Top 5… Worst Cinematic Experiences

I was inspired to write this list after listening to a similarly themed podcast from The Film Vault a few months ago, plus it was a post I could write without having to do any research whilst on holiday in a technology-less cabin in Clydach. Now, this isn’t a list of the best and worst films I’ve seen at the cinema (Best: Toy Story trilogy, Lord of the Rings, Cabin in the Woods etc, Worst: Speed Racer, The Mummy 3: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor), instead it’s when certain elements – be they oversights from the cinema themselves or my fellow cinema-goers – have come together to ruin what should have been something wonderful.
I’m a pessimist, or as I like to call it, a realist, and many people have launched complaints in my direction for how much I’m able to complain about every damn aspect of my life. Personally, I believe that if everything worked and everybody did the jobs they were supposed to be doing, and above all kept out of my way, then I wouldn’t have anything to complain about. I’m full of hatred, predominantly and justifiably for other people, and there is no more fitting a setting for this location to be vented than about cinemas. For many people the cinema is a church, a place of worship, visited regularly and allowing the patron the chance to bow down before the cinematic Gods and pray that this will be that hallowed experience – a truly great film. Plus, it’s bloody expensive. So why is it that here, more than anywhere else, circumstances frequently align themselves to cause the most anguish possible, and yet I keep paying my hard-earned cash to experience it again and again? It’s been difficult, but I’ve also tried to alleviate the mood a little by doing my best cinematic experiences. You may notice that all of these entries are from the past four years, and that’s mainly because before then I never really went to the cinema that much, never having lived too near to one and been able to afford it, but in 2007/8 I spent a year working in London, with a cinema only a 15 minute stroll from my house, and which cost only £2.20 on a Monday, so I went every week, sometimes twice, and since then have gone as often as I can.
5. Worst
The Dark Knight, London Waterloo IMAX, 2008
This is low down because it’s partly my own fault. Like the rest of the world, I couldn’t wait to see The Dark Knight, and I happened to be working with two other avid film fans when it was due to come out, so we, and one of their friends, made a pact to go see this film on the biggest screen available nearby; the London Waterloo IMAX. However, after weeks of attempting to arrange a time and all definitely agreeing on going, we settled on opening night and set about buying tickets, only to find the last remaining four adjacent seats were in the front row. Of an IMAX. Well to Hell with it, we merrily though, and purchased the tickets anyway, and subsequently watched the film with our necks craned back as far as possible to see what was going on. That would have been fine however, were it not for the short section set in Hong Kong, with occasional subtitles that required our gaze to repeatedly shoot from mid-screen to bottom-of-screen, just to read what was being said. These seats shouldn’t really exist. I understand that cinema owners like to make money, a concept that isn’t foreign to myself, but from those seats it is impossible to enjoy watching a film.
5. Best
Watchmen, Poole Empire Cinema, 2009
Similarly to The Dark Knight, this is an issue with seating. The tickets has been won at a raffle, so the evening was free (though I think I spent more on popcorn and a drink than I would have on a ticket) but after waiting for the rest of my party to be ready, we were once again lumbered with front row seats in a full cinema. However, once the trailers had finished and the ushers had left, the three of us turned and spied some empty seats, on the front of a row, marked with a disable symbol. I am in no way proud of this, but we hoped up without hesitation and nabbed those seats, safe in the knowledge that every soul within the theatre despised us and everything we stood for, but I’ve never had such good legroom in a cinema.
4. Worst
The Artist, Bournemouth Odeon, 2011
This is mostly due to a simple cock-up with the cinema, but when I saw The Artist I could hear the entirety of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol playing in the screen next door. The Artist is well known for three reasons: 1. It’s great, 2. Uggie the dog, 3. It’s silent.  It’s a silent film. Silent. As in, it doesn’t make a lot of noise. So why not show it next to one of the loudest, explodiest films on at the same time? It also didn’t help that my girlfriend wasn’t really expecting it to be as silent as it was (I did warn her) and spent most of the film bored and looking around, but I’m blaming most of this experience on the Bournemouth Odeon.
4. Best
Up, Bournemouth Odeon, 2009
There’d be Hell to pay if I didn’t include this on here somewhere, as it was the first date I had with my girlfriend, and actually the first cinema date I’ve ever had. As we’re still together (at time of writing) the evening went well, and we still consider this one of ‘our’ movies (along with Finding Nemo, Armageddon and Little Miss Sunshine).
3. Worst
The Woman in Black, Salisbury Odeon, 2012
This is where my bottomless pit of vitriol for the other members of the human race comes to the fore. In the UK, The Woman in Black was released as a 12A, meaning that any screaming ball of mucus under the age of twelve is allowed in if their so-called-parent is willing to take them, yet the film is quite clearly billed as a horror, and was even released by the prestigious Hammer Studios, who’ve brought you the likes of Dracula, Quatermass And The Pit and The Phantom Of The Opera. Reportedly six seconds of footage was removed from the film to make it a 12A. I understand why it was done – they wanted to bring in the Harry Potter crowd, seeing as this was Daniel Radcliffe’s post-Potter movie, but I’d have much rather they left those seconds in, as the film was clearly a watered down, kiddie-friendly version of what could have been more than a by-the-numbers near horror. But my main problem with the film’s rating was that it allowed a man to bring in three 7 year old boys who sat in the seats directly in front of me. They weren’t all that interested in the ambience or the atmosphere as Radcliffe’s Arthur Kipps attempts to solve the mystery of a village’s dying children and a ghost in a deserted house. No, instead the kids were fascinated by me, who was intently watching the film and trying desperately to ignore the three gaping maws of the kids staring wide-eyed with intent at me. I’m not that interesting (these stories prove that), so what these kids were looking at is beyond me. A lesser man would have buckled and demanded their guardian, who I’m fairly sure was sleeping softly next to them, make some attempt to control at least one of these creatures, but I was adamant that they would soon tire of my ignoring them, but alas it was not to be. Also, the two gents sitting further down my aisle who incessantly rocked the entire row of chairs, and the two elderly dears a couple of rows back who decided that what this film really needed was a running commentary did nothing to improve the situation.
