Saturday, June 25, 2011

Letters to the Audience

by Odienator

Audience-warning letters from movie theaters are not new. In my Blazing Saddles review, I mentioned that the General Cinemas Hudson Mall Theaters in Jersey City put a disclaimer on their doors warning patrons about the film's offensive content. They said they took no responsibility if the film upset you. When Cruising, the Al Pacino/William Friedkin movie passed the MPAA with an R, some theaters put a warning sign up stating that the film "should be rated X." I recall one adorning the doors of my hometown's State Theater. And when The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo played Cincinnati's Esquire Theater, their website warned patrons that the film was unrated but was violent enough for an NC-17.

Even cable TV got into the act. When I was flipping through my On Demand a while back, I noticed the description for Lars von Trier's Antichrist was one line long: "This Film Has Extremely Graphic Violence." No other plot description was given because a description of what happens in Antichrist would require a warning of its own.

So I'm not surprised that the Avon Theater in Stamford, Connecticut posted a warning sign for its patrons. What is surprising is that it was necessary at all. Here is the letter. See if you can spot why the reason is a surprise to me.

The Avon is apparently an art theater. Had it been a multiplex, this might have been warranted. Multiplexes are for the general, unwashed masses of moviegoers. Art houses are usually for snooty, artsy assholes who know what they're in for before they step to the ticket booth. Why would they need a warning, especially one for the long-awaited Terrence Malick movie? The man is to the art house crowd what Oprah is to women. If he made a remotely bad movie, there would be mass suicides. It would be The Happening Part Two.

Perhaps the art house crowd in Stamford are a tad less snobbish than the average indie movie crowd. Maybe they want more entertainment and less pretention. After all, Stamford is the home of the Maury Show. Or maybe a bunch of the unwashed multiplex masses discovered that the one-time sexiest man alive was playing over at that Avon Theater, and they went in expecting Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Whatever the reason, the Avon Theater felt compelled to post that sign.

Personally, I like it. It provides a public service, but is also reverse psychology. It's saying "ooh! This movie may be TOO much for your feeble mind to handle!" For a certain type of person, this is a dare. They'll go see it, and in order to best the sign, they won't leave. If they hate it, they'll look bad if they ask for a refund. Smart move, Avon Theater!

It's such a smart move that I think ALL movie theaters should post warning signs. If you visit my theater, the Cineplex Odie-On, you might find these letters posted on the glass doors:

Dear Patrons,

Please be advised that Thor is a piece of shit. Granted, it is directed by Kenneth Branagh, but not the one you remember from Henry V and Much Ado About Nothing. This is the one from Wild Wild West. Thor also stars the Anthony Hopkins from such 70's films as Audrey Rose and Magic, and the Natalie Portman who proved that doubles did more than just dance for her in Black Swan. They acted for her too.

Remember that the Odie-On has a strict NO REFUND policy. You got what you deserved for even considering to see a movie about some blonde asshole from outer space swinging a hammer.

Thank you.

Dear Patrons,

In response to a spate of audience members leaving the theater with bite marks and torn clothing, the Odie-On advises you not to sit in the first five rows of the theater during screenings of The Fighter. Not only do we have a strict NO REFUND policy, we are also not an HMO. We will not be responsible if your body gets between Melissa Leo's teeth and the scenery.

Thank you.

Loyal Customers,

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives is a challenging film. It is non-linear, and at times may be as hard to follow as it is to say Apichatpong Weerasethakul. You may be compelled to leave before it is over. But the Odie-On is proud to show this film, and we are so behind it that if you violate our NO REFUNDS policy, management will escort you back into the theater and tie you to a seat.

We provide this service for your own good. Uncle Boonmee may SEEM incredibly boring, but you will want to stick around. Trust us. You will want to stay. Three words, folks:  

Coochie-eating fish. 

You know you wanna see that.

Thank you.

Attention Ticket Holders for Transformers: Dark of the Moon:

Please be advised that the usher ripping your ticket is going to kick you in your balls before allowing you in the theater. If you are attending a 3-D screening of this film, the owner of Cineplex Odie-On will also kick you in the balls because he can no longer perceive 3-D. If you have brought a girl to this movie, we will separate you and send her to Meek's Cutoff as punishment for dating a dolt.

Also be advised that there will be NO REFUNDS when you realize Megan Fox is not in this sequel. You will just have to beat off to images of Optimus Prime.

Thank you.


Randy Masters said...
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Angela said...

Love this...could go on for days...!

Anonymous said...

As I was reading this in a public place, I had to suppress the mad cackles I'd ordinarily have uttered. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

One small thing I must point out, though. As one who grew up in the town next door, it's Stamford, not Stanford.

Andy H said...

..wonderful, wonderful, made me think of some flyers i would post for certain flicks....great work

odienator said...

Pieter, I should know that it is StaMford, considering I've been there. Shame on my typo. I will fix it when I get home.

Thanks for the comments, folks. Write your own warning letters!

ehengel said...
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dh said...
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Anonymous said...

My only disagreement with that entire thing - which is utterly kickass - is the "what Oprah is to women" comment. Um, NO. Sorry, sweeties. I am 100% female and Oprah Winfrey makes me break out in an itchy rash.

The rest of that is superb, though.

Brian Darr said...

Great piece! Love the Boonmee letter especially! It all goes to show that the so-called arthouses aren't what that they used to be. They're the places where adults take refuge from the teenage multiplex crowd. Some of these adults may not have much taste for art, however; a film more challenging than the King's Speech may not be very warmly embraced.

odienator said...

I suppose I owe the Avon Theater a visit, to thank them for the blog traffic. I'll work my way up there within the next two weeks.

paolo said...

Well, I think that the next time my favourite Filmmuseum shows Citizen Kane, I will suggest them to put a warning sign that the narrative is not told straightforward but from the point of view of every character

odienator said...

paolo, they should also warn the customers that Rosebud is a sled.

paolo said...

no, that would be a spoiler

paolo said...
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