The Decline Of The Movie Theatre Experience In Trinidad

empty-cinema1_3028779bI will never be going to MovieTowne or Fiesta Plaza again!

I love movies. I loved going to the theatre. My boyfriend and I used to go to the movies twice and three times a week. It was our escape.

At TT$55.00 a ticket and TT$45.00 for a cardboard box of potato and a giant cup of liquid sugar, on average my partner and I would spend roughly TT$200.00 per visit, almost TT$600.00 a week at MovieTowne. That’s more than TT$2,000.00 / US$370.00 of our money, every month spent at MovieTowne. As a couple, we thought that was a sizeable investment in MovieTowne and considered ourselves loyal customers.

However, MovieTowne had other ideas about that expenditure.

I don’t remember when exactly it began. I imagine it was subtle at first. The couple six rows up, chatting quietly between themselves all through the movie. Then the cell phones and tablets being checked and the bright jarring glare in the dark of the theatre almost convincing you that you may even have died and should perhaps get up and walk towards it.

And then there was the walking, because somehow, in the middle of the movie people would need to get up several times to walk outside, squeezing between the tiny, almost airline-sized spaces of our knees and the chair in front of us.

The parents started bringing their children to watch movies. I went to see a few movies once with my parents, way back when cinema was a double show and a break between for snacks. If I so much as breathed heavily, my mother would reign down all hell on me, because everyone around us would reign down all hell on her. A few weeks ago, a mother was walking her child up and down the isle during The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Her child was wearing shoes that light up, bright electric red strobe lights when he walked. The MovieTowne attendants watched it and went back to chatting on their phones.

A few months prior to that, a man sat down next to us with his cellphone head set on and while he chatted through the entire movie, the bright blue strobe light on his headset flashed and drove everyone in our row, right down to the very end, insane.

My boyfriend and I went to see Ex Machina and had to leave in the first quarter, because the group of people sitting directly above us, kept shouting out their versions of the movie’s dialogue to the point where we couldn’t actually focus on what was being said in the movie. The MovieTowne attendants were standing at the bottom of the isle and said nothing, did nothing, even as patrons began to complain loudly about the groups behavior.

As a result, my partner and I started avoiding the prime time shows. It was simply impossible to enjoy a movie after four o’clock in the afternoon at MovieTowne. Determined to not give up on one of our few recreational options, we started going to 11am shows because we’re both self employed and can run away. Naturally, we started to cut back on how often we would go, because running away from work, three times a week wasn’t feasible.

But MovieTowne was determined to get rid of us, altogether.

Yesterday, my boyfriend and I went to see The Martian. It was the 1:15pm show. The theatre was fairly empty. We took our seat in a row occupied only by a group of three young girls who were all the way to the very end of the row. We felt safe. We were so utterly wrong.

It wasn’t merely that these young ladies chattered non-stop through the entire first hour of the show and I mean non-stop because I don’t think they were actually watching the movie. It wasn’t even that after two complaints had been made against them, and an usher had come and asked them to be quiet and then another complaint had been filed by us and the usher took almost 20 minutes to even come again. No. That was not what was infuriating. What was infuriating about the matter, was that after this man, employed by MovieTowne held a long second conversation, even louder than the girl’s chatter, for more than a few minutes, disturbing the entire theatre, he then proceeded to walk up to us and tell us how we should just deal with it because there is no law stating that people can’t talk in the cinema DURING THE MOVIE. When my boyfriend asked him to move from directly  in front of us where he had positioned himself to provide us with this pointless misinformation, he shouted, “No,” and continued to attempt to educate us on why we should tolerate this kind of behavior in MovieTowne.

By this time, the entire cinema was no longer watching the movie. We got up and left, along with several other patrons. MovieTowne did not refund us our money and we did not want a refund.

Because, as far as I’m concerned, this is the message that MovieTowne sent to us yesterday. MovieTowne condones people talking during our movie experience. In fact, MovieTowne staff will support the people who talk through your movie. Movietowne is not a place where civilized people should go for relaxation. MovieTowne, to me, is a zoo, where animals are welcomed and our movie experience means nothing to them.

So MovieTowne will never again get a single dollar of my money.

This is not a new issue. The decline of the cinema is a global business model that is failing. It is failing because people no longer want to spend the exorbitant amounts of money being asked by these businesses like MovieTowne, to be subjected to low-class, incivility and to feel victimized by the institutions into which they are pouring their hard-earned money. Whether consciously or unconsciously, the regular movie-goers who love film and are prepared to spend TT$2,000 a month on your business, will instead spend money on home entertainment. Like we plan to do.

