill some time, just wander in off the street. Pretty soon, you’ll find that the whole experience isn’t so bad—as long as you keep moving.



posted by Friedrich at February 27, 2003


You, my friend, have discovered the "movie crawl." It's a wondrous thing, if you have the time. Back in my single days, I usta do it about once a month. They had a plex near me that was wedged into an old warehouse that was yuppie-ized into stores, and because of the convoluted space the ticket taker couldn't see anyone sneaking from theatre to theatre.

Anyway, Harlan Ellison's grand essay on the three most important things in life is the source of the term. It's probably one of the funniest things ever written, go check it out:

Posted by: Yahmdallah on February 27, 2003 1:52 PM

You guys are ballsier than I am. Tempting though it is, I've never been able to cruise from multiplex theater to multiplex theater, ideal though that would be -- nonlinear moviegoing, like juggling DVDs but with really big screens. I seem to be willing to sit entirely through about one in every four movies I rent these days. About 10 minutes into a DVD either the Wife or I will ask, Is it time to start fast-forwarding? And then we're off. It's amazing how reasonably-satisfying a viewing experience it can be to browse through a movie at 8X or 30X.

I seem to remember that the movie critic Manny Farber was a big nonlinear moviewatcher, even in the days before multiplexes. He'd evidently go to a theater, see 10 or 15 minutes of a movie, then go to another theater. And when he showed movies in his movie-crit and movie-history classes, he wouldn't show them in their entireties. He'd show a bit of a Fassbinder followed by a few minutes of a gangster movie, followed by a bit of a Western, followed by a reel from a Straub-Huillet film. I'm improvising, but these were the kinds of movies he liked to show. Friends who took his classes told me they got kinda bewildered, but found it very enlightening anyway. I suspect Farber tends to be a lot more into look-and-pace than he is into story structure...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on February 27, 2003 3:20 PM

And the Surrealists were doing it long before Farber. I seem to recall reading somewhere that one of the favourite games of the French Surrealists in the mid-1920s was wandering randomly from cinema to cinema, entering the place part-way through a session, staying for a short while, then wandering off to repeat the process. Multiplexes just make this easier to do nowadays, especially if, like mine, your local multiplex is too cheap to actually employ people and only has one person taking tickets at one point rather than having individual people posted at the door of each theatre to take your ticket from you...

Posted by: James Russell on February 28, 2003 5:16 AM

Isn't all this very expensive? If you tried that in the UK it would set you back about twenty pounds. That's over thirty dollars, I believe.

Posted by: Peter Briffa on February 28, 2003 5:36 AM

Nah, I bought one ticket and just moved around from movie to movie. At the theater I attended (late one Sunday night) there was nobody who appeared to care or was even aware that I was going from one theater to another. And even if there had been, why shouldn't I move from theater to theater as long as I didn't stick around past the end of the movie I paid for?

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on February 28, 2003 11:10 AM

"And even if there had been, why shouldn't I move from theater to theater as long as I didn't stick around past the end of the movie I paid for?"

Oh come on! You know why not. I do too, but that doesn't stop me. We scofflaws will bring down the nation with our outlaw ways.

Posted by: j.c. on February 28, 2003 4:40 PM

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