Going to the cinema can be an expensive hobby. By the time you’ve paid for tickets, drinks, popcorn, parking, and maybe a babysitter, you might as well take out a second mortgage. So when the film turns out to be awful, or not what you expected, you might feel a bit ripped off.
Recently, a cinemagoer in New Zealand got a refund on his ticket for Jack Reacher after complaining that a cliff explosion shown in the trailer wasn’t actually in the movie. Paramount Pictures said that the trailer was made before the film was finished, and that it wasn’t intentionally misleading, but they still coughed up to refund the disgruntled Tom Cruise fan.
It got us thinking, though. What other reasons might there be for people to get refunds on their cinema tickets? We pestered a bunch of cinema employees for their stories of odd refund requests, and some of the answers were astonishing. (Seriously, wait till you get to number 10.) Here are 15 genuine reasons people have asked for their cinema tickets to be refunded, not all of which were successful…
1. Because the film was silent
Talkies aren’t a new invention. Films have had sound since the late 1920s, so it’s perhaps understandable that, in 2011, cinemagoers weren’t expecting a silent movie. But that’s what they got when they went to see the multi-Academy Award winning film The Artist. A hell of a lot of people asked for their money back for this one, which is kind of sad – it’s a fantastic film. Maybe they thought the cinema’s sound system was just playing up.
2. Because the film had subtitles
Film distributors are often sneaky about the marketing for foreign language movies, sometimes even keeping trailers dialogue-free so that audiences won’t realise what they’re in for until after they’ve paid for a ticket. Recent award-winning movies like Amour and Rust & Bone attracted cinemagoers who were annoyed to find they were expected to read subtitles to understand what was going on. Many cinema staff we spoke to said they now routinely warn people before they buy tickets for foreign language films, to prevent arguments later.
3. Because the film turned out to be a musical
Here’s another sound-related cause for complaint: back in 2007, the trailers for Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street carefully selected dialogue from the movie to try to distract people from the fact that the film was actually – whisper it – a musical. Just like with foreign language movies, the distributors didn’t think as many people would be interested in a musical as a straight horror movie, so they marketed it accordingly. Cue lots and lots of complaints and demands for refunds.
4. Because the film wasn’t what they expected
This is a bit of a catch-all category, but many box office workers said they’d had complaints about several different movies being something other than their titles or trailers suggested. People have asked for refunds because Beowulf turned out to be sort-of-kanimated rather than live action, and because There Will Be Blood wasn’t a horror move. Most famously, a woman in Michigan didn’t just ask for a refund for her cinema ticket, but actually launched a lawsuit against the producers of Drive, because it wasn’t a Fast And Furious style car chase movie.
5. Because the film had a crap ending
Here’s one that our own Ron Hogan would probably agree with: last year, some people asked for their money back after seeing The Devil Inside, and being outraged that it didn’t have a proper ending. Instead, the micro-budget horror movie directs viewers to a website to find out what happens after the film stops. Most cinemas won’t provide a refund if you sit through the whole film, though, and since there’s no way to find out about the terrible ending until you’ve watched the first 83 minutes, this one is probably a lost cause.
6. Because the film made them feel sick
Found-footage shaky-cam movies are pretty commonplace now, and most people know what they’re in for, but back in 1999, The Blair Witch Project took people by surprise. Since the film was shot by the actors as they ran terrified through the woods, it’s all over the place, and apparently a lot of people found it gave them motion sickness, and left the cinema to ask for a refund. (Or maybe they were just too scared to stay in their seats.)
7. Because the film reminded them of a recent tragedy
When Steven Spielberg directed A.I. Artificial Intelligence, he wasn’t thinking about whether potential terrorist attacks would contradict his vision of the future. But when the film was released in the UK on 21 September 2001, one cinemagoer found the scenes where the World Trade Center is shown still standing in the years 2142 and 4142 upsetting, and asked for their money back.
8. Because the film wasn’t suitable for children
As much as we might disagree with the BBFC’s decisions sometimes, its ratings are there for a reason, and can even be useful when you’re deciding which films you should take your kids to see. Some cinema staff reported being asked for refunds for tickets to films like Pan’s Labyrinth (rated 15) and Kick-Ass (also rated 15) because they weren’t allowed to take their young children in to see them.
9. Because they didn’t like the star
If there’s one thing that most people know about the Die Hard franchise, it’s that it stars Bruce Willis. One cinemagoer in the north-west apparently didn’t know that, though, because they asked for a refund for their ticket to A Good Day To Die Hard because they “didn’t like Bruce Willis.” You’d think the giant picture of his face on the poster would’ve been a giveaway, really, wouldn’t you? We’re not even getting into the bizarre idea that there’s someone out there who hates Bruce Willis that much. It doesn’t bear thinking about.
10. Because they’d seen the film before
This seems almost too ridiculous to be true, but the cinema worker who told us about it swears it is, so here goes: one man asked for a refund for his cinema ticket because he’d already seen the film. When staff argued that it was the film’s opening weekend, and thus very unlikely he could have seen it before, he told them that he’d got it from a torrent site. The film in question? Stolen. Seriously.
11. Because they were seated next to their ex
It’s not always a problem with the film itself that leads people to ask for refunds on their cinema tickets. At a cinema with allocated seating, one worker remembered being asked for a refund because the customer had inadvertently ended up buying a ticket for the seat next to their ex. Awkward.
12. Because their old 3D glasses didn’t work
Hands up if you ever remember to take your reusable 3D glasses to the cinema with you to see another 3D movie? No, us neither. But according to one cinema worker, one woman was very annoyed when her old 3D glasses turned out not to be compatible with a new film that was showing. Refusing to buy a new pair, she demanded a refund for her ticket. She should’ve asked us – we’ve got a whole drawer full of different kinds of 3D glasses lying around gathering dust…
13. Because the cinema screen was too big
One of the reasons people go to the cinema to see films rather than waiting for DVD is, surely, the lure of the big screen? But apparently some screens are too big, as one cinema worker told us he was asked for a refund by someone claiming the cinema’s 60ft screen was too big for them to properly watch the film.
14. Because the cinema’s restaurant menu had changed
It’s disappointing when your favourite foods get discontinued, as we know from painful experience. (RIP Pepsi Max Cino!) But while we sympathise, we don’t think the guy who wanted a refund on his ticket because the restaurant associated with the cinema had changed its menu really deserved his money back. Even if he was really, really looking forward to his dinner.
15. Because they’d gone to the wrong cinema
Booking cinema tickets online can be really convenient, and it’s definitely much better than trying to get an automated phone robot to understand which film you’re trying to see. But you do need to be a little bit careful. One cinema worker told us a couple had demanded a refund on their tickets because they’d inadvertently booked themselves into a screening at a cinema across town, and hadn’t realised until it was too late to get there. It’s easily done, but really, they only had themselves to blame.
Know of any more? Keep adding them in the comments below…
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