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.