Monday, October 26, 2009
Double feature: converted
It had been since January that I'd done one of my good old-fashioned two-for-one double features. You know, where you buy the first ticket, then take advantage of the lax security/apathy at the theater to see the second for free. So Saturday I decided I was due. Plus, I wanted to give my wife some time alone in the house to work.
I had it all lined up to see a 2:30 showing of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and a 4:30 showing of Couples Retreat. Cloudy is only 81 minutes long, but factor in the trailers and a not unreasonably long amount of down time, and I thought it should work out quite well. Even though I left my magazine in the car, I had my ipod as well as the internet on my cell phone, so I should be fine.
The x factor was whether I could get away with it. You see, I'd never attempted one of these at The Bridge, the theater at the Howard Hughes Center, about a five-minute drive from my house. It has never seemed like an opportune place for this kind of thing, since the theater has an upstairs and a downstairs, each of which contains half of the screens. More importantly, each floor has a ticket-taker at the entrance. And since you can't tell online which movies are playing where, matching up the start times is not enough. There's a decent chance you could be shut out of the half of the theater where you need to be for your second feature.
When there is a chance you won't be able to pull it off, the smart thing to do is line it up so that the movie you have more interest in seeing plays first. It worked out this way on Saturday. I obviously wasn't hugely jazzed to see Cloudy, since it's been in the theater for over a month already. But lately it had been eating away at me that this was the kind of movie where 3-D might be really fun. Meatballs raining out of the sky? Yeah, that's just begging for a 3-D viewing. And though Couples Retreat's Bora Bora setting would also look quite nice on the big screen, it'd look only slightly less nice at home on TV. At home on TV I'd lose Cloudy's 3-D altogether.
But I didn't think there would be a problem pulling it off, and here's why: The last time I saw something at this theater, they seemed to have scaled back their operations. They had only a single ticket-taker at the main entrance. After you passed him or her, you were free to roam the whole building. In fact, that was the primary reason I had even moved this theater into double feature consideration.
No sooner had I purchased my tickets, with about five minutes to go before showtime, than I realized I'd miscalculated. The last time I saw a movie at this theater -- I believe it was Surrogates -- it had been a Friday afternoon right after work. This, however, was a Saturday. I didn't actually slap my forehead, but I realized that of course The Bridge probably staffs differently depending on how busy they expect to be.
I'd still be okay if Couples Retreat happened to be downstairs, where Cloudy was playing. So I scanned the digital readout that tells you whether you're supposed to take the up or down escalator for your movie. Unfortunately, there are a ton of movies playing at The Bridge, and Couples Retreat wasn't displaying on this particular scroll-through of the titles. I knew I couldn't dilly-dally, both because I needed to make a bathroom trip before the movie started, and because the greeter at the entrance was on the verge of coming over to ask if he could help find my movie. Instead of treating that as an opportunity to find out for sure one way or the other, I thought I should get moving to avoid suspicion.
So I passed through the downstairs ticket-ripper, and remembered another peculiar thing about this theater: They don't actually list the movie title at the entrance to each screen. Instead, they list the screening room number on your ticket only. So I wouldn't be able to suss out Couples Retreat even from down here.
But at this point my priority was to the movie I'd actually paid for. Bring on those three-dimensional meatballs.
When Cloudy ended, I busted out my blackberry to try to find what else might be starting at the right time. Couples Retreat might be lost, but that didn't mean I couldn't find something else for that second slot. It couldn't be something I'd already seen (like Zombieland) or something I was planning to see with my wife (like Where the Wild Things Are or Paranormal Activity), but that left plenty of other titles. And it gave me a little thrill, I must admit -- I love having circumstance force me into seeing something I wasn't planning to see. It's how I've ended up seeing such classics as Gothika and Three to Tango.
But my blackberry was uncooperative. Or, I should say, the limited version of moviefone.com available on PDAs was uncooperative. I navigated to The Bridge just fine, but when I clicked to see what was showing, the only thing it showed was one of those live theatrical performances that they sometimes show in movie theaters via satellite -- it was called Aria something.
So instead of trying to make the blackberry work for me, I decided I would just take matters into my own hands: I would simply walk into the other theaters in my downstairs wing, and see whether people were gathering for something, or better yet, trailers were already playing.
As soon as I got out I saw that there were a couple employees setting up the secondary snack bar, which was not open yet. The majority of the theater entrances were clustered around them. Oh well, I just had to gamble that they cared as little about their jobs as I guessed they did. It turned out to be a good gamble, but if asked why I was scurrying around suspiciously between theaters, I was prepared to say I was just looking for some friends who had gone into the wrong theater.
The first theater had a few people gathered, but nothing playing on the screen yet. Okay, good start.
The second was Law Abiding Citizen, somewhere in the middle. Just as well. Zero interest.
The third was Where the Wild Things Are, somewhere in the middle. Just as well. Seeing it with the wife some night this week.
The fourth was in the closing credits. Darn it. Would be at least a half-hour before the movie showed again, probably closer to 45 minutes. Too long to wait on an unknown commodity.
The fifth was a totally empty theater. Must have just let out five minutes earlier. Again, too long.
The sixth was another theater where people were gathering for the movie to start. And here I had my best brainstorm of the day: I would simply ask the arriving patrons what movie it was. Nothing fishy about that -- there are plenty of Americans who might have difficulty getting to the correct theater without the name appearing outside. Today, I would be one of them.
"Paranormal Activity," the guy told me with a helpful smile. Darn it. Have that planned for a possible Halloween night screening with my wife.
The seventh theater had a bin for depositing your 3-D glasses outside. That meant it could only be the Toy Story double feature, which I thought was supposed to have closed already by now. Might be worth consideration if I hadn't seen one 3-D animated movie today already -- and if I hadn't already given up my own pair of glasses.
The eighth was the theater where I'd just been sitting for 90 minutes.
So there was only one choice left -- the first theater where people were gathering. Whatever was playing there, I would see.
And even though I'd already committed to this course of action -- unless of course it was one of the off-limits movies -- I still decided to ask a woman sitting in the front row what we were about to see.
"Couples Retreat," she said with a helpful smile.