Film & Water #162 – The Big Scream


Episode 162 - THE BIG SCREAM

Rob and former AMC Theaters manager Frankie Viturello discuss the problems of seeing movies on the big screen in the 21st Century. Is it still worth the cost, the effort, and the hassle?

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14 responses to “Film & Water #162 – The Big Scream

  1. It’s just so sad that there are so many people who don’t know how to behave in public. Movie theaters, stores or restaurants. With the cost of going to see a movie today, I just don’t understand why people spend the money to NOT WATCH THE MOVIE!
    Go to a coffee house or McDonalds if you want to “hang out” and talk with your friends. Take your children to a park, if you want to talk on the phone while you kids want to run around and play. Those are the places to do that.
    There is no excuse for poor behavior in a movie theater. Every single movie is preceded with a PSA about talking and cell phone use.

  2. That was a great conversation, and I appreciate the look behind the scenes from the Theater Manager’s perspective. My question is: Do we think that obnoxious behavior has actually gotten worse, or are we just noticing it more as get older and new outlets for obnoxiousness come into being (smartphones, etc)? I almost feel like the ability to freely and easily watch so much content at home has led to an uptick in people acting like they are just sitting around their living rooms when they’re in the theater, as the “divide” between “being at the movies” and “being at home” is getting more and more blurry in people’s minds.

    1. I think it’s a combo–we notice things more, but people feel comfortable behaving in ways that probably would not have been acceptable before, And of course the addition of cellphones that we’re all so attached to only exacerbates the problem.

  3. Great discussion, Rob and Frankie. I had a similar experience to yours Rob, decades ago. Cindy and I went to see live-action The Flintstones film at our local theater. A lady sat down behind us with a gaggle of kids, and they proceeded to talk loudly, move around a lot, and worst of all, open up bags of chips and cans of sodas they snuck into the theater.

    Knowing the management was very lax at the time, I decided not to tell anyone working there, but we did get up and move. The movie wasn’t great, but this didn’t help.

    As for telling management of a problem, I hate to say going local bit me in the butt on Infinity War. I talked my kids into going to that same local theater for the first Thursday preview night showing. It would be easier to do during a work/school week, and we’d be supporting local businesses. Unfortunately, the digital projector was somewhat off, and everything red in the film had was orange, and the rest of the colors were desaturated. It was like seeing a Marvel film shot by Zack Snyder.

    I went and told someone at the concession counter, but nothing was done about it. It was a packed theater too. As much as I want to support these folks, many of whom are personal friends in my community, I just can’t risk seeing an “important” film there for the first time again. So we’re not going there for Endgame, even though they are having it opening day as well.

    I’m sure a big chain would have fixed the problem, and restarted the film. We saw Bumblebee at a Cinemark theater a while back, and they quickly fixed the problem when the presentation suddenly stopped mid-movie.


      1. Chris–Yeah, as I mentioned on the show, there are some theaters I won’t be “important” movies at because I know the crowds are generally too rowdy for my tastes. There is NO WAY I’m going to go see, for instance, A:EG in the same place I saw Hateful Eight, where the crowd was there to do everything BUT watch the movie.

        That said, I don’t think you missed a lot being distracted from The Flintstones.

  4. This was a very special episode. Loved hearing someone who’s worked this mess we call the movie going experience’s side of things.

    It’s gotten to the point where I just dread going to the theater as I assume someone’s going to ruin it.

    I disagree with your cohost on Thor 2. It was awful. AWFUL. Awful.

    Glad we heard Rob say “Cleh-ssic” before he takes his hiatus.

  5. I spent years telling people to shut up in theaters, fetching staff, etc… usually to have the talker just start talking about “how dare that person tell me to be quiet”. But now… It’s not 100% perfect, but Alamo Drafthouse that you guys played at the beginning is pretty merciless about “no phones, no talking”. They absolutely do deal with the situation (you can raise a flag, it’s a place that serves food, so there’s a table and flag system for food). But the point is, if that flag comes up a second time, people really do get kicked out – or remove themselves in a silent, stomping rage. That’s corporate policy – you get kicked out and no refund. It’s a sign of respect to the movies and to the other 200 people who could sit in the movie and not be nuisance for 2 hours. I will say – every time a new Alamo opens, it’s 6-12 months before people figure it out and settle in, and the flagship is kind of terrible as its in a touristy part of town and you can’t train people on a first visit (and people want to say they had a beer at the movies, I guess). But, yeah, I literally won’t go anywhere else at this point because everyone, even our local grand old theater, just doesn’t want to actually enforce their own policies.

