Ah, the cinema. Where lovers of the moving image can gather together in front of a big screen, with the best sound, to enjoy an anticipated movie. The chairs are comfy, the atmosphere’s convivial, and the movie’s a masterpiece.
This, at least, is the ideal scenario. Except going to the cinema is rarely like this, largely because there are so many variables. When you think about it, a pleasant moviegoing experience is reliant on a confluence of things all happening at once: the people around you behaving themselves, the theatre’s equipment functioning correctly, and the film itself living up to expectations.
Invariably, one or all of these things can go wrong – sometimes horribly so. That’s why just about everyone who’s been to the cinema a few times will have their own dreadful cinemagoing experience. Here, some of Den Of Geek’s writers gather together to relate their own sorry tales…
SNAKES ON A PLANE
I suppose I’m lucky not to have had too many terrible cinema audiences. The one that really sticks in my mind was pretty terrible, but also kind of improved the experience.
I remember going to the masterpiece that is Snakes On A Plane at the dearly departed Empire cinema in Ealing. A group of loud urban teenagers sat behind us, and just basically commentated on the film the whole way through. Had it been a better film, this would have been annoying, but since it was Snakes On A goddamn Plane, it was kind of endearing.
The pièce de résistance, or maybe nadir depending how you look at it, came during a scene where the snakes get into the airplane bathroom while a couple are getting it on, and a snake goes for the guy’s genitalia. This blew the minds of the kids behind us, and one of the literally jumped out his seat and shouted at the top of his voice “OH MY GOD THAT SNAKE BIT HIS CHAP OFF, YEAH!”
Considering Snakes On A Plane was trying to be new cult hit (and failed completely), ‘Snake bit his chap off’ turned out to be far more memorable and quotable than anything in the film itself.
A BRIDGE TOO FAR
I’ve had some bad cinema experiences, but the worst by far was during A Bridge Too Far, at the now defunct Classic Cinema in Hoylake on the Wirral. It was a packed house, and the lights went down on what I was expecting to be a dramatic and action-packed production. Except I’d failed to notice the two imbecilic teenage girls sat two rows in front of me, who laughed at everything. They laughed when someone died, they chuckled when someone was serious. It was like they were watching a comedy, while everyone else was watching a drama.
Initially there was the usual round of shushing, but they carried on regardless.
The whole audience became really annoyed, with people shouting obscenities at them, which they totally ignored. Eventually, at least 90 minutes in to the now ruined movie, the manager was summoned and told them to be quiet. They ignored him, and giggled away for another 20 minutes or so. He was called back and they were eventually ejected, causing a spontaneous round of applause and one person to shout “you’re a bloody disgrace” as they were marched out.
That event marginally topped another movie I saw at that cinema where someone drunk on the back row opened a Party-7 (yes, the 70s) with a spade, causing the whole three back rows to be drenched in warm Skol.
And, the classic childhood experience when my older sister was given the job of taking me and my friend to see 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, but took us to the wrong cinema and film. So that we missed half of that movie once we’d realised the mistake, and for many years I was no wiser how our heroes got on the Nautilus in the first place.
I’ve had the couples making out, the non-stop chatterers, the people threatening to beat you up after you’ve asked them to be a bit quieter, and of course the laser pointers. I’ve also had shaky projection leaving me with a headache, bright lights, burst speakers, and on one occasion the wrong film entirely. Cinemagoing can be quite harrowing.
But for me personally, I think my all-time worst cinemagoing experience was when I went to see The Road. Not exactly the most joyful film to begin with, my viewing of it entered a new level of despair when about halfway through a drunk man stumbled in and collapsed in a seat a few rows away from me.
At first, our smartly dressed but inebriated friend seemed harmless. He gently slumbered for about half an hour before waking up. Then he let rip. Literally. He proceeded to let loud, long, farts go, but only during the most bleak scenes of the film. It was like a piece of performance art, deliberately puncturing the misery on-screen with bottom burp hilarity. And then, during the horrendous cannibal sequence, he let something go that sounded so wet and disgusting, followed by a hideous stink, that I swear he must have – there’s no easy way to say this – ‘followed through’. Then he howled with laughter.
A few years ago I went to see Neil Jordan’s In Dreams at the Trocadero Odeon. Sadly, it had not been marketed very well, and the room was almost empty with about three people sitting in to watch the movie, and it really felt as though the cinema itself could not be bothered for such a small audience.
I personally like to have plenty of space around me, but the movie-going experience was ruined by an incredibly low volume, I strained to hear and understand what the characters were saying, and no, they were not whispering. Also, the movie just stopped and the lights came on on a couple of random occasions. I was incensed, there was obviously a problem somewhere, but the movie, which I actually loved, was really ruined by the carelessness of the establishment.
And of course, In Dreams itself was gone in about two weeks. Not surprising, if that screening was anything to go by…
X-MEN: THE LAST STAND
My worst cinema-going experience was a mid-afternoon showing of X-Men: The Last Stand (and before anyone asks, the film itself wasn’t the problem!).
As the film started, I noticed a couple of ‘mildly sloshed’ people sitting in one of the front rows, talking in loud, slurred voices, despite the early hour. While there were dozens of other people in the cinema too, these guys carried on throughout the first 15 minutes or so of the film as if they had the place all to themselves: one of them tried to explain the plot to the other, and did a decent job, given how wasted they were. At some point, they took a couple of cans from their bags and embarked on an infuriating cheap-lager-fuelled commentary.
