It’s rather odd, I was about to enter the cinema a few weeks ago to catch a screening of White House Down, the place was fairly empty and I suddenly thought, “it’s been quite a while since I’ve seen a big problem occur during a screening”
And then, as fate would have it, about fifteen minutes from the film’s end, right in the middle of an extended action sequence, the theatre lights came on for no apparent reason, then the film cut out. This was fixed in about one minute and the film was resumed but it got me thinking. What if this had happened during a pivotal moment in a really good film?
This isn’t by any means the first time a problem has occurred while I’ve been watching a film in the cinema. Sure everyone’s had bad experiences like having a terrible seat or missing the beginning but that’s kind of your own fault. I’m talking about when the cinema itself fails.
During a screening of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (hardly a good film I know), the whole first 10-15 minutes of the film were projected onto the floor. When they got it fixed they didn’t re-start the film so I’ve still never seen the opening, only heard it. In a similar manner, screenings of I, Robot and several other films I saw around 2003/2004 began projected at an incorrect ratio, with the top and bottom of the screen not visible. Both were fixed after someone complained but were not restarted and no compensation was offered. A few years later, while watching Flags of our Fathers at an art house cinema, the film came to an abrupt stop about half way through. An attendant quickly appeared and profusely apologised but we had to wait a good 10 minutes before the film started again. While that was a better film than the others, it stopping was not a huge problem. I still always have a little concern though, whenever there’s a film I’m really excited about, that something might go horribly wrong with the projection and take me out of the movie.
On the other hand, there are occasions when a film-going experience can be adversely affected by others in the auditorium. I’ve had several occasions of people answering phones, including once the person sat next to me in a sold-out screening.
The thing that bothers me the most often nowadays though is texting smartphone users. Last year, while watching The Dark Knight Rises (a film that is both very good and I was very excited for), someone sitting the row in front of me took out their smartphone around every five minutes to reply to text messages on it. It was so annoying that I was strongly tempted to start kicking the back of their seat every time they did it (I refrained).
This is the most common problem for me nowadays in the cinema, almost every time I go someone takes out a smartphone at some point or other.
Still, I’m sure many people have had far worse experiences than I have, and considering how frequently I go to the cinema I’ve probably been quite fortunate. I’ve never had a truly disastrous cinema experience.