Column: Suggestions for making the movie-going experience even better

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 21, 2002

“The audience wants to be reminded of their own humanity.” &045; Olympia Dukakis, May 10, 1997

I’ve seen quite a few movies this year &045; more than in the last two years combined, actually. As can be expected, they have ranged from awesome to disappointing to just plain horrible. Oddly enough, I have learned that no matter the quality of the film, the movie-going experience is generally in itself a good one. However, I have a few suggestions to make the experience even better.

Let’s start with the concession stand. When the movie theater concession stand concept was introduced, they offered popcorn, soft drinks and candy. Today, they offer popcorn, soft drinks and candy.

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What in the name of arrested development is going on? I mean, some of the candy they offer is modern &045; Gummi Bears and Sour Patch Kids instead of old-fashioned horehound candy and licorice drops &045; but there are still really only three items on the menu.

Movie theater owners should take a trip up to the Metrodome or the Xcel Energy Center and visit some of their concession stands. We could be snacking on nachos while watching Star Trek Episode XXVIII: The Return of the Khan, hot dogs while watching Battle of the Bonds (James Bonds), or pizza while watching The Fear of the Sum of all Vanilla Minority Sky Reports.

They also need to fix the popcorn. Yes, it’s hot, fresh and buttered &045; just like it has been for 100 years. It needs something new &045; like flavor. They would have to be careful in the approach that they used, however. I once went to a theater that offered several varieties of flavored popcorn. The flavoring was only 30 cents extra, no matter what size. So, I ordered cheddar flavor, expecting a bag of hot cheddar popcorn. I got a tube of powdered cheese to sprinkle over the plain popcorn. It was exactly what you would expect to see if Pixy Stix ever introduced a cheese flavor. Oh well, what can you expect for 30 cents?

The next area to improve is soft drinks. I have no suggestions for improving the actual drinks themselves, but I do think we could be getting more for our money. At about $3 a quart, they should be offering free refills. That way, it won’t cost you $12 to drink a gallon of Orange Crush while watching One-Hour Too Long Photo.

Wow, all that and we’re not even in our seats yet. And that’s the next thing they could improve &045; the seats. Reclining seats with individual armrests would be nice. Then the armrests could have drink holders that your drink actually fits into, no matter what size you ordered. Maybe the seats could have even a pull-down tray in the back, like the kind they have in airplanes. You’ll need somewhere to set all those snacks you bought. After all, you don’t want the butter from the taco-seasoning flavored popcorn to soak through the bag and ruin your pants. Oh, a footrest, too. That way you don’t have to put your feet in between the seats in front of you and fall down from lack of blood circulation to your feet when you try to stand up after the movie.

OK, now we have our refreshments, we’re in our seats and the previews are about to start. Have you ever noticed they always show the best parts of the movie in the previews? I think they should splice in a few of the worst parts, too. On second thought, maybe this isn’t such a great idea. If they did, nobody would ever pay $6 to see Friday the 13th on Elm Street.

One thing they should have is one restroom per screen, with a flat-screen television on the wall showing the same movie that is showing on the screen. But then, anyone visiting the restroom would still miss part of the movie in transit. OK, two screens on the wall, one showing the movie five minutes behind, and the other showing it five minutes ahead. That way you don’t miss anything.

I think implementing all of my suggestions would greatly improve any movie. Unfortunately, it would also greatly increase the price of admission.

Dustin Petersen is an Albert Lea resident. His column appears Monday.