Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Superman Returns...and So Do I (10October06)

For some reason, no one really feels bad for me when I have a stressful day of work. I guess I can't blame them, really. I mean, a stressful day at work for me is scrambling to write up reviews and meet deadlines while also managing to sit through a couple of movies -- ones that haven't even been released yet. It's rough, people.

But, due to the overwhelming number of Tuesday and Wednesday night screenings lately, I've been missing out on my usual Tuesday night ritual. I haven't been able to go to The Cheap Theater. And I missed it -- no matter how pathetic that may sound. So, this week, I chose to skip the screening of the new Robin Williams movie (incidentally, I was later told that I didn't really miss anything) and take Paul to see Superman Returns at The Cheap Theater instead. I happily donned my Cheap Theater uniform -- my favorite jeans and my big hooded sweatshirt -- threw together a quick dinner, and got ready to head out.

On the way, we dropped Paul's car off for an oil change, and we ended up miscalculating our time and arriving about 20 minutes early -- so we decided to stop by the used book store for a while first. As we walked through the parking lot, I sniffed the air and noticed the faint scent of pizza. For a second, I let myself hope that the pizza buffet had opened up again. But alas, the windows were still dark -- I must have caught a whiff of one of the other two pizza places in the plaza.

After wandering through the bookstore for a few minutes and making our purchases (for some reason, I picked out a book, though I have no clue when I'll have the spare time to read it), we made our way to the theater. Paul ran to the car to drop off our shopping bag while I tried to dig a dollar out of my purse. I wandered up to the box office and asked for two for Superman. The girl tossed two quarters in front of me, and, for a minute, I thought that The Cheap Theater had gone to 25-cent Tuesdays. But then she handed me just one ticket. So I gave my quarters back and asked for another.

By the time I had both tickets in hand, Paul had arrived. Since it was a long movie -- and, thus, it would be a long night -- we chose to splurge on a small (half--gallon) Diet Coke. And I prepared for the long haul by stopping at the restroom before we went in.

Things were pretty subdued at The Cheap Theater. We'd pretty much missed the entire summer, which, of course, is the time when the theater is packed with bored teenagers and parents who couldn't get a babysitter for their screaming two-year-old (who, really, has little or no interest in sitting through an R-rated movie). We made it back for the quiet season, when the teenagers have homework and not at many parents drag their small children to see inappropriate movies.

As we approached the ticket-ripper's stand, I noticed that my favorite ticket-ripper had been replaced by a big, smiley guy. I smiled back.

"What are you seeing tonight?" he asked as we approached. I wasn't prepared for that question, so I paused for a second before answering and handing him our tickets to be ripped.

"Then you'll be down the hall this way, the last theater on your right," he directed us before adding, "Enjoy the show."

To be perfectly honest, I was still so focused on the fact that he'd asked us what we were seeing -- they never asked us that before! -- that I wasn't totally sure where I was supposed to go. But I found the theater anyway. It was one of the bigger ones -- and although it was already filling up, the Cheap Theater gods were smiling down upon us. The entire back row was open. So we chose something in the center of the back row. Then we got up and moved one seat over because Paul was in one of the seats that has even less padding than the rest of them.

Sure, there's just something familiar, something comforting, about The Cheap Theater, with its padding-free seats, its sticky floors, and it's ever-present odor of sweaty human being mixed with years of stale popcorn. But it became clear to me once again this week how spoiled I've become. After spending hours every week in real theaters with real padding in their seats, it's hard to go back. And I noticed that people who attend free sneak-preview screenings are much more respectful than those who pay fifty cents at The Cheap Theater. Perhaps it has something to do with the ever-present security guards at screenings, but people pay more attention to the movie. They don't yell at each other. They don't blind you with their cell phones. In general, they shut up when they're supposed to. Not always, of course, but usually.

But not so at The Cheap Theater. In fact, it seems like people at The Cheap Theater often forget that there's actually a movie going on. They're too busy talking to each other and texting their friends to notice. Or -- in the case of the solitary old guy who sat two seats from me -- they're too busy hacking up vital organs to care.

But, then again, what would The Cheap Theater be without the distractions? Probably just smelly and sticky and uncomfortable. It just wouldn't be the same if the nuts at The Cheap Theater actually paid attention to the movie. It would spoil all the fun.

As for the movie itself, this wasn't my first time seeing it (see my review), so I already knew I'd like it. Granted, it felt a little longer the second time around, but it was worth the extra two and a half hours of my time just to see Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor again. I love that guy.

So even though my feet stuck to the floor and I couldn't hear parts of the movie because so many people were talking around me...even though I may have been temporarily blinded in one eye by the phone of the woman ahead of me...even though I may have caught a serious disease from the guy next to me -- and I didn't even get to see Hooker Boot Guy -- it was still good to be home again.


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