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38 thoughts on “The Decline Of The Movie Theatre Experience In Trinidad

  1. Well done on this rant. I take in fewer and fewer trips to the movies as the years go by. On Demand, Redbox, Netflix, Hulu — whatever — all more awesome than the big screen. The snacks at our house are not only more affordable, but sometimes include beer and cheesecake. Plus, I can pause to pee.
    When we do see movies, I prefer the matinees, when kids are in school. Retirees know better than to chat at the theatre.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lol – I absolutely agree! We’re already pretty good at watching television on the couch. I guess, there is something to be said about a shared movie experience. But that refers to a theatre of people who can respect the humour, the silence, the moods. But that’s gone now. So couch, healthier snacks, and clean bathroom breaks where you don’t have to stand in a puddle of water that’s leaked from the neighbouring stall in the women’s bathroom – because that’s also part of your Movietowne experience. Sigh. I can’t believe we didn’t stop going there sooner.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Everything you said plus sharing an armrest keep me away from the movies.

    I saw The Walk in IMAX in an almost empty theater and it was a perfect movie going experience.

    Considering the amount of money you spend monthly and the fact that most movies are on blu ray in 3 months you should invest in a projector and start forming your home theater.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Go radioshack, buy the onkyo thx certified home theater, then go pricesmart, get the largest cheapest TV you can find and a blu-ray player. Place in a nice dark room in your house with a door that can be locked… be happy 🙂

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  3. Yes my fiance and I also stopped frequenting movie Towne. I went to several pg13 and rated r movies where for some reason babies and toddlers were allowed in the theatre. I would expect a children show to have crying babies and children kicking your seat but not a rated R or PG13 movie. I now resort to Netflix and online movies.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am astounded by how many people have simply stopped going to MovieTowne. I thought I was being pro-active. Seems like MovieTowne has lost and continues to bleed customers. It explains why there is such a prevalence of this behaviour now. Because the decent people are staying away.

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  4. I no longer go to Movietowne,
    I go to the South Park Cinemas 8 or National Cinema now. I prefer early shows too as there are hardly anybody there.
    I once told an attendant at Movietowne that they had let underage people into the movie and they talked loudly right through, his response was: “So what you want me to do for that?”
    The Movietowne crowd has gotten a lot more boisterous as the years have gone by. I used to be able to watch a movie there in civility, this is no longer so.
    A Movietowne will be opening soon in South too, I won’t be patronising.

    Liked by 1 person

    • To be honest – we try to support the local film industry and not stream foreign films either. Again it boils down to a long-term idea of paying for something to maintain the integrity of the product. Wonderfully, Amazon Prime and Netflix and others are making the streaming product a viable and legal option for film makers and viewers. All part of why the Theatre industry is a failing model.

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    • Anna, we have that ad here too. And a number to contact your usher. And rules. But the ushers are no better than girls at the end of our row and they have little or no power, and from the looks of it, little or no interest in doing their jobs. They are wall-flowers. The rules are not enforced and in our case – we were told that the rules don’t apply to us.

      It was crazy. It was down-right insane.

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  5. This post has me a tad confused…while it is true that the attendants have a job to do, and some onus does go on them and higher management…it seems utterly CLEAR to me in this post that the problem is the lack of ETIQUETTE of us, the Trinidad and Tobago patrons, as it is in most other things in our culture…and as in most other things in our culture, we turn the blame on the business or institution that is supposed to fix the problem of us!
    Sigh…my people…always looking for the easy way out, for others to blame, for the handout, instead of taking responsibility.

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    • Oh Kevin,
      I absolutely agree that the culture is the problem. I do think that there is an upsurge of indecency locally, but to be quite honest, it is also a global issue affecting movie theatres all over the world. In fact a chain of movie theatres in America, shared your opinion about holding the customer accountable and not the business. They are now closed down after relaxing their texting talking rules.

      You see, I think your confusion about this post stems from your confusion about the power of your consumer money. I have every right to hold the business responsible. Firstly, because they took my money. Secondly, because they announce on their screens to contact their ushers if you are having a bad experience in their theatres, and thirdly because their business requested that customers don’t disrupt other viewers in the cinema.

      If I go to a restaurant and pay money for a meal and the meal is delicious but the people sitting next to me keep spitting in it, and the restaurant owners and staff do nothing about it, damn straight I have a right to never go back to that restaurant. That’s the opposite of asking for a handout. That’s demanding better of society and using your purchasing power to do so.

      While you’re blaming society, I’ll be over here, using my purchasing rights to change things.

