A Tale of Two Theaters: A Non-Review of Get Out
by Matthew Pedone
I was going to write my thoughts on the movie, but I didn’t see it. Instead, I'm going to write about the importance of double checking.
This is the most I've seen of the movie to date.
I love online ticketing, especially for theaters with reserved seating. It helps you get the best seats without having to be at the theater two hours early, and, although you can’t account for walk-up sales, you can get an estimate of how crowded the theater is going to be. This is particularly good if you want to go to a movie with a crowd. Now, if you know me well, you’re probably a little surprised that I would want to see a movie in a crowded theater. Well, first off, these theaters aren’t exactly crowded anymore. The plush armchairs they’ve replaced the seats with mean that you can have strangers on either side of you, and never feel trapped. Second, there are some movies that need to be seen with a crowd. Really, all movies tend to be better with a crowd.
There are pitfalls to a crowded theater. People talk. People use their phones. Jerks kick the back of your seat. Sometimes, if the movie isn’t very good, members of the audience will openly mock it (something which I predict will increase this spring and summer, after the revived Mystery Science Theater 3000 returns to Netflix, and people try to emulate Jonah and the bots; worth the risk, in my opinion). Some parents bring kids, especially to movies aimed for them, like Disney movies, and not all kids are well-behaved, or quiet.
There is an energy to a crowded theater, though, especially when the movie is good. You get oohs, and ahhs, and laughter, and screams. Comedies are funnier, action movies more intense, meaningful movies a little deeper. Seeing George Takei’s Allegiance in a theater surrounded by people was even more moving, as I wasn’t the only one tearing up. Seeing Hidden Figures in a crowded theater added to the drama and humor, as you could hear reactions around you, including the one young woman who was so moved during the after Octavia Spencer subtly turned Kirsten Dunst’s words in the bathroom back against her, she felt the need to punctuate the moment by exclaiming, “BURN!” It was perfect.
So, when I heard numerous people, including Chris Hardwick and Bradley Whitford champion the idea of seeing the movie Get Out, I understood what they meant. I wasn’t sure about going to see the movie at all. I’d seen the first trailer, and it didn’t register much. College kid meets his girlfriend’s parents, sinister stuff happens, horror movie. I’m not big into horror movies. For one thing, my wife doesn’t like them, and I like to share stuff with her. If I’m going to drag her to a movie she might not like, I’m more likely to drag her to Lego Batman, where she can at least marvel (heh) at the technical achievement of the movie, and won’t be grossed out/scared.
Then, I found out it was directed by Jordan Peele. His directorial debut. I didn’t watch much Key and Peele, but what I did watch, I found hilarious. I thought Keanu looked funny (still haven’t watched it yet; I’ll get there eventually). I was as little surprised that this guy, known so much for his comedy had decided to make a horror movie. After hearing him talk about the on the Nerdist podcast, I realized that this might be a little deeper than the typical blood-and-guts jumpscare-fest. I started to think that I might actually enjoy it.
My wife works nights, 7pm to 7am, three nights a week. I work days, Monday through Friday. Nights she works, I help her get off to work, and then I have the night to myself. Usually, I do stuff around the house, try to do some writing, maybe play some video games. I do stuff that I don’t do when she’s home, because when she’s home, I like to spend time with her. I decided that one of the nights she worked last week, I would go to the movies, and finally see Get Out.
It had been out for a few weeks by this point, so I was glad to be able to check the available seats, and see how crowded the theater would be. Thursday turned out to be a bust. One showing had two seats sold, the rest were empty. I pushed it off to Friday. My closest theater was still turning out to be pretty empty, but one of the others, a little further away was nearly packed (and a smaller auditorium). Only the first two rows were available. I picked a seat in the middle of the second row, and bought it.
That day, it snowed. Not a big storm, just a dusting, but some areas were icier than others. As a result, I misjudged the amount of time it would take me to get to the theater. Fortunately, I managed to avoid getting stuck behind the highway plow trucks, or I’d never have made it to the theater for the 7:45 start time. As it was, I walked through the theater doors at 7:43. By another stroke of what I thought at the time was good fortune, the theater lobby was empty.
Let’s pause here, and talk about the local theaters. Growing up, General Cinemas was THE local theater chain. They opened a fancy new multiplex in Hooksett, just north of the city, and it quickly became THE place to see the latest big releases. When Lucas re-released the original Star Wars trilogy, that’s where we saw them. In the late 90’s, the theater fell on hard times. At some point, the chain had been sold to Regal Theaters, and a bunch of the local theaters had closed. This one theater subsisted, but became a second-run theater, showing popular movies months after they’d left the big theaters, and at a discounted rate. Which, frankly, was awesome. It was pretty bare-bones, but for the price, it couldn’t be beat.
Precipitating Regal’s decline was a Cinemagic Theaters franchise moving in up the street. Offering stadium seating and the city’s first IMAX screen, it devoured Regal’s customers. Another Cinemagic opened in Merrimack, and the pair of theaters became the dominant places to see movies in this area. Over time, though, Regal re-gained its footing, and renovated, thinning down the seating, and installing large, plush leather reclining seats. They also started selling tickets with reserved seating (which the Cinemagic in Merrimack would copy a couple of years later). So, now there are two first-run theaters in Hooksett. One, a Cinemagic, where we go for Cult Classics and movies like Avatar that need to be watched in IMAX, and the Regal 8, which I completely forget exists.
Want to guess which one I bought tickets for?
Okay, now guess which theater I walked into at 7:43.
Yeah, I bought tickets for the Regal 8, and went to Cinemagic. By the time the theater manager pointed out my error, it was 7:47. The Regal is an 8-minute drive from Cinemagic in good weather, and having watched cars CREEEEP up the hill I’d have to drive, I knew that time would be doubled, if not tripled. The manager and his employee (who’d initially looked up my ticket) were both very gracious about my mistake. The manager suggested I just watch it there (for free), and I’d have taken him up on the offer, but their showing had started 40 minutes earlier.
The good news is that I had already bought my popcorn, so I took it home and enjoyed it while watching Parks & Recreation on Netflix (though, really, I should have found some Key & Peele).
So, I will get to see this movie, and I might post a review of it here, but just not yet. You can be sure that the next time I buy a movie ticket online, I will be triple checking the theater name!