From Today's NY TIMES
- From: Josiah Gluck <josiah@xxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Fri, 07 Apr 2006 14:37:45 GMT
A sad and true tale...
"The Last Picture Show"
By NORA EPHRON
Published: April 7, 2006
We went to the movies the other night. We live in New York City, where
it costs $10.75 to see a movie, which doesn't include the $1.50
surcharge for buying the tickets ahead of time online. I love buying
tickets ahead of time online. One of the miracles of modern life, as far
as I'm concerned, is that moment when you enter a movie theater, stick
your credit card into a machine and it spits the exact tickets you
ordered straight out at you. Every time it happens, I just want to say,
I don't believe it! This is great!! Wow!!!
On the other hand, it turns out that there's a new technological advance
in the buying-tickets-ahead-of-time department that takes all the fun
out of it: you can now print out your confirmation at home, skip the
machine and go straight to the ticket taker. The ticket taker then scans
your printout and prints the tickets right at the entrance to the
theater, thus holding up all the people behind you in the ticket line
and eliminating the one miraculous moment you used to be able to count
on when going to see a movie.
But the other night, as it turned out, we didn't have to give our
printout to the ticket taker, because when we walked into the theater,
there was no ticket taker. The entrance to the theater was empty of
personnel. The other customers just walked right in without giving their
tickets to anyone, and we did too.
We trooped two flights downstairs to Theater 7, expecting to bump into a
ticket taker on our way to the theater, but we never did. We had also
hoped to buy something to eat, but the lower-level refreshment counter
was closed and the popcorn was just sitting there, getting stale, in a
big cold pile.
I should probably say at this point that the theater we went to was the
Loews Orpheum 7, at 86th Street and Third Avenue in Manhattan. I should
probably also say that the Loews Orpheum 7 is owned by AMC, but it used
to be owned by Loews Cineplex Entertainment Corporation, and when it
was, I was on the company's board.
This was a sad experience in my life because I had modestly hoped, in my
role as a board member, to do something about the unbelievably low
quality of the food sold in movie theaters. As it turned out, no one at
Loews cared about what I thought about the food sold in theaters.
So I dutifully attended the board meetings and was subjected to a series
of PowerPoint presentations that were meant to validate the company's
policy of building costly, large cineplexes, most of them conveniently
situated right across the street from other costly, large cineplexes
being built by rival theater companies.
One day, about two years into my tenure, I was staying in Los Angeles,
in a hotel, and I attended a Loews board meeting by telephone; it was so
boring that I decided to leave for a while and get a manicure downstairs.
When I got back to my room, only 20 minutes later, everyone was
screaming at one another on the telephone. I didn't want to admit I had
left the room ? and by the way, no one had even noticed ? so I listened
for a while and realized that while I'd been out having my nails done,
the company had gone bankrupt.
This was a shock to me and to everyone else on the board. I never did
find out why the news hadn't been mentioned earlier in the board
meeting, but that of course was one of the reasons everyone was
screaming at one another. I mean, there were people on the board whose
companies owned shares in Loews who had just found out that they'd lost
hundreds of millions of dollars as a result of a bankruptcy no one had
even had the courtesy to warn them about. It wasn't even on the agenda!
A few months later some investors from Canada and California bought
Loews at a bargain basement price. A couple of years later, AMC
Entertainment took over, and as far as I can tell it has done nothing
whatsoever to improve the food sold at the refreshment counter or
Anyway, the other night. We passed the shuttered refreshment counter,
went into the theater and sat down. The ads were already playing. There
were quite a few of them, including a diet cola ad involving trucks and
motorcycles that was so in love with itself that it actually recommended
going to a special Web site that explained how the ad had been made.
Then, suddenly, the sound turned off and the screen went completely
dark. Several minutes passed. The theater was three-quarters full, but
no one moved. In some strange and inexplicable way, I felt responsible.
I stood up and went two flights upstairs. A ticket taker had
materialized and was now taking tickets. I told her that the system in
Theater 7 had shut down. She looked at me blankly. I asked her if she
would tell someone about it. She said she would and went on taking
tickets. I stood there waiting. After a couple of minutes, when the
customers had all passed through, she yelled out, "Projection, is there
something wrong in Theater 7?" I went back downstairs.
The system started up again. The trailers began. I noticed that there
was a large band of white light across the bottom of the screen and that
the images of the actors were all cut off in the middle of their
I left the theater and walked upstairs again. The ticket taker was still
there. I asked her if she would ask the projectionist to reframe the
movie. Once again she looked at me blankly, so I asked again. She
promised she would. I waited until she walked off in the direction of
the unseen projectionist. By the time I got back to my seat, the image
on screen had been reframed, although not perfectly, but by then I was
too exhausted by my heroism to complain further.
The movie began. It was out of sync, but hey, it was a good movie. And
it was only slightly out of sync. Besides, there was a huge amount of
cutting and action, so you could sort of live with its being out of
sync. Then, in the last 20 minutes, the movie became noticeably,
extraordinarily, unbelievably out of sync. But it was almost over. And I
didn't want to leave my seat for fear I might miss something.
Afterward, on my way out of the theater, I asked if I could speak to the
manager. She turned out to be on maternity leave. I asked if I could
speak to the assistant manager. There was no assistant manager on duty.
So I ended up with my old friend, the ticket taker, who was, as you can
imagine, thrilled to see me again. I told her that the last reel of the
movie we had just seen was out of sync and that they might want to fix
it before the next show began. She promised me they would.
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