Other people tried shouting at them to shut up, but they took no notice. Finally, one of the young men sitting behind me got up, walked out, and returned a minute later, followed by a couple of staff-members, who then ever-so-politely tried to coax the drunks out of the room. They seemed pretty reluctant to go, but the staff persevered and managed to get them away (I think they bribed them with a refund). As they took them out, I led an applause – and was delighted when everyone else joined in.
William Friedkin’s infamous 1973 film The Exorcist returned to cinemas in 1998 to celebrate its 25th anniversary. I’d never seen it before, largely because, in the UK, the film hadn’t been widely available on VHS since 1988. So when I learned that The Exorcist was showing in my local cinema on Halloween – at a midnight screening, no less – I eagerly booked some tickets for me and my girlfriend. What better way, I thought, to see a classic horror film by one of the finest directors of 70s American cinema than on a big screen on Halloween night?
Big mistake. I’d foolishly assumed that everyone filing into the theatre would be filled with the same anticipation as I was. Instead, most of the audience was filled with beer and cider, having just spilled out of a nearby pub at closing time. Several people were carrying kebabs or fast food containers. By the time the film had started, the room was already a miasma of burger smells, booze and flatulence. Then the laughing began.
They giggled at Ellen Burstyn’s 70s fashions. They tittered whenever Linda Blair swore. They hooted at the makeup effects and chortled at the projectile vomit. Then the spinning head scene came along, and people were practically collapsing in the aisles in fits.
It’s fair to say the horrifying effect of Friedkin’s film was tarnished quite a bit by the audience’s reaction, and it was only when I saw the film again on DVD that I could finally appreciate its impact without the distraction of a live laughter track. On the BBFC’s website, the board has this to say about its decision to allow The Exorcist to appear uncut on DVD:
“Film technique and special effects had moved on a long way since , and audiences – including (or especially) teenagers brought up on a range of modern multi-media output – were less likely to be affected.”
The audience I saw The Exorcist were definitely affected – just not in the way its makers had anticipated. I’ve never been to another Halloween screening since.
My worst cinema experience was back in the day when UCI Cinema still existed. I had gone to see Legally Blonde and all was well through the adverts and trailers and then, as the movie started, a really strange thing began to occur. The group of girls sitting behind me had gotten just a bit louder rather than quieter because as it turned out only one of them spoke English, thus began a blow by blow translation of the movie that was playing out before us.
This dumbstruck me in a couple of ways. Firstly why an earth would you pay £7-odd (remember this was 2001) to watch a movie you couldn’t understand and secondly why an earth would you think it was okay to translate, rather loudly I might add as she needed to be heard OVER THE FILM WE HAD ALL PAID TO SEE UNINTERRUPTED, which will inevitable end up enraging anybody sitting within earshot around you.
Words were exchanged and dirty looks given and eventually before Elle made it to Harvard they had moved right to the back on the cinema a good way away from anybody who may feel the need to dump a large bucket of popcorn on their head.
THE DESCENT: PART 2
It’s a great shame that when asked to contribute to this list, the problem wasn’t trying to think of an awful experience, it was trying to narrow it down. Bad behaviour in the IMAX has led me to shouting at a variety of people in frustration, especially when the ticket prices and advance booking should wean out any casual viewers – from the couple cooing and discussing the many locations in Skyfall (I don’t care if you’ve been there yourself), to the youths chatting through Transformers 2 which was already an irritant without any extra help.
What’s worse is that sometimes a bad viewing can tarnish the film without you even realising, such as the guy translating most of Rocky Balboa to his girlfriend until I snapped, as adrenaline hits such a high point its near impossible to relax back into the film. In the case of Rocky Balboa, when I finally watched it again at home the film was far better than I remembered, making for an entirely different viewpoint on what I thought of it. And it’s for that reason that I think The Descent: Part 2 wins out.
To this day Descent 2 remains the only film review I’ve written that has no star rating and it was a direct result of the idiots jeering behind me. Having re-lived the horror (of the experience, not the film) by reading the review again which you can do here it was disheartening to see people all sharing equally awful stories, which I’m sure the comments below will reflect yet again. I don’t see it getting any better in years to come either, especially with the desire to share everything immediately via social media, resulting in so many people failing to enjoy the moment they’re supposed to be a part of. Still, on the upside home cinema technology is more affordable than ever and Michael Bay’s movies mean that cinema is still turning a healthy profit, so we’ll always be able to purchase them if we all start boycotting our multiplexes… ahem.
Not a bad little film, Threesome. Starring Lara Flynn Boyle, Stephen Baldwin and Josh Charles, it was written and directed by Andrew Fleming, and followed three students who ended up living together. And yeah, as the title suggests, they get to know each other reasonably well.
Still, this is more a drama than a muck-fest, but news of that hadn’t spread to two of the patrons of a Preston-based multiplex, where I happened to catch the film. Thus, they rather audibly attempted to enrich the, er, ‘surround sound experience’ with some loud fumbling of their own. And they were on the front row.
At first, they were roughly in tandem with on-screen events – no small feat that. However, they lost their rhythm, and what begin as a chuckle-fest ended up with an audience member trying to polite ask them to procreate in another part of Preston. The film, by this stage, was ruined of course. I’ve since watched it with notably less rumping and pumping, and can confirm it’s really not bad.
Share your own happy cinemagoing experiences in the comments below…
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