FREE SCREENINGS HAVE THEIR PRICE - Content
FREE SCREENINGS HAVE THEIR PRICE
For Hicksflicks.com, July 25, 2014
EDITOR'S NOTE: This ‘Hicks on Flicks' column ran in the Deseret News on July 17, 1983. Re-reading it recently I felt that it remains surprisingly valid 31 years later.
Have you ever attended one of those free radio-sponsored screenings that gives the station's listeners a peek at a new film the night before it opens? Tickets are usually given away by DJs, who ask the audience to phone in, either to answer a trivia question or just be the sixth caller on the line.
Those screenings are worked out with a local ad agency through the movie studio, and it's a good publicity gimmick because it gets the film talked about on the air for a few weeks before it opens.
In larger cities, major critics receive regular press screenings of new films, so they can get a review in their publications on the opening day. Occasionally we get those here, too, but more often Salt Lake critics are invited to the aforementioned radio screenings.
Perhaps because it's free, the audiences at these functions are often more entertaining than the film — and I don't mean that in a positive sense. Rude audiences are becoming more and more of a problem, in fact, whether it's a free screening or a regular showing you pay for.
But at these giveaways, the radio personalities don't help by encouraging audience rowdiness before the film starts. And they definitely do not ingratiate themselves to those of us who come merely to see the movies. Those pre-film programs, where T-shirts are thrown into the audience and soundtracks (and sometimes other prizes) are given away in drawings, often go on far too long.
Take, for example, the screening of "Staying Alive," sponsored by KISN at the Mann Cottonwood Mall theaters this past Thursday. The passes said the screening would begin at 8 p.m., but it was 8:20 or later before the lights went down. True, there were technical problems with the DJs' sound system, but those were solved fairly rapidly. (The worst pre-film show I've ever seen was for "Psycho II" at Plitt's Crossroads Cinemas, with the obnoxious Thaddeus and his female "bodyguards," who put on a terrible, unfunny 20-minute series of put-downs, treating the audience like idiots. Plitt representatives assure me Thaddeus won't be doing another one for them.)
The delay in showing "Staying Alive," only set the mood for a noisy screening. Most of the audience quietly enjoyed the film (except for occasional laughter, of course – some of it probably not intended by the filmmakers), but there was an exceptionally obnoxious faction in attendance (a close-up shot of Travolta's rear-end in the film's final scene elicited the wildest reaction).
What really brought it home was the couple sitting next to my wife and me. They displayed their affection for each other so actively I wondered if they weren't under the mistaken notion that the Cottonwood was a drive-in theater. If that wasn't enough, they carried on a full-fledged conversation during the movie, a very loud conversation that got louder as the film's volume went up, but which did not get softer when quieter dialogue-driven scenes came on.
It got so ridiculous that several of us in seats around them finally told them to quiet down, and they did – but it didn't last.
Inconsiderate audience members are one of the factors that send moviegoers to rental shops for videocassettes instead of to movie theaters for group viewings. The feeling is, why pay $4.50 or $9 to be angered and annoyed by other people, when you can simply rent a film for $2 or $3 and watch it at home.
Finola Hughes, John Travolta, 'Staying Alive'
Actually, television is probably responsible for that kind of rudeness. People are so used to talking to each other during television programs that they do the same thing at the movies.
I'm not sure there's a solution to the problem, especially when some people refuse to shut up even when asked to. But most theater operators will try to help in that kind of situation – especially if they think you might angrily demand a refund.