Get ads out of movie theaters

TRAVERSE CITY — I view it as my mission in life to gripe bitterly and predictably about stuff in life that should be better. I like to think of these gripes as helpful suggestions – guidance, if you will – pointing the way to a better society. It’s not easy work but I do it, anyway. You’re welcome.

In today’s edition of “Andy Fixes the World,” the topic is movie theaters. I love going to the movies. There’s something so right about seeing a big story on a big screen with big speakers in a big room with a big bucket of popcorn. So much so that it’s worth putting up with the age-old annoying aspects of movie-going – the long lines, the ridiculous prices, the sticky floors, the late arrivers, tall people, talkers, loud eaters, wrapper-crinklers, sneezers, coughers, wheezers, sniffers, seat-kickers, foot shufflers, teenagers (good god, sit still, jack-in-the-boxes (in andyspeak: people who make a minimum of three visits to the bathroom and/or concession stand; these folks typically choose to sit in the middle of the row to maximize the number of people they shuffle past), seat-savers, people who sit right next to, in front of or behind you in a half-empty theater, and a spouse who is a major league popcorn thief, etc.

But what I can’t, won’t and shan’t put up with any longer are commercials.

I remember when this first started. How dare they, I thought. I’m not here to see commercials. I’m here to get away from commercials!

But I got used to seeing a few. Usually they were for local businesses and were so dopey and poorly done that they were entertaining in a way.

Then things got out of hand, as they always do. One commercial became two. Two became four. Four became eight. Eight became 16. God knows where it will stop.

Last weekend, we were in our seats at 11:50 for a show with a posted start time of noon. The ads were already playing. OK, no biggie, we thought. They’ll be over soon. “Soon” turned out to be 25 minutes, which was followed by 15 more minutes of previews, which are also ads, for a grand total of 40 minutes.

“Which movie are we here to see again?” the lovely yet formidable Marcia asked. She wasn’t kidding.

That’s a bridge too far, right? I realize the movie chain is trying to make a buck like everybody else. But other entertainment options don’t require you to watch ads before you get the experience you paid for. I’ve never been to a restaurant, for instance, that brought the food then said, “Before we give you this plate of hot, delicious food, you have to watch 40 minutes of ads first, OK?”

No, it’s not OK! Why do we put up with this? Imagine someone saying to you, “I have such a deal for you. If you give me 25 bucks, you can come to my place and I’ll let you watch 40 minutes of commercials. How’s that sound?”

You’d probably say, “What, are you nuts?”

Some of you are thinking, “Don’t be such a sourpuss. No one’s forcing you to watch the ads. You could just arrive late and skip the ads and previews.” Which I would do except the theater doesn’t tell me how many ads and previews they are going to run because if they did that, everyone would show up late and companies would stop paying the movie chain to run ads. That’s why theater listings don’t say “Ads start at 11:45, previews start at 12:20, and the movie starts at 12:30.”

It’s clear theaters have been probing our tolerance. They’re up to half an hour now but why should they stop if we don’t object? Is the next step an hour? I don’t think so. Too easy. I say we have reached a point where they’re going to go all in and do away with the movie altogether and see if we notice.

You laugh, but maybe you won’t. One day, maybe you’ll find yourself walking out of the Cineplex saying to your sweetie, “That was great, wasn’t it? What was it called again?” And they won’t know the answer because all you saw was commercials and previews.

Not on my watch, people. Not on my watch.

— — —

Andrew Heller, an award-winning newspaper columnist, appears weekly in the Daily Press. He graduated from Escanaba Area High School in 1979. Follow him at andrewheller.com and on Facebook and Twitter. Write to him at andrewhellercolumn@gmail.com.


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