      Like

  6. I hold no brief for Movie Town or any similar local entertainment provider but in my opinion your wrath seems misdirected. The attendant who attempted to resolve the situation which ended in you being asked to deal with it is certainly unacceptable but that outcome is exactly what would have happen if you had tried to negotiate with those and other inconsiderate patrons. This problem is a Trinidadian people problem. Trinidadians have no manners, no consideration, no behaviour. How do you want Movie Town to control some of these country-bookie people who would bring a tablet to a cinema show or decide to have telephone calls throughout the entire show? Since the advent of the mobile phone, every cinema show I’ve been to has advised patrons about taking off their phones. Maybe cimemas should add advice about tablets and squeeky childrens’ sneakers now? When such an individual is challenged, what reaction do you expect they will present. What about another kind of patron who purchases three tickets and is telling you that the two vacant seat next to him are taken but those patrons may not even be in the Movie Town compound yet. Dey comin…. Look here nah…..a minister of government and a senior police officer recently exhibited this same kind of behaviour on an aircraft. So by all means take the decision you like about ever going back to Movie Town. That’s your right. However, just remember that it still have Trinis here and the animals and dem will be everywhere. This happens in the theatres, in restaurants, in the supermarket…. It’s a ridiculous situation, it’s quite frustrating, we should not have to accept it…. but the reality is Trinidadian people are a fucked up bunch of people. I won’t be allowing them to lead me to stopping my cinema entertainment experience.

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    • I strongly disagree with the sentiment that Trinidadian people can all be lumped into a negative bracket – more than a thousand people have shared this post to date – most of them voicing similar discontent with the service they’ve received and thousands more have comments on those shares agreeing that they are victimized by bad services across the industries. And I don’t think I will fall into a bracket of consumer who just feeds his/her own needs and allows the industries to make money off of us. You own a business, you accept money from customers, that means you take on certain responsibilities. I have the right to demand certain things for my buck. “Suck it up, buttercup,” is simply not good enough. If more people did it, we’d be able to counter this bigger epidemic of bad behaviour. Change is not going to happen if all we do is sit back, accept, name-call and endure.

      Take your rage and frustrations and apply it to civil actions. That’s how you change the situation. One person at a time.

      Like

      • The Huns are at the gates …..who will stand and protect the Kingdom we must take a stand on all small things for when we let them slip they will be at the foothills waiting for us,,, push back but be gentle.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. So very true! I think the only reason most people go to Movie Towne now is not to watch a movie, but the social status with saying (in a fake accent), “I saw that movie at Movie Towne! The 3d was amazing and the sound was out of this world!” never mind they had to buy a bootleg copy and watch it at home to actually get the plot…

    Like

    • I think many more people go to the movies as a form of escape and because they share a love of movies. It’s a place to immerse your imagination. When others make that impossible, it defeats the point of going to cinema.

      Whatever the reason, the point is, they are not getting what they are paying for…

      Like

  8. THANK YOU! You have touched on almost every bad experience i have ever had at MovieTowne. Let me throw one more log on the fire if i may. Pitch Perfect movie. Imagine sitting watching and enjoying the musical when some guy starts to sing…out loud, drowning out (by some magic) the theatre sound system so all you can hear is him and his four female companions yucking it up and supporting his behaviour. I asked asking him on several occasions to please keep it down but to no avail. Ended up having to summon MT attendants to help.

    What amazes me is that the theatre has rules of etiquette displayed before the start of any movie but apparently these hooligans are illiterate to too self absorbed to read. I suggest to them renting out the theatre next time and talk/sing/yodel and whatsapp yuh bell full at your own expense but while you are sharing the room with other paying attendees be respectful. Amazing also are the MT personnel who are basically say just deal with all the disturbances. My solution for some time has been to invest in a large screen tv, surround sound, netflix, make my own popcorn and enjoy the movie experience at home.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I wouldn’t say Trinidadian people are a “fucked up bunch of people” there has been a diminish in values which have contributed to the all-round behaviour of society in general. I understand where you would not allow persons to make you stop what you love to do, but I also agree that a company is responsible when certain mannerisms are allowed. The behaviour experienced happens everywhere, in many different countries, its how it is handled and managed. I am a proud trinidadian and do not behave as you say ‘trinis’ do. When i go a movie, i leave my kids home, though not everyone has that option. If I go with friends and one is running late, I’m going to hold a seat for them, wouldn’t you? My point is while I agree that people in general have become inconsiderate, don’t single out trinis, everyone at some point has experienced this kind of behaviour, not just in Trinidad. And I think the author’s point is when you pay for a service you expect to get what you pay for, regardless of its patrons.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. You have not stated a SINGLE SOLUTION to ensuring a reduction in the propensity of these experiences. Instead, bust a multi-million dollar investment by cussing the owner, because they are unaware of your experiences.
    With no brief for the owners or others who may have allowed the movie-going experience to deteriorate, I must state that I love going to the movies myself, regardless. Having realised LOOONNNGGG ago that you can determine the experiences you ultimately have, I have been pro-active, too. If there are people speaking during the movie, speak to them in a way that allows them to understand that you are NOT complaining, because when you sound like you are, people become defensive – and your experience becomes that much worse. I adapt similar strategy for every other area, and most have worked.
    It will not suffice to tell you what to do when next you are at the cinema; what works for me may not for you. However, to say that WE will not try to have the overall experience changed other than to write an article about the various poor experiences we have had is almost as bad as MovieTowne not moving to recognise you as a stakeholder. The PM recently said that we should not consider a tangible reward (automatic refunds, etc) for changing the reality of our social-scape. With that in mind, why not write another article which allows your considerable readership to relate HOW they have made changes in the delivery of a service which THEY subscribe to? Start by talking about your own – yuh know we want to hear ’bout dat, ent?

