I'm aware at how this may sound to those of you reading at home. Who cares about movie theaters, you may ask. It's a decision that is usually made for you- whatever is closest to you, or, in our small town, the only one that exists! Your options are often limited, so why be picky, right?
WRONG. In fact, I feel so strongly about this, that Adam and I vow to not put one penny into an AMC or a Carmike Cinemas in 2014.
I've always loved movies, and so has Adam, so when we started dating, we started seeking out new independent films, which are only available about an hour away, over the Kansas line, at a group of theaters called The Fine Arts Group. Since we discovered these four wonderful theaters, Adam and I find ourselves often- driving a solid sixty minutes just to watch a movie!
On Christmas Day, Adam and I were in town with our family so we planned to see The Wolf of Wall Street at the local theater, a Carmike. In our town of 20,000, Carmike is the only option within 30 minutes, and they're very particular about what they show. Over the years I have only been surprised once at an independent movie they chose to screen. Everything is run-of-the-mill, and perfectly suited for the kind of people that purchase those big popcorn buckets. They show the blockbusters. (And once in awhile, really creepy conservative, Christian films, and sometimes, operas).
Adam & I are just not those kind of people that want to be contained to just blockbusters.
Let me explain.
Christmas Day was a perfect example of the kind of people that frequent the movies at Carmike & AMCs. They arrive late, with their huge popcorn & large sodas, squeaky plastic Twizzlers. They squeeze into rows while the previews are screening. They chat during the previews. Their phones glow as the lights are already lowered. They talk LOUD. They laugh even LOUDER. They are the kind of people that think that because they paid $10 for a movie ticket, they can do whatever the hell they want. And you know what, they can.
So we arrive early, select our seats, and we encounter two patrons right away. One was on his cell phone having a very loud conversation about family medical history, and the second was having an equally loud conversation while chewing through his popcorn bucket. We moved toward the front of the theater, and were comfortable- until a big ol hot mess of inebriated blonde hair stumbled in. She and her boyfriend talked at conversational level throughout the entire movie- and every funny part was accompanied by her throwing her body forward and back in a dramatic display of excitement. About an hour and a half after the movie started- I had had enough, and told the staff. They sent someone in who stood there for about five minutes- and Blondie calmed down. This happened three times, until someone behind her had enough and called her out on it. Then- something that never happens, occurred- several groups of people chimed in and told her that she was being ridiculous- and she didn't say another word for the rest of the evening.
Why is this such an issue at these theaters? Because even though the passive-aggressive "Don't talk; don't text, turn your cell phone down" commercials play before the movie, this group is desensitized to those warnings. Why wouldn't they be? Who's going to enforce those rules? The staff? On the rare occasions that I have had to complain to the staff, it's so very ineffective because the offender cools it while the staff stands there- and then continues when they leave. I have never seen a staff member escort a patron out in an AMC or a Carmike.
It doesn't have to be this way. There's a chain of movie theaters called Alamo Drafthouse. Their policy is strict on what they tolerate and what they don't: No talking. No texting. No exceptions. Even Madonna was recently banned from an Alamo Drafthouse after texting during "Twelve Years a Slave" at the New York Film Festival. (Read the story here)
Why don't theaters such as Carmike & AMC adopt a similar policy- and actually enforce it? I think that it's because they're worried about alienating movie-goers if they come on too strongly. I call BS on this- and here's why. NOBODY likes a talker or texter during a movie. It's annoying & distracting. And I've talked to several people that have said that they refuse to go to movies because of the experience (and the price- but that's a topic for another day). I, too, feel let down if I spend money and 2 hours at a movie with an incessant talker.
Which brings me to: Our 2014 Vow. After leaving the movie theater this evening, Adam said to me what I was already thinking: "I think this is the last time we come to Carmike." He took the thought right out of my head! (One of the most amazing things I love about him: he can read me like no other.) At that point we vowed to only spend our money at Independent theaters, which are far superior, and here's why:
#1. Everyone arrives early! At the Fine Arts theaters, I have rarely had the displeasure of having to scoot over, bend my legs, hold my breath while late-comers squeeze by with their plethora of snacks.
#2: No One Talks- Ever! My absolute favorite reason to go to these theaters. The crowd is so different- usually middle-aged to older (Adam and I are usually about 10-15 years younger than the crowd). Let's face it. Most of the troublemakers in movie theaters are 21 and younger. It's gotten so bad that I don't even attend a PG-13 movie anymore, unless it's at the 1:00 pm daytime matinee!
#3: They show independent films, as well as blockbusters! The beauty of these theaters is that they show both the movies that are offered at AMC and Carmike, as well as the wonderful independent films that change your life.
#4: It's the SAME PRICE as an AMC or Carmike! One of the biggest reasons that people tell me when I share with them the greatness that is Fine Arts Group, is that they are too expensive. Ha. They are the exact same price- $8-10 for an evening ticket, around $5 for the matinee.
#5: It's generally a fun place to be. I love these theaters because of their nostalgia. Back when going to the theater was a treat, patrons reveled in the paisley carpet, the buttery smell of popcorn, the velvet seats. Adam and I truly love movies- and the film experience- and I feel so at home here. We love these theaters so much, that Adam actually proposed at the Glenwood Arts in 2012!
I encourage you to try an independent movie theater. I am leaving you with a list of some movies that we have seen in the last year at the Fine Arts theaters that were not available at our mainstream theater. Check them out and let them impact your life, as they have impacted ours. (Click on the links for trailers!)