The Theater Ritual

I can have a bit of an obsessive-compulsive streak about certain things. I’ll never put $13 worth of gas into my car and I generally avoid that number at all costs. I set my alarm for the exact time every work morning, and it’s not on the hour (7:06, if you’re curious). My budget from paycheck to paycheck, after bills have been paid, involves having at least X amount of dollars per day until the next payday. If it ever drops below that amount, all hell breaks loose in my skull and I start acting like I belong in a Soviet bread line until my daily budget is back up to or above X dollars per day. It’s not intrusive at all, it’s not unhealthy, and I’m not quite up to the “ten minutes to Wapner” stage. Think of it more like Larry David’s obsession with meaningless minutiae. It spills into my theater experience. Here’s the standard movie-going occasion for me if I’m going to a mainstream theater. If it’s an indie theater, all bets are off:

The Show Time
I like an empty theater. Everyone probably does, but I’m perfectly willing to go way the hell out of my way to get to it. As such, I go for the first matinée available. This means 10 a.m. shows. I’ve gone to shows that started as early as 9:30 a.m. and almost never go if it’s after noon. That’s when the theater starts to fill up. The ancillary benefit? The place I usually go sells tickets at rock-bottom prices ($4) to their first showing of the day. And while we’re at it, I always aim to be there 10 to 15 minutes before the movie’s scheduled start time.

The Ticket Purchase
There are three options here. There’s the call ahead option using services like Fandango. Since I’m going to mostly empty theaters, there’s no need to do that. There’s the option most people use- standing in line and paying the pimply faced, cracking voice teenager behind the counter. And then there’s the glorious option behind door #3- the kiosk outside the building. You walk up, you choose your movie, you swipe your credit card, and it spits out your ticket and receipt. Granted, the lines aren’t extremely long for 10 a.m. shows but I still trust the kiosk to be quicker. And besides, why bother the pimply faced teenager if I don’t have to?

Concessions Purchases
I know it’s sort of gauche to eat things during a movie, at least among some more serious movie viewers. But hang with me, I can ‘splain. The purchase is typically a small or medium Cherry Coke and a small popcorn. I almost never drink soda- I probably average one 20 ounce bottle every two weeks. But there’s something about having it at the theater that makes it the perfect beverage. The crazy thing is that it’s not like I drink Cherry Coke anywhere else. That one 20 ounce purchase I make isn’t Cherry Coke. And while I do have a Coke v. Pepsi preference, it doesn’t preclude me from getting the Cherry Pepsi if they don’t have Coke. As for the popcorn, I get it with no butter. After the purchase is made, I then head over to the concessions condiment table to grab my straw and a handful of napkins. And then it’s off to my destination.

Seating and Consumption of the Concessions Purchases

It goes without saying that my hand is the only appendage that enters the popcorn box.

Since the whole point of going early is to avoid a packed theater, I’ll head to the front. Most people prefer the back of the theater anyway. Let ’em have it. But I won’t go to the very front. I’m not some uncivilized cave man. So the preferred spot is the 2nd to last row of the front section of the theater. You won’t sprain your neck, AND you avoid the back-of-the-theater crowd. More importantly, this helps prevent any ambient popcorn-eating noises from annoying neighbors. Just to be on the safe side- because there’s nothing worse than hearing another human being eat- I try to eat as much of the popcorn as I can as the theater fills up, before the movie starts, and preferably as much as possible even before the trailers begin. Once the show starts, the number of times I reach into the bag is pretty minimal. As far as location within the row of seats goes, I aim for the 2nd or 3rd seat into the row. This puts me right on the aisle should I need to make an emergency restroom visit. Speaking of that…

Restroom Visits
These are only done once, right after I’ve staked my claim to my seat. I’ll put the popcorn and drink down in the seat and seat’s cup holder, respectively. And then it’s off to the restroom. The whole operation is done before trailers have even started.

Cell Phone Usage
Last but not least, there’s the turning off of the cell phone. As soon as I’m settled in for the long haul after the restroom trip, I’ll enter the dollar amounts into the checkbook on my phone’s checkbook app, and then it’s nighty-night for the phone. It’s always on vibrate anyway, but I’ll just go ahead and turn the whole thing off. Again, this whole thing is done before the trailers have even started.

And there you have it- a tiny glimpse into the mind of a neurotic insane person who goes to the movies. It really didn’t always work this way. It used to be only a drink, no popcorn, show up whenever, sit wherever, etc. And so, readers, what’s your (hopefully less involved) theater ritual?