    What’s weird is how many people who don’t have an Alamo hear that message at the beginning of this podcast (which they used to play before movies, btw, with R and PG-13 versions), and are just horrified that a company would do such a thing. They just can’t believe anyone would be so rude to customers – which is mind-bending to me. “The customer is always right” does not work when you’re wrecking things for everyone else giving you money.

  6. This is why I love podcasts- interesting discussion that goes deeper than any other medium. With no personal experience of how the theater business works, so informative to hear from an insider. This is a universal problem that most of us run into, I am glad you broke format of talking about a specific movie for this topic.

    These challenges and headaches in the theater just make me want to double down and support the theaters even more since it is apparent the experience really is at risk. I hate to think of losing it!

    Also, I have really enjoyed this ‘season’ of Film and Water- lots of oddball movies and great guests! Will miss it during the break but it will be worth it to get back to the 4077th (and hopefully the mountain cabin, and maybe even Metropolis?)

  7. This was a terrific discussion. I really appreciated hearing Frankie’s tales from the cinema. I was reflecting on how little I go out to the movies. I think it, going to the movies, is like a habit. I am out of the habit. Other people go regularly. I guess that that population would contain avid movie-lovers, people who have FOMO about popular films, and folks who go to the movies because that is what they do. While there is very likely an overlap among all three, it seems that the latter two categories too often disrupt the enjoyment of those in the first group.
    For me, when I do get the opportunity to go out to the movies, I usually choose a revival house, or art cinema, or whatever the current term is. More than likely, the audience will consist of folks who want to see that film, and not the disrupters. I can’t speak to the economic model, but I think there will always be a place for folks who want to see movies among a group of like minded people. I was able to take my pre-teen daughter to see “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” at a theater where it was screened at the proper size. The house was packed with a very appreciative audience, and the laughter was infectious and much greater than the home experience.
    Also, I’m a cheap bastard, and I can’t justify paying that much money for junk snacks!

  8. Very cool idea for a podcast. I want you to know that I never hold theater employees responsible for the bad behavior of the patrons, it’s all on them, but Frankie makes some excellent points about people who just haven’t been “socialized” for those circumstances. I’ve gotten some doozies over the years, perhaps my favorite being the person who bought a rotisserie chicken at the grocery store across the street and proceeded to it entirely while watching the movie. Disgusting, but not quite as noisy as the one who bought a full box of Vachon cakes (our equivalent of Hostess), and ate that, unwrapping the crinkly paper to get at another cake every few minutes. But noisy eaters are of course nothing compared to talkers, texters, and others sinners.

    We go often enough that we have a specific vocabulary for theater patrons:

    Muggles: Simply the folks who aren’t invested in movies, certainly not as cinema. They’re the ones who are up and out the door at the merest whiff of an end credit sequence. Possibly, they have tiny bladders, I don’t know, but I’ve seen them put their coats on when it LOOKED like it was the last scene, even if the next fade took us to an epilogue or a twisty last act.

    The Madding Crowd: Named after a truly horrendous showing of Far from the Madding Crowd. These are the talkers or bright light texters. They laugh at the wrong things. The explain the movie to each other. They make grand and loud pronouncements that are only ever obvious, like “It was him all along!” or “He’s hiding behind the bush” (while the lurker is shown to be behind the bush). They may also be noisy eaters, their favorite trick is crinkling their popcorn bag open and closed during the movie from fear it might lose its freshness. A large portion of the Madding Crowd is made up of seniors and their not so young themselves daughters.

    Nerdsplainers: They go to sequels, geek movies, book adaptations, and biopics armed with foreknowledge which they must share with their neighbors loudly enough that you hear it.

    Weirdest we’ve seen: This happened to Lonely Hearts’ Marty. Guy sits next to him (full house) and proceeds to fiddle around with his (Marty’s) water bottle in the armrest for the length of the movie. He didn’t think it was his or anything. He didn’t bring anything in, and left it there.

    Speaking of which, can I just say I hate it when people leave their garbage where they sat? There are bins at the exit, that should be hint enough. I know employees sweep the room, but that’s because it’s easy to drop pop corn on the floor. It’s not license to THROW you bag down so your uneaten corn sprays all over the place. Never mind the idiots who smuggled in a pizza a couple weeks back and left the box.

    My only note to employees, well-meaning though they may be: Don’t come into the theater during the credits to tell me there’s no end-credit sequence. I stay to the very end, no matter what. I don’t want to have a conversation about it with you, it’s my process.

    Again great show. Listened a while back, but had a lot to say, so sorry if I took my time.

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