In Praise of Theater-Hopping

In Praise of Theater-Hopping

Article by: Witney Seibold

Name the remake of the groundbreaking horror classic in which the killer –” 

Halloween, uh, Texas Chainsaw, Dawn of the Dead, The Hills Have Eyes, Amityville Horror, Last House on the Left, Friday the 13th , A Nightmare On Elm Street, My Bloody Valentine, When A Stranger Calls, Prom Night, Black Christmas, House of Wax, The Fog, Piranha. It’s one of those, right? Right?”

-dialogue from “Scream 4”

Sadly, I cannot verify this statistic, but the sad state of Hollywood’s major releases has me in a position where I cannot safely argue against it. Evidently, over 95% of all major feature films released by major Hollywood studios are sequels, remakes, or “reboots.” They’re either based on an older screenplay, a book, or some kind of existing property. Video games, comic books, Italian comic books, Japanese cartoon shows, theme park rides, old TV shows that have already been made into movies, even toys… everything is up for grabs these days. And while Hollywood has always, since time immemorial, kowtowed shamelessly to the quick buck and the easily-recognizable, sleazy adaptation, people my age can only see this belligerently constant double-dipping into the shallow well of creativity as a problem. Where, we impotently ask ourselves, are the original screenplays in Hollywood? Are we eventually going to start seeing an era where the same 15 ‘80s cult films are constantly re-imagined?

We like to blame Hollywood itself for this dearth of creativity, and imagine some abstract studio execs, probably white fat guys with hairpieces, blithely ignorant of film history, and insanely fearful of anything with the smallest whiff of risk. We, equally, like to blame ignorant, pock-marked, violence-obsessed, porn-addicted, booze-stealing, asshole American teenagers, who will blindly shell out their hard-earned drug money to see any old piece of recent CGI-bogged crap vaguely promising ‘splosions and monsters, without and regard to its quality or originality. And while there are indeed film-ignorant studio execs in the world, who don’t know their classics, and who will never take risks, and while there are indeed equally film-ignorant teenagers in the world who only seem to dimly perceive that cinemas provide shallow images of unconnected mayhem, I think the true problem lies with you and I. The problem, I declare, is us.

I have many friends who are reasonably intelligent, and who have good taste in movies, who still express vague enthusiasm about certain remakes, sequels, and terrible-looking Hollywood blockbusters. Too many people I know have declared that they’re already on board for the third live-action “Transformers” film, even though it is rather widely held that “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” is one of the most nonsensical and perhaps whorish Hollywood blockbusters of recent years, and that Michael Bay is one of the world’s most prominent hacks. And while I like to think I myself am getting more selective about which films I actively choose to see, I am most certainly not exempt from paying my money to see some large-budget, high-profile sequel or remake out of mere curiosity.

I declare the following: Mere curiosity is not reason enough to see a film. I would like to think that, as a film critic, I have some sort of influence on what films my readers choose to see, and my write-ups can accurately guide people into intelligent conversations about certain feature films, but I understand that most people are going to see what they’re going to see regardless. Nothing I can say or write, for instance, will keep people away from “The Dark Knight Rises.” I fully expect the film to be as thoughtful, gorgeous and exciting as Christopher Nolan’s previous “Batman” films, but if I were to discover the film is bad, my thoughtfully-written-yet-negative review would likely go unheeded by the scads of enthused “Batman” fans the world over. I may even be lambasted by outraged true-believers for being a naysayer. 

My point being that we’ll always be drawn to big films, whether they be good, or dreck.

But all that’s as may be. The reason I write this article is a (perhaps futile) quest to change the way Hollywood makes movies. I want to, as is my wont, offer some positive reinforcement, rather than just doing a usual bit of internet ranting. I, along with many, am very tired of retreads, remakes, reboots, re-imagnings, sequels upon sequels upon sequels. It feels like tasteful movies for grownups are so few and far-between sometimes. There is, however, a very simple solution. We can change Hollywood in a very active fashion, and I would like to propose that everyone in the country take up this practice: theater-hopping.