3. Best
Teeth, Stratford Picturehouse, 2008
Nice short one this. There are few things greater in life than having a cinema entirely to oneself, and that was the case here. When no-one is watching, you can let out the laughs you might otherwise suppress (I don’t know why, but I find it hilarious to watch a toothy vagina biting penises), you can sit anywhere you like, and move if you want to, and best of all, there is no-one around who could possibly annoy you. It’s viewings like this that make me want my own cinema.
2. Worst
The Avengers, Bournemouth Odeon, 2012
Another example of a much-anticipated film being ruined by a mixture of cinema and cinema-goers. First things first, in the trailers before the film, there was a trailer for Prometheus. That’s fine, no problems there. But immediately before that trailer was a feature of the making of Prometheus. The main part of going to the cinema for me is the immersion into the experience, so watching a feature on the making of a film before watching a different one kind of ruins that a little bit. What makes it so much worse though, is that after the trailer for Prometheus, there was a series of interviews with the cast of The Avengers. As in, the film I was about to see. They were flat out showing me that what I was about to see wasn’t real. “Look,” I could hear the cinema owners saying, “these people pretended to be superheroes, it’s not real. You’re all stupid for even being here.” I looked around me with incredulity, expecting a mob from the packed cinema to rise up and storm the screen, jeering “It’s gone too far!” and “We’re not gonna take it anymore!” but there was nothing. Fistfuls of popcorn were thrown face-wards and no-one cared a jot, but me. I was exasperated and appalled, both at the poorly planned trailer programming, and the level of acceptance with which the audience just sat there. Also, the guy who got bored a few seats along and kept checking his phone, please never stop shoving pineapples into your ass.
2. Best
Prometheus, Leicester Square Empire Cinema, 2012
Easy one this. As some of you may have read, and anyone who’s met me since will undoubtedly have heard me talking incessantly about, I got a free ticket to the cast and crew premier of Prometheus, so I got to see it even before the people who are actually in it got to see it (the Red Carpet Premier was two days later). This gets to be on here for two reasons; firstly, I got to see the film before everyone else, even though I had absolutely nothing to do with its production, which earned me bragging rights, and secondly, because I got to see a film surrounded entirely by people who love films, meaning everyone in that cinema either respected the holy temple of the theatre, or was a close enough friend, relative or partner of someone who did that they weren’t going to ruin it for everyone else. Plus, the Leicester Square Empire Cinema is pretty damn snazzy, and the film started on time and with no adverts or trailers.
1. Worst
Cloverfield, Stratford Picturehouse, 2008
This is the worst case of a group of people showing less than zero consideration for other people that I’ve ever seen. Cloverfield was understandably the recipient of a lot of hype, and featured an extensive online marketing campaign, which I for the most part followed, but not so much as to ruin the film, so I was looking forward to this movie quite a bit. I was fully onboard with the found-footage conceit, the shaky-cam was in no way going to cause me nausea, I had a good seat (got there early) and the rest of the cinema was semi-full, mostly with people who seemed pretty intent on watching the film – apart from the family four rows directly in front of me. I didn’t really notice them at the start of the film, why would I, they were just sat there watching a film, but about half an hour in, just as I was about to catch my first glimpse of the Cloverfield creature I’d been waiting literally months to see, they had a big argument. Standing up, shouting, arms flailing wildly at one another like people possessed. Now, I bet you’re thinking that a member of staff from the Stratford Picturehouse came in and sorted them out, or these three had the decency to remove themselves from my way, but this was East London, and they do things a little differently there. By which I mean that they didn’t do anything at all, other than sit back down again and continue to sporadically have violent outbursts at one another for the remainder of the movie. I wouldn’t have minded so much if this had been one of the shittier films I went to watch (this was during the at-least-once-a-week phase of my life), a period when I saw the likes of Sweeney Todd, Jumper and Be Kind Rewind, but this was bloody Cloverfield, a film I was looking forward to and one that I had wanted to watch uninterrupted from start to finish.
1. Best
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Bury St. Edmunds Picturehouse, 2012
Now this is at the top of my list mainly because I had anticipated the experience to not be an overall enjoyable one. The reviews for the film had been lacklustre at best, and the cinema was a tiny, run-down looking thing in the middle of Suffolk. We were going to an early afternoon showing of a film about old people, so of course the theatre was full of boiled-sweet sucking grandparents. Add to this that we’d been shopping for most of the day and were late to the cinema, so my hopes were not high as the non-specific seating meant we were probably going to be sat right down the front and to the side. My fears were correct, as the film wasn’t great and the seats were front and side, but instead of the usual crippling torture devices cinemas regularly masquerade as chairs, we were treated to a sofa, with legroom, cushions, cupholders and everything. It seems that the Bury St. Edmunds Picturehouse has had the foresight to realise that people don’t like sitting down the front, so if you become lumbered with one of these neck-twisting positions, you can at least be in comfort from the neck down. I’m shocked I didn’t fall asleep, so soft and cushion-laden was the sofa. Plus, my wallet didn’t receive the usual dry-fisting a trip to the cinema normally entails, and they had a goddamn bakery in the foyer. More cinemas should be like this.
Well that’s probably the most satisfying list I’ve ever written, I like a good rant now and again, Anyone else have any horror stories? I know mine are for the most part pretty petty, so come on, pluck my heartstrings and go pity-fishing.
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8 thoughts on “Top 5… Worst Cinematic Experiences

