Wacko children’s behavior is in the news again. And not only the four students on the bus who bullied a woman bus driver. In Kent, Washington a group of boys at a movie theater were talking and throwing popcorn during the film “Titanic.” A 21-year-old man jumped over his seat in front of them and slapped the nearest boy—age 10—bloodying his nose and knocking out a tooth.
The online comments about that event could be grouped into 15 common reactions:
-It’s the mother’s fault.
-It’s the kids’ fault.
-The kid deserves it.
-The kid should be slapped.
-It’s society’s fault because of lack of f—ing civility.
-Slap the mother.
-Management should have been notified.
-Management won’t do anything.
-Slap the manager.
-It was dark so the kids might have looked older.
-The popcorn wasn’t good.
-Neither were the M&Ms.
-The ushers are too overworked to police the kids.
-The ushers missed the sticky spot on the floor the last time we went to the movies.
-Slap the ushers.
Movie violence—by which I mean violence from the movie audience—is one more headache for theater-goers these days. It’s hard enough to find a movie everyone can agree on. (“Do you guys wanna see ‘Machete Man’ or that new chick flick ‘Fifty Shades of Grey Poupon?’”) Then there’s the non-existent parking, sold-out performances, high altitude stadium seating, and the high cost of concessions like a drink and popcorn.
Everyone knows, for example, that theaters make their real money on the snacks. What is less known is how the theaters have devised methods consistent with the laws of physics to ensure return trips to the concession stand —-beyond serving salty popcorn to encourage beverage sales.
The theaters provide a cardboard tray to carry your goodies. When manufactured, the cardboard tray had a planned obsolesce of five minutes. With its two large holes and an adjacent flat-bottomed rectangular holder, the tray is designed to carry one or two drinks that must be hammered into the cardboard holes. No matter: The drinks will, as planned, immediately fall over, requiring another trip to the concession stand for new drinks. Savvy movie-goers know the drinks can stay upright, but only if the adjoining flat-bottomed side of the tray is counterbalanced with 10 boxes of Milk Duds or 12 boxes of Junior Mints or 48 bags of M&M Peanuts. [Editor’s note: The latter is considered by the latest American nutrition Food Pyramid to be equal to the recommended two servings from the “Nuts, Etc.” group.]
The theater industry also knows a bag of popcorn, whatever its size, can’t remain upright in the cardboard tray. The tray is designed to make a fool of you for putting the popcorn bag on it, and waiting for you to take five steps back toward your movie auditorium before the popcorn falls over, a colorful light yellow cascade pouring down onto the carpeted floor and necessitating another trip to the concession stand.
Nor will the popcorn stand up on the floor below your seat: Management counts on you or another theater-goer to kick it over. Hence, a return trip to the concession stand. For similar reasons, the theater concession people heap the popcorn well beyond the top of your bag. Under the Legos Law of Physics, the uppermost popcorn, already slippery from butter and moving around nervously, must yield to the mass of popcorn beneath. The upper popcorn will always fall out of the bag ignoring the flailing human hands, and spill onto the carpet, leaving a quarter of the original popcorn. This requires, especially if it’s date night, an investment in more time at the concession stand.
Customers should take heart if they forego the theater popcorn since it averages 1500 mg sodium per serving and 60 grams of fat. Theater popcorn is, in fact, frequently used at San Quentin as an alternative to lethal injection.
With all that expense and inconvenience, at least theater restrooms are not hard to find. In any cineplex, they are always located on the exact opposite side of the building from your auditorium. If you’re under time constraints during or before a movie, you must add 20 minutes to the restroom trip, the length of time the modern automatic tap fixtures take to approve your hands and turn on the water. I have observed restrooms with five sinks, one woman at each sink, holding their hands below the motion sensor automatic tap and simultaneously waving, shaking or fluttering their hands, even pantomiming hand-washing where there’s no water flow — deranged behavior now common enough to be recognized as a psychiatric condition in the DSM 5.
When you finally get settled in your seat, you must lower the bars on each side of your chair so you can put a surviving beverage in the drink hole of one bar and rest your arm on the other bar, unless the viewer next to you has already claimed it, which is a certainty.
Finally the previews begin—generally around 15—-and then the Feature Presentation, which opens with a familiar studio icon (the MGM lion, the Universal world globe, the Columbia torch woman, etc), followed by approximately 10 scenes that appear to be the beginning of the feature film. Oddly, none of these scenes relate to each other or make sense. That’s because these “scenes” are really the flashy icons of the film’s production partners (like DreamWorks, Village Roadshow, Spyglass, etc.)
By the time you’ve sat patiently through all the previews and film production company icons, you’ll need to go out to the lobby again for another bag of popcorn, and to use the restroom with the automatic taps.
Plan to miss the opening 45 minutes of the film.