Movie-Going Tips For The Sophisticated Cinemaniac

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For the first time in its history somewhere this side of Thanksgiving weekend Payson will be getting its very own, bona-fide, high-tech, state-of-the-art actual movie theater as opposed to a converted storefront where the motion picture viewing experience is something akin to watching your Uncle Ned's grainy old Super-8 home movies projected on a wrinkly old sheet in his living room.

What the town also will have for the first time in its history are its very own bona-fide, popcorn-munching, thrill-seeking regular moviegoers.

The following collection of frequently asked questions and incredibly smart, knowledge-laden answers some borrowed from the Internet site Movieguides.co, created by movie theater managers, and some culled from my own vast knowledge of things cinematic is designed to help you make the transition from video spud to sophisticated motion picture whiz-kid as smooth as possible.

Before we begin, a short lesson in movie-theater terminology. Think of the word "sets" as a grouping of similar showtimes. Ever notice that films usually start within 90 minutes of each other? That gives the staff enough time to clean up the lobby and set about cleaning auditoriums and your familiarity with the word, as you'll soon see, will help you get the best bang for your moviegoing buck.

Q: What exactly is the "artificial butter-flavored topping" that many theaters put on movie popcorn.

A: No one can say for sure. But many professional NASCAR drivers have credited it with keeping their engines operating at peak performance.

Q: How can I avoid long lines at the box office and snack bar?A: Avoid the weekend rush. The most popular showtimes are Friday evenings, most of Saturday and Sunday mornings. If you decide to go during these times, be sure to get there extra early. Holidays also draw many moviegoers.

If you purchase box office tickets and concession items between sets, you'll be skipping the long lines so common at popular movie theaters.

Purchase tickets early. Prepurchased tickets allow you to buy admission between sets. When seeing movies with a large group, this becomes especially important. During the set, you bypass the box office and walk directly into the theater. Remember to get inside early to get group seating because advanced purchases reserve a seat, not location.

Know which movie you want to see. Do your best to select a showtime before getting to the box office. It speeds up the line.

Use exact change when possible. This also will increase the line speed.

You can be at least seven minutes late. Although you may not get the best seats or even sit together, remember that movies have 7 to 10 minutes of preview trailers, better known as "coming attractions." You can get in a few minutes late and still see the entire film.

Q: I have heard that, in America, a movie patron nearly chokes to death on JuJuBes every 2.5 minutes. Is this true?

A: Yes. And he's getting awfully tired of it.

Q: How can I get the best seats?

A: Advanced tickets don't necessarily mean good seats.

Purchasing a ticket reserves a seat. It doesn't reserve the location.

Those who arrive earliest get better seating. If the best seats are important to you, ask when the earlier movie ends. Get there before it ends.

Adjust the volume by your proximity to the screen. The primary speakers are located near the screen. Proximity can make a pretty big difference. And like television commercials, the previews may be louder than the main presentation, so wait before you ask a theater employee to adjust the volume.

Q: How do you explain the fact that the crummy new motion picture remake of the crummy old TV show "Charlie's Angels" smashed so many box office records?

A: Easy. Microscopic parasites from another galaxy, brought to Earth on a meteor, have crawled into the ears of moviegoing Americans and have, thus far, eaten three-fourths of their brains.

Q: What the heck is "stadium seating?"

A: Perhaps the greatest advancement in motion picture presentation since Technicolor, that's all. Ever sit behind someone whose massive head, hat or hairdo blocks the entire lower half of the screen? Stadium seats rise well above the row in front of them, allowing you to see the whole screen even if you're sitting behind Bomba the Elephant Boy.

Q: Why are concession-stand items in movie theaters so danged expensive?

A: That's like asking, "Why is airplane food so bad?" They've got you where they want you. There is no escape. The starving will pay any price for sustenance.

As a historical note, this pricing strategy was inspired by the real-life exploits of the Donner Party, whose members became so famished during a snowstorm that they started eating each other. So when you think about it, shelling out $5 for a Hershey Bar is preferable to eyeballing your own children, wondering which one of them might taste best.

Q: How do theaters decide on which movies to present?

A: Movie theaters are grouped by geographic location. All theaters within a certain area must bid for any movies being released. Usually only one theater in a given zone can play a newly-released movie. The quality of the specific movie theater, type of people who generally visit that theater, and projected revenues from each screen contribute to the deciding factors.

For example, art films generally do better in metropolitan areas than in small towns. A movie distributor may accept a lower bid from a theater with a proven track record for that type of film. On the opposite end of the spectrum, a distributor may refuse to release films that are technically state-of-the-art, such as the "Star Wars" movies, to a theater equipped with a substandard sound system. It would be disappointing to watch a special effects, action, adventure movie in an auditorium with an outdated sound system.

Movie distributors agree on taking a certain percentage of box office sales plus an up-front fee to ship prints. The percentage goes down over time. Due to these agreements, box office sales generate weak revenues for the theater. Some movies flop while other films become huge hits. Therefore, concession stands generate most of the revenue at a theater.

Q: How do you explain the fact that Adam Sandler's new, um, comedy "Little Nickey" earned more than $18 million in its opening weekend?

A: Those microscopic parasites from another galaxy have finished off the last one-third of our brains.

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