On the weekend before Christmas, I went to see the new Star Wars film, which I reviewed between Christmas and New Years if you missed it. Before the titles started scrolling across the screen, I already knew I’d have material for an extra blog. But it was not the movie itself that would provide fodder for this post- it was the seemingly endless pre-movie ordeal.
I use the word ordeal generously- it’s not an ordeal in the sense of being stranded in the wilderness with your foot caught under a boulder. Nor is it struggling your way through floodwaters or across a desert with little water. It’s an ordeal more in the sense of being stuck at a party for five hours with someone you really dislike, or being subjected to some other social situation that leaves you sighing with dismay, rolling your eyes constantly, and entertaining the occasional musing thought of bloody murder.
I probably should have just held off going inside until the last possible minute. I’d bought my ticket the previous day, and sure enough, the theatre was packed. That posed a problem for getting the seat you wanted. The theatre ushers had a system worked out for getting everyone in- line-ups and organized entry. This was not the problem; it just made sense from an organizational (not to mention fire code regulations) point of view.
No, the problem started after sitting down. Once upon a time when you went to the movies, you’d have four trailers for coming attractions before the movie. And that was it. If you turned up ten minutes before the start of a movie, the screen would be dark, and the theatre would be relatively quiet- right up to the beginning of the trailers. These days, however, you’ve got the pre-show.
And that’s where murderous thoughts got started.
It’s a mix of advertising, movie interviews, and some vacant headed halfwit standing in movie theatre lobbies talking to people. The halfwit might have the name Zepp Zeppelin and dream of the day he can be an intern for Entertainment Tonight. Apparently there are a great many rungs on the ladder for the entertainment “reporter” industry. And of course this goes on. And on. And on. And on some more. You see ads for the magazine the movie chain has in its lobby. You see snippets of trailers- not the actual trailers, mind you, those are still to come- for movies that have absolutely nothing in common with what you’ve come to see. I mean, honestly, if I wanted to see a teaser trailer for a Seth Rogen film (I don’t, because I’d much rather see Seth Rogen turn up on a Where Are They Now special wondering how badly his life got screwed up), I’d have gone to the low brow comedy film playing four screens away.
The problem at this point is that you can’t leave. If you’re alone in a crowded theatre, you can’t just step out- who’s going to trust a complete stranger to keep an eye on your stuff? So you’re stuck, waiting for the endless pre-show to finally end (it takes a bloody long time). That should be it, right?
Because after the recorded announcement thanks you for paying attention to their pre-show (I wasn’t, I was imagining Zepp Zeppelin as a passenger on the last voyage of the Hindenburg), then it gets even worse.
That’s when the ads start.
Yes, the ads, the very thing we used to come to a movie theatre to get away from.
It’s bad enough they infest our television airwaves. At least there we can click mute.
At some point years ago, someone- I blame a Marketing Chimp, because that’s exactly the kind of wretched scum who would dream this up- suggested in a movie theatre chain board meeting, “hey, I know what we can do! Let’s have commercials before the movie!”
And since everyone else around the table would have the same wretched personalities that feed off annoying their customers (I mean seriously, have you seen the prices at the concession stands?), of course they would have been crying out in unison, “that’s brilliant!”
So there it was. One ad after another. For cars. For storage spaces. For soda. For vacations. For electronics.
I lost track of how many ads went by. I was too busy thinking of the person who came up with that idea in the first place. And allowing myself the momentary fantasy of seeing them drawn, quartered, hung, fed to ravenous dogs, and then resurrected from the dead so they could be tortured all over again. Perhaps this time cast into a pit of fire ants covered with barbecue sauce.
It's one thing to entertain the thought. Most of us have, at one point or another encountered the odd person who's only alive today because they're not worth the jail sentence (believe me, I know), and so that little inner voice called our conscience occasionally reminds us of that- "the dumb bastard's not worth the jail time." Besides, it’s too late anyway. Whoever came up with this idea already met their end years ago at the hands of someone lacking that inner voice, and who was sick and tired of forty seven commercials before the beginning of Marley & Me.