Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Choosing a Movie

Paul and I put a lot of thought into each week's movie selection. In fact, we've made it sort of a scientific process. Sure, we choose movies that we want to see, but there are always a few that we want to see on any given week (there's only one week that we weren't all that thrilled about anything in the theater, so we spent four times the money and rented something). So we have to choose the right one to see -- which, in the end, is the best movie with the least annoying crowd.

Basically, we consider four main factors:

1) How long it's been in the theater

It's hard to really know how long a movie's going to stick around. Smaller indies could be there one week and gone the next. Newsworthy blockbusters could be there forever (Ray, for instance, ran for months. In fact, it had been out on DVD for a few weeks before they took it out.)

This factor effects two things:

a) How busy it'll be. If it's the first week, it's usually packed, which means you'll end up having to fight for a seat -- and you'll most likely end up getting popcorn dumped in your lap.

b) Chances of not seeing the movie. The longer you wait, the greater chance you have of checking listings next weekend, only to find that the movie has been replaced by the latest Vin Diesel action flick.

2) Rating

Crowds vary by rating. If you go to an R-rated movie, it's less likely to be filled with screaming kids (though, in our experience, there's usually one or two there anyway -- what are their parents thinking?). The more adult the rating, the more adult the crowd. And once kids are removed from the equation, that wipes out a large movie-going group -- meaning that the theater is less likely to be packed.

3) Initial popularity

This one's pretty obvious. If the movie was a mega-hit in first-run theaters, it'll be just as huge on Cheap Night at The Cheap Theater. At the same time, the more popular it was initially, the more likely it is that it'll stick around for a longer run (see 1). So with a mega-hit movie, it's best (and pretty safe) to wait a week or two.

4) Outside factors

There are a lot of additional factors contributing to the crowds in theaters. Consider the following:

a) Sporting events: If, for example, it's the Saturday afternoon of a big college football game, chances are you'll have the theater to yourself. The same goes for Superbowl Sunday or the night of a World Series game -- if the hometown team is playing.

b) Weather: If it's the first nice day of spring, everybody's going to want to be outside, playing football or going for a walk or sitting out on the front porch with the hounds or whatever they like to do. They're not going to say, "Hey! I know! Let's go to a movie and sit inside and waste this gorgeous night!" If it rains, though, people would rather be inside -- and why not go to a cheap movie? If it's the hottest day of summer, they'll head to the theater's air-conditioned comfort. But if there's a blizzard or a huge storm, they'll most likely just stay home. You get the idea.

So each week, Paul and I weigh the factors and try to pick the right movie to see. This week, we chose The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou for the following reasons:

1) It was the first week in the theater
2) It's rated R
3) It wasn't a huge blockbuster, so who knows how long it'll stick around
4) It was easily the most beautiful day of the year so far. 65 and sunny. Everyone was outside. In fact, even I was hesitant about going to a movie and wasting it. This time of year, you never know when the weather's going to change -- and it'll start snowing again.

So we figured that we'd have the theater to ourselves. We'd walk right up to the ticket counter and get our tickets. We'd have our pick of any seat in the theater. And then some theater employees would come up and hand us a free bag of popcorn because no one was there, so no one was buying popcorn -- and they didn't want it to go to waste.

But that's not exactly the way it went. Sometimes the system works. Other times...not so much...


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