Saturday, April 23, 2016


In all my years sneaking into the second movie after paying for the first, I haven't had an incident like the one I had last night, though it's the one I've been implicitly dreading:

That moment when the big, gruff security guard drops a hand on your shoulder and stops you dead in your tracks.

As it happened, I was already dead in my tracks (sitting in the third row of the theater) and it was a wiry hipster rather than a big, gruff security guard, but the effect was just as disquieting.

The thing is, I wasn't really even meant to be paying for either movie, though this is where it becomes a bit of a gray area.

You see, I had raced over on my bike after work let out to get to a 5:10 showing of Midnight Special in order to review it. I had meant to go on opening night, which was the night before, but my wife had a conflict. This only underscored how important it was for me to get to the movie the next day, as I was reviewing this and time was a-wasting.

The thing is, I'm not technically entitled to use my AFCA critics card for entry into a movie after 5 p.m. on a Friday or Saturday evening. And this was exactly ten minutes after the 5 p.m. cutoff.

I gambled that the theater staff wouldn't identify my attempt at chicanery, and indeed they did not, though they did puzzle over how to ring it up for three or four minutes before letting me in. It's a routine I've gotten accustomed to. But after racing across town on my bike and covering far more distance than I should have been able to in ten minutes, while also perpetrating an act of chicanery, I was understandably relieved when they let me in with just enough time to pee and get to my seat before the movie started.

I won't give you my thoughts on Midnight Special now. They will be accessible via the link at the right, shortly if not right as you're reading this.

So I had the perfect amount of time afterward to get to a 7:20 screening of Eddie the Eagle, which I had also agreed to review, though it would mean postponing my dinner until after 9:30. It wasn't really enough time to return to the box office to get another ticket, or so I didn't think at the time I made the decision not to. And having evaded detection once on getting to see a movie I wasn't really entitled to be seeing for free, I didn't want to chance it a second time.

All seemed to be fine as I watched some videos of Jake Arrieta, the Cubs pitcher who threw a no-hitter yesterday (and who is on my fantasy team), on my phone. But as the actual movie was getting started, an usher came down to talk to me.

I thought it was just to tell me to turn off my phone, something I was starting to do anyway. But rather, he asked to see my ticket to this session.

Um, what?

Like the proverbial deer in the headlights, I lamely started searching for it in my backpack, knowing that my search was going to yield nothing. I guess I thought it would buy me another second or two to think, but I did not use those seconds productively and rejoined him with, "I can't seem to find it." As though to try to regain my upper hand by turning it back on him, I asked, "What's the problem?"

He told me I needed to have a ticket to the session, and that he needed to make sure I did as I had been seen in an earlier session.


My instinct of course was to be annoyed by this. In my experience, movie theaters simply didn't care very much about surveilling their customers to make sure they had paid up for each distinct episode of viewing. If you evaded the lax security standards they had in place -- like breaching the inner sanctum with an initial valid ticket -- you basically had free roam of the place, as long as you proceeded with confidence and looked like you knew what you were doing.

Except this time it didn't work. The only thing I can imagine is that someone saw me move from one wing of the cinema to the other, even though I did it smoothly with only a quick glance upward at the signs that would direct me toward the Eddie the Eagle screening room. What didn't compute was that they had then waited ten minutes to drop the boom on me. I can only conclude that either they spent the remainder of that time vainly searching for me, or that they had a security camera that actually showed them which movie I went into, and were simply waiting for the moment of maximum flabbergast to descend upon me.

Yep, I was flabbergasted and I didn't bluff myself out of the situation very well. But I quickly decided to change tactics to the truth, and that's what allowed me to sit for the second movie.

"Well I'm a critic so I can get in to theses things for free anyway," I said, hearing myself sound like an asshole but not really knowing what to do about it. "But I'll leave."

"You're still meant to get a ticket," he told me. "Just please do that next time."

So I guess the critic thing had either really caused him to retreat, or he wasn't planning to remove me anyway, only scold me. Either way, I felt a bit shaken as only someone who has a righteous finger of guilt pointed in his face feels shaken. If he'd known the rules a bit better he would have known I wasn't entitled to a free ticket to this session anyway, but in all likelihood, his desire for a heated confrontation was just as scant as mine.

I didn't really recover for about five minutes into Eddie, but after that it receded to my personal back burner.

Oh, and my Eddie review should also be up shortly on the right if you want my thoughts on that movie.

So Cinema Nova ultimately gave me a pretty fair shake in this situation, even if their impulse to confront me in the first place felt a bit abrupt and unsavory. So indeed, I won't violate their rules again. I'll see all my movies within the first two weeks of their release (I do that anyway) and I won't try to use my card after 5 p.m. on Friday or Saturday (I don't usually do that anyway).

And if I'm going to a second movie, just take a damn extra two minutes and go downstairs to get a second ticket.

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