I don’t mean paying for one movie in a multiplex, and seeing three or four. That’s quotidian, milquetoast adolescent thievery. I mean the uncomplicated practice of buying a ticket for one movie at a multiplex, and going to see another. It’s really that simple. If some hard-working first-time filmmaker has made a heartfelt and stirring drama, and you love it, and you feel it needs more support, buy a ticket for it. You can, of course, tell friends to see it, or, if you’re like me, publish reviews about it, imploring the public at large to get behind it, but you’re also capable of putting as much of your own money as possible toward the cause. 

That way, your small, loved, unadvertised drama can be fully supported. The fact remains that you vote with your dollars. Your money shows the higher-ups in the industry what you’re willing to see more of. Hollywood is a low-risk industry. They will not often spring something hugely new on the public, and tend to make films similar to previous successes (when they’re not outright remaking them). Give to the scrappy and amazing film. 

This also means that, since you’re no longer paying for them, you can intentionally neglect the blockbuster piece of crap you don’t think will be any good, but are too curious to resist. You have the power to withhold dollars from Michael Bay. This is an amazing power. You can dictate his success. If you’re seeing his films, but not paying for them, his films will go away. If you are paying for the neglected indie classics, more of those will be made. 

I understand this is a small anarchy, but, I have to admit, I love a little bit of anarchy here and there, and this is using your anarchy for a powerful aesthetic cause. Think of the clout we have as tastemakers! We are the people big studios are trying to reach. We have the money and the free publicity they seek. We need to be aware of this. We need to take active control of this power. We can demand what we want, send a message, tell the people in charge that we will not see your remakes. And all through the simple, time-worn practice of theater-hopping.

I understand that theater-hopping is not practical in all instances. One-screen theaters are out, and two-screen theaters are probably too well-guarded. This will only work in a many-screen theater that is playing both a large piece of dreck that you’re interested in, and a small, scrappy low-budget film that you feel deserves support. 

Here’s a few practical tips on how to theater-hop: 

1) Know what theaters your two movies are playing in. If you know where you’re going, and move with confidence, the theater staff will not bother you. If you’re asked if you’re lost, don’t show your ticket stub to the staff. Just ask for your chosen film by title.

2) Make sure the multiplex has more than one floor. You can usually move pretty freely about most large theaters using their elevator. The ticket-taker often resides on the other side of it, and you can ride up and down without being bothered.

3) Go during the week, and not the weekend. Go during the daytime if you can. Theater attendance is lowest on Tuesdays (as I know from many years’ experience working in movie theaters). It’ll be easier to move about a theater unnoticed if the dayshift is on staff. They’re less vigilant. It’s also less likely that you’ll be sitting in an assigned seat if the theater is largely empty, and it’s the kind of theater to assign seats. 

4) Bring your own 3-D glasses. If the blockbuster you’re interested in is in 3-D, and you’re paying for a traditional film, you’ll need ‘em. They’re easy to procure, and you won’t have to pay the extras fee if you’re theater-hopping. Plus it’ll save you the extra fee. Contact me if you want some tips on how to turn your 3-D glasses into 2-D glasses. I’ve done it. It works.

5) Exit out the back of the theater. In the off chance that a theater employee is savvy to what you’re doing, it’s easy to flee out the back exits, and out into the sunlight without being pursued.

6) If you get busted, play dumb. It’s entirely likely this won’t work, but it’s worth a shot. Don’t ever act indignant; that’s the best way to get barred from the theater entirely. 

7) Don’t be a jerk, and stay for several films. I have to admit that I’m guilty of doing this, but it’s no longer something I practice, nor do I encourage it. That’s pushing things into a dickhead territory, and giving short shrift to the theaters. I’m not encouraging occasional petty theft. I’m encouraging a bold dismantling of Hollywood expectations. 

I hope this article offers some empowering advice. We have the subtle and playfully immature power to sabotage the Hollywood system. Let’s get to using it. Go out. Do it. Leave comments on what films you saw, and leave notes on how to navigate through theaters undetected. We will reshape the taste of the nation. It’s in our grasp. 

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Published in: on May 25, 2011 at 12:16 am  Comments (1)  

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  1. Video games comic books Italian comic books Japanese cartoon shows theme park rides old TV shows that have already been made into movies even toys everything is up for grabs these days. And while there are indeed film-ignorant studio execs in the world who dont know their classics and who will never take risks and while there are indeed equally film-ignorant teenagers in the world who only seem to dimly perceive that cinemas provide shallow images of unconnected mayhem I think the true problem lies with you and I.


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