A Big Hit at the Box Office

So I was reading the paper, and I learned that Brigham Young University running back Fahu Tahi had been accused of punching a man in the face outside Movies 8 because the man’s smart-aleck comments had ruined the movie for him. And I was very alarmed, not because a BYU football player had been arrested, because that happens all the time, but because since when is it against the law to punch a guy for talking during a movie? My understanding was that this is a punchable offense.

Where this becomes a thorny legal issue is that it took place at Movies 8. This is what people call a “dollar theater,” even though tickets stopped costing $1 approximately 10 years ago. In industry terms, it’s a “second-run house,” where films go after they have already played out at normal theaters. It’s the last chance to see them before DVD — or should I say video, since the people who wait for the dollar theater to see movies probably have not yet shelled out for a DVD player. If it were possible, they would probably own VCRs that only played 8-tracks.

As you may have surmised, I am a big snob about movies, and so my esteem for dollar theaters is low. The prints are always in terrible shape, having been run hundreds of times at other theaters, and since people only pay a couple bucks to get in, they haven’t invested enough to really care about the experience. People will talk, or get up a lot, or give birth, or whatever, either because they’ve already seen the film elsewhere, or because they honestly don’t care about movies very much anyway and they just like the experience of leaving the house and sitting in the dark.

And so I’m torn. Part of me says if you talk during a movie, you deserve to be punched, and if you talk REPEATEDLY during a movie, you deserve to be punched by a football player. But part of me says if you’re cheap and/or lazy enough to go to Movies 8, you can’t really expect a normal, satisfactory movie experience. You have to expect the place will be overrun by teenagers and college students on cheap dates, that the film will probably break at some point, and that there’s every chance it will feature Rob Schneider.

Tahi and the punched man were watching “The Ring,” an excellent film that ought to be seen without any interruptions or distractions so that you can be drawn into its creepy world and wet your pants. Every time someone near you talks, it pulls you out of the movie and back into reality, and reality is the last place you want to be when watching a film. The best place to watch “The Ring” would be at home, alone, with a great sound system, except that even then, someone might call or stop by. So really, the best place to watch this movie would be in a place where there are no other people, such as the moon. (Though I am guessing that even on the moon, there will be crying babies.)

My point is, I can see how “The Ring” could be ruined by a loudmouth in the audience, especially if he thought he was funny. Loud people who think they’re funny in movie theaters never are; it is physically impossible. You can be loud OR funny, but not both. Now, when I was watching “Bulletproof Monk” and someone shot and killed one of the non-bulletproof monks, and I said, “That monk had two weeks left till retirement!,” THAT was funny, because I only whispered it to my friend who was sitting right next to me. You, Punched Guy, when you yelled things during “The Ring”: not funny.

But I can also see how, you know, what did Tahi expect when he paid $2, wedged himself into a broken, uncomfortable, non-stadium-seating chair, watched previews for movies that came out three months ago, and commenced viewing a torn, splotchy print of “The Ring”? If you want to see a movie the right way, see it at a real theater, for a reasonable price. I mean, you get what you pay for. For example, this column was free.

My friend Smacky and I were going through a phase where everything had two weeks left till retirement. If, in our everyday lives, someone broke a glass or slammed a door or deleted an e-mail, we would fiercely lament what it shame it was, as that thing had only two weeks left till retirement. So you can see why, when the monk got shot -- a situation much closer to the original context of that line than dishes being broken -- it was very, very funny to us.

This column marked the first time I used the word "teenager" after learning that the Associated Press Stylebook had finally taken the hyphen out of it. It never made sense to write it "teen-ager," so there was much rejoicing in the world of nerdy journalists when the AP finally came to its senses. Unfortunately, the Daily Herald's in-house style manual was still requiring us to write "cellphone" instead of "cell phone," so we still had some battles ahead of us.