  1. Our trip to see The Woman in Black was also ruined by a mixture of parents bringing children who were far too young and pre-teens throwing popcorn and talking. Sentences such as "OMG is thart Harra Pottaaaaaar?" got in the way of the suspense of the film. On another occasion a couple sat next to us arguing but I don't remember what film that was during. When I went to see The Artist for the second time there were only 5-6 people in the room but one guy had to explain the whole film to his young son and as you say, it's mostly silent so I could hear everything he was saying! ARGH!

  2. I've heard of a screening of The Artist where a woman had to read every subtitle-card to her young daughter, loud enough for the rest of the cinema to hear. Who does these things? I spend most of my time in the cinema trying to stifle coughs and drink quietly.

  3. I rarely go to the theater anymore and that's because of the audiences that are in them. I can almost always wait a few months for it to come out on disk and I can watch it in the comfort of my own home.

  4. I'm beginning to understand why, but I like to support cinemas. I think there should be some kind of a three-strikes system at cinemas, where if people complain about a fellow patron enough times, that person becomes banned from certain screenings for a period of time, so eventually you'd get screenings at certain times in which only good film-watchers would be allowed. But that'd lose cinemas money, so will never happen until I build my own one.

  5. If I built my own movie theater there would be something around the frame of the door that fried every electronic device as people entered the theater (no talking on phones, no texting, no filming). The doors would be closed once the movie started and no one would be allowed in afterwards, or would be allowed out until the movie ended (other than for emergencies, of course.) It would also have seats wired to give people a mild shock when they tried to talk during the movie (like the dog collars that are used to train them not to bark.) If the person kept talking, the jolt would keep getting stronger. Eventually even the stupidest person would learn to not talk, or they would be unconscious. 🙂 (Laughter wouldn't trigger a jolt.)If the person could be detected by smell from more than a foot away they would not be allowed in. (I saw one of the 3 hour LOTR films while having to sit right next to a man who just REEKED. The theater was completely full so there was no other seat I could move to.)

  6. This is great! But, you know, also terrible for you…:)I can think of two off the top of my head that were absolutely dreadful cinema experiences. My first would be 'The Muppets' during which three small children with light-up sneakers kicked against my chair FOR THE ENTIRE RUN TIME. The kicking was bad enough, but the lights that kept flashing in my peripheral vision from the other two? I could have killed them. What's worse? When we asked them politely to stop, we were scolded by their mother because "this was a kids movie, there was no reason for us to be there, and we needed to just let them do their thing." WHAT? My other favorite? I went to see 'Rabbit Hole' on my own in a very empty theater. There were about 8 people total there, but for some reason this woman decided to come and sit three seats down from me. She unpacked just about every sort of beverage container she could possibly have: water bottles, giant theater soda cup, coffee carriers, etc, which seemed a little overkill considering the runtime of that movie. Apparently, though, she knew she'd need to be hydrated because as soon as the movie started she began crying. She cried through the entire movie. All of it. I had to watch that movie listening to the muffled sounds of a whimpering stranger and her slurping.

  7. I think I'm angriest about the assumption that The Muppets is a kids movie. The screening I went to had only 2 children in it, and they were there with both parents and other adults who clearly wanted to enjoy the film. Those light-up shoes should be outlawed. Cinemas should seriously consider limiting beverages to one per person (less likely to go to the bathroom too), and this comes from someone who dehydrates easily. From what I've heard the movie is sad enough without other people making it worse. You feel my pity.

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