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Ford: Going to the movies — larger and louder than ever before

Calgary Herald logo Calgary Herald 2022-07-27 Catherine Ford
A movie like Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris provides wonderful entertainment, but movie theatres also serve up several annoyances, writes Catherine Ford. Postmedia photo. © Provided by Calgary Herald A movie like Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris provides wonderful entertainment, but movie theatres also serve up several annoyances, writes Catherine Ford. Postmedia photo.

It’s been at least five years since I’ve been inside a movie theatre; last week reminded me why.

Did the movies get larger and louder, or did my life get smaller and quieter? Maybe both.

Gloria Swanson’s famous line as the silent screen actress Norma Desmond in the 1951 movie Sunset Boulevard — “I am  big. It’s the  pictures that got small” — was just a prediction about the small screens that dominate our technologically intertwined lives today. Certainly, movies on one’s television aren’t the visual or sensory experience that surround-sound and larger-than-life figures portrayed on huge theatre screens are. Television has its own advantages; being able to adjust the sound being one of the best, followed closely by the fact no viewer is forced to pay attention to the ads. Even better, streaming services eliminate the latter — for the moment.

The downside is all the rest of the big screen “experience” that so irritates me and anyone else who figures paying for a comfortable seat in a theatre should cover the cost of showing the film. (But then, I’m an optimist who occasionally forgets about the need for ever-increasing investor profits.) Maybe younger theatregoers are not bothered by the visual and acoustic distractions. Maybe a younger set is so accustomed to having their senses bombarded — thanks Super Mario et al — that noise washes over them.

I don’t remember needing earplugs to hear without an accompanying headache or rapid-fire action shots designed to grab my attention. But that’s not the whole story.

The movie, Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris (a remake of the 1992 Angela Lansbury movie of the same name), was wonderful, made even better by going to a matinee with a girlfriend and getting the senior’s discount. But is it a movie every woman could relate to, worth all the minor irritations that come with it? I’m serious about “every woman.” Who among us hasn’t lusted for that one beautiful dress or pair of shoes or that statement piece of jewelry? This movie will make you sigh and cry and feel good. Leave the menfolk at home; they surely will not understand the frisson of pleasure seeing the Christian Dior fashion show parade will elicit from you.

It was all the surrounding irritations that will keep me away from the movies for maybe another five years. (That will depend when the Julia Roberts/George Clooney movie Ticket to Paradise arrives in a local theatre. I reserve the right to quell my anger at the acoustic and visual bombardments to see it on a large screen. Call me a hypocrite; so be it.)

Meanwhile, if any of the irritations could be eliminated, I’d go back to the movies in a flash. However, at least 20 minutes of commercial advertising preceding the showing seems excessive. Just when one thinks maybe the movie is starting, another irritating ad is foisted on a captive audience. This isn’t anything new, but it never ceases to annoy, just as being asked for a “donation” at the check-out counter in a grocery store is irritating. But that’s another column. (Incidentally, “no,” is my standard answer. If a charity wants a donation, it can ask me personally, when I haven’t just handed over a couple of hundred dollars for food to a third party.)

Movie tickets, as regulars know only too well, range from just under — a penny under — $14 for an adult ticket to a regular screening. Two kids and two adults might get away with less than $50 for admission, but then there’s the cost of popcorn and a drink. For that price, I would expect not to be harassed with what seems like never-ending advertisements.

My complaints will fall on deaf ears because such ads are, apparently, effective. Here’s what prospective advertisers are offered: “Your message appears just prior to the big, bold movie trailers our guests look forward to and enjoy. There are zero distractions (no other screens competing for consumers’ attention here), just our guests watching your commercial the way it was meant to be seen.”

Alas, ads in theatres are here to stay: There are no “bots” watching. Every bum in every seat is a real human being.

Eight years ago, Olivia Rogers wrote: “Cinema advertising is an effective business plan that works to entertain the viewer while gaining corporate profit. Audiences can’t quite ignore what is seen to be the “attack of the 50 ft. ad”.

Still true, but I don’t have to like it.

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