Filed under Movies

16 responses to “The Theater Ritual

  1. hehe great read. You are ever so slightly OCD aren’t you??

    If and when we do go to the cinema it is not quite as regimented as yours. I say if as it is becoming a very rare occurrence lately (kids), plus it is becoming so expensive I would rather wait and watch it at home in my front room cinema (with the 92″ screen).
    but when we do….
    1) I avoid night showings, and like you prefer the pre lunch stint
    2) I always book online, then pick up from the machine!
    3) Peanut M&Ms and a diet coke.
    4) Toilet is done before we enter. Although when you take the kids its every 20 mins!! GRRRRR
    5)I will sit in the middle but to the side. I like the extra leg room of the aisle seat.

    Great fun post matey!!


    • The guy who met Kevin Meany

      Diet Coke (or Coke Icee if available), Reece’s Pieces or Junior Mints. I always use the kiosk to buy the ticket. I usually go at night but never on opening weekend (unless I’m the only one who cares that it is coming out). One good rule of thumb, never go to the midnight showing of a sci-fi summer blockbuster with a cult (army) of dorks who can’t wait to see it. I remember seeing the midnight showing of The Two Towers–I was the only one not dressed up as a wizard, hobbit, Jedi, Spock, etc. Dorks!

      • Had George Lucas not ruined Revenge of the Sith already, it was further ruined when a dork in front of me wearing a Vader helmet jumped up and waved his fake light saber around when Vader finally showed up on the screen.

        I have to say, though- I know for a fact that it’s not always Reese’s or Junior Mints for you. I once witnessed you carrying some Taco Bell in.

    • If I had a 92″ screen, I’d be a LOT more selective about what I go to see at the theater.

      My nephew is 4 and he’s just getting into trips to the theater. I haven’t had the pleasure of taking him yet, but he’s only been twice. This is the same nephew who (purely by accident, I swear) saw the scene in Goodfellas where they find all of the bodies a few weeks ago. When they got to Carbone in the meat truck (and as I was desperately trying to change the channel), he looked up and said “You could fit a lot of meat in that truck!”

  2. StarkyLuv

    There’s nothing wrong with eating during a movie (unless you’re an annoying pseudo-intellectual “film buff”) just make sure you take the wrapping off your candy BEFORE the feature starts (trailers are ideal for this). And after you finish, do NOT try to fold up the popcorn bag.

    • Good call on the candy wrapper and the popcorn bag.

      The worst- the absolute worst- is when people come in late, like 15 minutes late. And then they open their candy or whatever, and then they have to discuss with each other what they missed, compounding the whole mistake.

  3. I’m in complete agreement on matinee showings. I can understand wanting to see a new movie opening weekend, but if more people took advantage of matinees, it’d go much easier on their wallets.

    • When I found out it was only $4 to go to the first showing, I started making it a point to go a lot more. And that wouldn’t be the case at all if it was $8 or $10. Not that I can’t spare a few dollars; it just seems like so much more of a steal when I’m seeing what I want for half price or less.

    • Yea same, here almost always go to matinees or weekday afternoon. Why pay $10 when you can pay $5?

  4. fuzzywuzzy

    1.) Cherry Coke
    2.) Milk Duds which have to be finished before the movie starts
    3.) Aisle seat

    I never eat Milk Duds outside of a theater…it’s really quite odd when I think about it…but I always need Milk Duds when I’m at the movies.

  5. – I don’t buy from the concession, it’s just too damn expensive.
    – Empty the good old bladder before I walk into the theater (preferably in a restroom)
    – Don’t leave my seat at any cost until movie is over
    – Sour, gummy worms and coke
    – Best seats for me is the row with the small metallic fence in front of you so you can rest your legs on that

  6. nimorphi

    there is something about watching a film in the theater that you can’t get anywhere. this is probably only true if the movie is epic. I saw all the star wars in the theater and i am glad i did even though i wish i never did. the same thing is true with the last indiana jones (even though i almost left with shia leouf swinging through the jungle on vines with cgi monkeys)
    I sometimes buy a soda and popcorn if my wife wants it. i really don’t care to pay $7 for a movie and $12 for food. and i don’t like going to the theater with her since she talks during the previews and then she gets mad when i tell her to shut up

  7. Pingback: Remember the (Awesome TV Day That Is) The Sabbath and Keep It Holy |

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