Wednesday, August 14, 2013

To the sinny-mah!

Later that day I slipped a sandal tenderly on my foot and went out to meet my new girlfriend Salads for a date at the cinema.

Salads and I had been introduced through Finnish K, whose wedding I attended last summer when she married British American J. They now have a baby and are living comfortably in the suburbs of Espoo. We reminisce occasionally about my love of mustaches and how that brought us together.

Salads and Finnish K met each other when all of them were living in Delhi, India. Funny who you meet on the road. Similar to the situation Salads and I are now in, Finnish K and Salads were in the same situation in India then - new to a city and wanting to make new girlfriends. I mentioned my plight in making new friends in London last time I was talking to Finnish K and the connection was made between Salads and I. Well, there you go. Friends making friends making friends. And the world turns. People, brought together.

Anyway, back to our movie date. I still hadn't been to a cinema in the UK, despite my numerous times visiting and my now 5 months of living here, so I figured it was high time. Plus Salads was exhausted from her apartment hunting and job so our weekend activity needed to be low-key. Well, that I can certainly do.

We decided on somewhere central - Leicester Square. I didn't know any of the major cinema chains so just chose one that I could find and vaguely recognize - one called Vue. As it turned out this wasn't the best of the best but whatever, still learning.

We originally wanted to see the new Superman movie, Man of Steel, but unfortunately that's already been phased out of most theaters and is only showing at select ones, perhaps even one show a night (the last showing). So that was nixed pretty early on in our planning discussions. What other good movie was out that we both wanted to see? Well, my tastes tend to run pretty nerdy and unfortunately she's not much into that, so I'm on my own for things like the new Star Trek movie and probably even things like Pacific Rim (she's not much into horror either, I've understood). Well that's okay, I can do those things on my own or wait until my intern downloads them for me. Life goes on.

So I suggested we go see "Now You See Me," a ridiculously entertaining movie about magicians who do bank heists. Yes, yes, and yes. Playing at a central theater at the right times.

We bought tickets online and made our move.

First observations?

You can definitely buy booze at the theater here:

Beers, ciders, and some hard lemonades and things like that are definitely sold at the concession stand. I happened to be having a chat with one of my friends in the States while I was waiting for Salads to meet me and he asked me if booze was available. The loud answer? Absolutely. You can definitely drink beer while enjoying your movie in your mainstream theater.

I don't think I will ever get used to this, even though I think it is a fantastic idea. I guess even in countries where people do relatively drive a lot this is still an accepted thing. People are supposed to be able to handle their liquor a lot better...or something.

Second observation:

You can buy your tickets online (and reserve exactly which seat you want, like in Finland) and then go to this little kiosk and print your tickets immediately.

I know we have sort of similar machines in the States, but for whatever reason this struck me as nice and convenient. You could even buy tickets from this machine should you not want to interact with a human. One of these days we won't even need human workers for places like these - just machines.

Third observation:

Theaters have to build up rather than sideways. This theater had escalators that just kept going up and up and up. There were tiny floors so we kept having to get off of a tiny escalator to get onto yet another tiny escalator (our theater was on the top floor). Some of these floors didn't even have anything on them (like a cinema screen or even a lounge spot). I'm not sure what the point is other than to get us up higher without having to build a really long escalator and not take up a lot of space horizontally. Seemed really silly either way. We had to literally go up maybe ten escalators to get to our theater.

Fourth observation:

Stadium seating is not really stadium seating there. More like a gentle slope.

Unfortunately a very tall man with a long head was two rows in front of me and he loved to sit straight up in his seat, making it fairly hard to see the entire screen. I didn't want to be rude and move to another seat to block someone else's view [British problems] so I just bore it and tried to enjoy my movie as much as possible. Kind of interesting though that we still don't have stadium seating in some of these places. I guess if you're building up instead of sideways though, maybe this makes sense.

Fifth and final observation:

British people love to talk in movie theaters. Loudly. There's no concept of not talking during movies and not checking your cell phone. I hate to admit it but even Salads was one of these people, and she's not even British. There was no message ahead of time about silencing your cell phone or not disturbing other people's movie experience. None of the jazz I'd seen in almost every other country. Just, you're here for your movie, here are the trailers and boom, feature presentation. It did make me wonder.

Generally speaking Now You See Me was a delightful movie and I loved the experience, even with all the little quirks. I'll likely go on my own again sometime to see all the nerdy movies that no one wants to see with me. But at 14.50pounds a pop it's not exactly a cheap entertainment option (especially with all the free options they have in the city, seemingly on a regular basis). So I'll probably not become a regular cinema-goer unless my significant other is really into it, really rich, or otherwise somehow convinces me that this is worthwhile all the time.

I do miss American cinema and its affordability. There is something to say about making things affordable for the masses. This is clearly not something that is translated to other countries, booze-availability and seat-selection or not.

Until I'm back in cheaper lands though, I'll enjoy the cinemas when I can, and likely choose better theaters to go to. As we were leaving Salads told me that I should choose Odeon cinemas next time, as they show more selections of movies, have more locations, are sometimes cheaper, and seem to always have stadium seating.

Well, there you have it. Lesson learned and number one cinema experience down.

I <3 movies.

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