    Otherwise, if we not happy, or motivated – we might in time jus’ leave Poui behind like you left MovieTowne

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    • Actually, I have reduced the propensity of these experiences to zero. I simply refuse to engage in the activity. If your solution is to educate businesses and their customers on general social ethics, then kudos to your immense character and expansive expertise. I know my limits. I’m a writer and consumer. I will simply cease to consume and write about it. I’m not as intelligent as some of my other fellow members of society.

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    • “You have not stated a SINGLE SOLUTION to ensuring a reduction in the propensity of these experiences.” So it’s the paying customer’s responsibility to offer and solve movie town’s issues? ROFL!

      Like

  11. In response to the above comment “BRADEE”: I think you failed to read the post before responding. Several previous attempts were made to address the situation in a civil manner. Those attempts failed. The final failure was on the part of the company which ultimately endorsed the disruption of their customer’s experience. Your suggestion that it lies with the customer to solve a company’s problems is like trying to say that families that sued car manufacturers over failed brakes should provide schematics to fix the brakes before they complain.

    Further, rather than complain about the post and suggest the author write an article that would more appeal to you, perhaps you should just write that article yourself and have that conversation and then provide MT with what you think should be their business model – I’m sure they’d love to hear from you.

    And one other thing, If you actually read the article you would see that replacement tickets or a refund were turned down, so your references in regards to doing things with expectation of a reward really have no relevance here whatsoever. You may be fine with holding a conversation during a movie to explain to people calmly why they should not hold a conversation during a movie – that reason has worked out for you in these cases is a very heartening thought – but I for one do not go to the cinema to either give or receive lessons in ethics, I go to immerse myself in a movie (I know, weird right?). And that apparently is not encouraged at Movietowne.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Worth a share. During my last two visits to Trini, I went to MovieTowne and there was always at least one thing mentioned going on. A gentleman sat next to me with a phablet (those smart phones with huge screens) set on the outdoor-brightest setting and not only used the phone during the movie, but pointed the screen towards me, I’m guessing so that it wouldn’t bother his movie experience (haha) instead of locking the screen (to say the least). He was highly affronted when I asked him to dim the light on the screen because it was in my eye. A sort of ‘how dare you’.

    There used to be a number to text if people were acting up in the theatre. I used that way back in the past but I may as well have drawn a help button on my forearm and pressed that instead. The service, portion sizes and overall experience don’t justify the cost. Give me back the old Palladium cinema, with a double feature, balcony seating and a ticket man who isn’t 15 and doesn’t allow nonsense in his cinema.

    One may argue that the type of crowd in attendance is beyond the control of the establishment, however most of you reading this are probably very familiar with the local drunkards and hooligans occupying house seats in the old cinemas. Even they had more class than the over privileged higher-paying customers in the state-of-the-art movie theatres who are allowed to run free.

    I could go into a rant here about how civilized problem-solving behaviour is met with pseudo-rebellious defiance, but the post alludes to that quite well.

    P.S. This kind of behaviour isn’t limited to Trini. I see it in Ontario as well, the only difference being that you are valued as a consumer and the situation is handled either in that moment, or with apologies and compensation for you in a retroactive manner.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Why I think we’re out of touch. This complaint isn’t about the price of the ticket or the concessionary. It isn’t about the fact that there are seats located at the bottom where it is impossible to see. It is singularly about wanting to go to Movietowne and to see a movie in comfort without being disturbed because you’ve paid your money and by right you deserve to enjoy it…in Movietowne.
    Like some of the other commenters on your blog if you had addressed our general lack of etiquette, our discipline our ambivalence to service. Then I would have been 100% in agreement with you. But what I’m getting is, it is only because this phenomenon has affected your ‘Movietowne’ experience that has really irked you.
    One commenter suggested Cinema 8 in south. I readily endorse this. Clean cinema. Cheaper prices. $20 specials. No noise and almost no one at this time period. Smal dive down the road. And sorry only one movie you maybe able to see in one day. You can also enjoy the drive south with your significant other.
    I sincerely hopes this helps with your Movietowne experience

    Like

  14. Very interesting post. Like you I have an ever growing list of stores, restaurants I choose not to support simply because they do not value the customer. We really do not realise the power the consumer has to effect businesses to change. Good for you!

    Like

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