03 June 2007

An Evening at the Movies

GLH and I went to see a movie this evening. Our first since moving here, mostly because we just haven't had time.

But GLH really wanted to see Spiderman 3 and he finally wore me down.

I first checked out where it was playing in English. Then I tried to purchase our tickets online. Unfortunately, once you get to that screen the website gives you 180 seconds to finish your purchase. My German skills are getting better, but it shut down on me twice while I was still trying to translate the darn thing.

So we decided to take our chances in person.

We arrived at the theater to purchase the tickets and were shown a seating chart. Because, of course, there is assigned seating in Swiss movie theaters. You wouldn't want people just going in and seating themselves anywhere they wished. That would be chaos!

Once we got into the theater we found our seats. Others filed in. By the time the movie started, most everyone was sitting tightly packed into one of three rows. Even though only a quarter of the theater was full.

Perhaps this assigned seating bit doesn't work so well after all! I mean, I like people all well and good. In theory. But I would rather not sit right next to complete strangers in a movie theater.

After the movie started, we moved to different seats. There was no one in them and no one else sitting around those seats. I was surprised that no one else also adjusted so they would have more room. The other people in the theater seemed surprised that we moved and were obviously sitting in seats that were not assigned to us!

By the way, I must not forget to mention -- absolutely no one came in late. That's right, folks, the entire audience was on time to the movie. No stumbling about in the dark. No whispered apologies as someone steps on your toes to get to a seat.

Then we had another surprise. Although the previews were over and the opening credits had finished, there was still a great deal of chatter going on in the theater. I waited for someone to start shushing and asking others to be quiet, but it never came. Then I realized that pretty much everyone else was talking. Apparently talking during movies is perfectly acceptable here.

But we settled in and went with the flow. We even were able to mostly ignore the chatter. Then, in the middle of a scene. Indeed, in the middle of a sentence, the film shut down. The lights came up and a message on the screen recommended we go get ice cream.

It was an intermission! In a two hour movie!

About half the audience left. And the message must have worked because many of them did indeed return with ice cream.

The remainder of the movie finished without incident. Well, except for me laughing at inappropriate places because the plot and dialogue were over-the-top melodramatic and the acting was terrible. But I feel no guilt. If they can talk throughout the movie, then I can laugh loudly at "touching scenes."

When the movie finished, the lights came up. Everyone looked around their seats for their trash and carried it out. Anything that could be recycled was duly placed in the appropriate recycling bin. Garbage was neatly thrown away. The theater was left in immaculate condition.

Weird experience all around.


Greg said...

The assigned seating thing is pretty weird, but it's not just Switzerland. I remember having assigned seating once when I saw a movie in New Zealand.

I hadn't noticed people talking during a movie before (at least in Basel). Perhaps a "Sie durfen nicht sprechen" was in order. ;-)

Since my wife is Swiss, I often find myself laughing at many parts of a movie all by myself. It's a bit strange at first, but you get used to it. Once we went with a few friends to Ice Age 2. One of the others was also American. It was good to not be the only one laughing at various jokes then. During the intermission we explained many of the jokes to our Swiss companions.

Global Librarian said...

I did wonder if perhaps the talking was due to the fact the movie was in English with German and French subtitles.

We may have been the only ones in the theater that needed to actually hear the movie!

Indie Mama said...

We haven't made it to the movies here (hard to coordinate w/ the babe), but that sounds close to what I would have guessed. = ) Very civilized, very *swiss*!

Marcy said...

We haven;t gone to a movie here yet (I'm actually not even sure where the closest movie theatre is) but your experience has piqued my curiosity! Hubby's also been itching to go see Spiderman 3, maybe when he gets back in town we'll give it a shot.

I bet all the swiss germans were so shocked at your faux-pas of sitting in ANOTHER SEAT!!! =P

Kirk said...

We had the same experience the first time we saw a movie in Basel, and when we moved to empty seats we could feel everyone else in the theatre (all 3 rows worth) staring at us for having the temerity to move to seats that weren't ours.

I also noticed that not only does no one come in late, but since seats are assigned hardly anyone comes early either. We're so conditioned to having to get to movies early to get seats that we'd be sitting in an otherwise empty theatre for 20 minutes until people poured in 2-3 minutes before the start of the show.

Un-Swiss Miss said...

New York has a couple of theaters with assigned seats, so I never found that odd. Intermission is simply bizarre though! It'd be one thing if they had a true break, but a lot of times they shut down mid-sentence. Weird!

Greg said...

Another thing I've noticed is that they often crank the heating way up during the movie. I think this is to sell more magnum bars at the intermission. At the Kuechlin in Basel, they've stopped doing the intermission, and now the temperature is much cooler in the theatre.

One of the funniest bad translations on the subtitles I've noticed was when one character in the movie said 'Neat!" (as in that's great, cool, etc...) and the translation was "Sauber!" (meaning clean, with no slang meaning). No wonder the Swiss audience seemed a bit confused.

Pointless Drivel said...

See, some things are better in the US. Our subliminal advertising is just a one or two frame picture of a refreshing beverage or delicious snack and doesn't require stopping the movie. Of course, then you have to miss part of the movie to get that snack, so it isn't perfect.

What they need is delivery service!

Anonymous said...

In Singapore you get assigned seating too - you just have to hope that no one near you is snacking on fish balls!

The Big Finn said...

I'm pretty sure that the main reason for the intermission is because a large percentage of the audience can't go for more than an hour without a nicotine fix!

rswb said...

The thing that annoys me most about the movies in Switz is the variable prices depending on where in the cinema you sit.

swissmiss said...

I agree with the big finn - the pause is for the smokers! I hate the intermission with a burning white passion. I will never, if I live here until I'm 100, accept the pause.

And I'm surprised to hear about all the chatter. They must be right rude in Zurich ;-) I've never found it so bad in Bern.

Every once in a blue moon we get a movie without a pause, and it's such a pleasure. I think the last time in happened was Monster's Ball, so really once in two blue moons I guess.