The cinema

December 5, 2022

The cinema

So, for the first time in years – since the pandemic began – we went to the movies on Saturday night.

Getting out felt nice.

We had tickets for the 3D show of Black Panther – Wakanda Forever, at the Varsity Cinema in the Manulife Centre in Toronto. The show started, our tickets said, at 6:45. Having finished a supper at Eataly, also in the Manulife, we settled into our seats at about 6:30 p.m. For such a big film, it was odd that so few people joined us.

We sat there alone, and then the deluge began at 6:30 p.m. Advertising! First about 20 minutes of ads, and then they dimmed the lights, and then another half hour of solid advertising. We saw the same ads twice, for Coca-Cola, for cars and trucks, for Sunwing, for God knows what.

Back in the day movie theatres in North America never showed ads before films. I remember the first ad I ever saw in a movie cinema, in the Netherlands in the 1970s. This sweeping, dramatic ad for Peter Stuyvesant cigarettes, presented an exciting version of the grandeur of Manhattan, with the voice over announcing, “New York, New York: such a wonderful city, they had to name it twice.”

Ads crept into the cinemas in Canada maybe around the turn of the century; I remember a lovely ad in black and white with electrifying jazz music, when the National Post launched.

But we have now hit the wall. The ads absolutely exhausted us. Most of the ads pushed cell phones (why look at the big screen when you can enjoy the small screen?) Some ads even encouraged us to go home and watch something on Netflix.

By the time the movie began (a half-hour after the advertised start time) we pretty much wanted to leave.

Sorry to sound cranky; a bunch of kids also showed up and spent the movie yelling at one another – had nobody ever taught them to shut up in the cinema? And does the cinema maybe employ someone who could tell them to shut up?

By the time the lights went up at the movie’s end, I noticed actually that quite a few people filled the cinema. The cinema also sells assigned seats, so really there is no point getting there on time; I guess most people have by now figured out that one should show up a half-hour after the advertised start time, to avoid all the frickin’ advertising.

Later my wife said, “You might as well stay home and stream stuff. You don’t have to watch ads, and you avoid the screaming children.”

I love to go out to a movie. I will go back. At the same time, I think the cinema companies, who deluged us with ads telling us to join their club (for free movie tickets, discounts on popcorn, etc.) may wish to remember what brought people out to to the movies for so many years: not a torrent of ads and boorish patrons but rather an immersive experience that highlights the magic of moving pictures.