Globe-trotting journalist and cinema glutton Christian Seiersen gushes forth on how crowd calls and hot dog stalls make theatres unbeatable.

Ever since I was seduced by the glossy pages of gadget magazines, my efforts to visit movie theatres have been hindered by their cast of technological minions, clinging to my trousers and beckoning me into the realms of my living room. Even if I do make it outside, they can still be seen, clamoring at the doors of the cinema to out-maneuver this seemingly archaic means of experiencing movies. But while this horde of lesser beauties is growing in numbers, they still can’t hold an eyelash to the cinema experience. Although most visits will not be as eventful as the climax of Nazi killathon Inglorious Basterds, the benchmark for enthusiasm for the cinema was set, quite heroically, by a friend during a visit to the second Transformers film.
In his determination to make the pre-movie trailers, he leapt gracefully down a small flight of stairs, only to be met by the hard exterior of a low-hanging beam. Bloodied, concussed and in the presence of a female companion, he refused medical attention and, taking his place near the front, sat through the two and a half hour film, using his jumper as a makeshift bandage. It was only after the last credit had rolled that he allowed us to prise him from his seat and take him to hospital. Perhaps if the film’s producers had such a strong sense of pride, we would not have had to endure such a film in the first place.
Personally, I prefer to be more removed from the action and focus on the gastronomic offerings in the concession stands. Although they have yet to reach the heights of a Michelin star, the American hotdogs ooze a certain rustic charm, if not vats of grease that even Augustus Gloop might turn his nose up at. Whilst most culinary establishments prefer to embellish their offerings with the aid of a menu, you have to admire the frank honesty in which the frankfurters are displayed, leaving little to the imagination. As they revolve eerily around the large metallic machine, I can’t help but imagine it being more at home as a particularly inventive tool in a Saw film rather than anything, dare I say, productive.
This ‘grazing food’ serves its purpose for the charming romcom, but cinema food is all about choosing your battles, and when the stakes are raised to a three-hour epic, so too must you raise your game. To meet this challenge fully-equipped, look no farther than the picnic. It’s all about thinking outside the box, or rather inside the box. If it can be sealed in a plastic container and fit under the shirt, then its fair game. After that, the cinema is your oyster. Although I have yet to try that particular dish, my personal favorites include spaghetti and a well-cooked salmon.
Whilst these meals would be more appropriate for a film at home, that would also mean discounting the value of risk for ‘the smuggler.’ European cinemas seem to be leading the crackdown on this activity and more than once I have been unceremoniously removed, sushi still in hand, having given away my position by an overly generous use of soy sauce. I have found America to be far more lenient, namely, if you can smuggle it under your shirt, then the grease stains are deemed punishment enough. As a rule of thumb, I tend to pass on the more pungent food. Cheese and egg-related products are usually left at home; overpowering smells have the uncanny ability of turning an innocent face into a ruthless vigilante.
Bystanders can also be roused into action if the veil of silence, which descends over the theatre after the trailers, is broken. These keepers of the peace usually position themselves front and centre to allow for a sweeping view of their subjects. Unfortunately for them, this is also a prime spot for target practice, should their interventions go unappreciated. But, as much as we may throw popcorn at them, as soon as the cinema descends into wanton
anarchy, they become sorely missed.
One such occasion was at a cinema in Barbados, where one group of women took it upon themselves to provide a running commentary of the movie, The Dark Knight. Although most of the team’s efforts were below par, I felt a particular connection with their ring-leader when, after Maggie Gyllenhaal slaps the Joker at a dinner party, she got up and, with a dramatic wave of her finger, pronounced “Oh no she di-nt!” This cinema was all about the audience pitching in and I also appreciated the efforts of the backrow contingency, who provided their own sweet-smelling incense to contribute to the atmosphere and fragrance of the cinema.
Besides these communal efforts, theatres have their own tricks. The most recent of which has been the premium seat. Because people rarely buy tickets for these, it brings the art of gambling into the cinema. The technique I employ is the ‘stalker,’ taking a seat nearby the radiating row and pouncing at the five-minute mark into the movie. If you go in straight away, guns blazing, then you run the risk of being publicly ejected onto the aisle when the ‘premium party’ arrive fashionably late. On these occasions, backup seats are a necessity, but if you exercise a degree of prudence, the premiums are yours.
The only problem posed now is that of the toilets. To visit them would be to concede a lack of organisation on your behalf, and further still, especially for men, to admit that you do not, in fact, possess the iron bladder that you were flaunting to people as you squeezed past them to get to your seat. And even if you do make it out of the public’s glare, there is always a wizened cinema employee crouching outside, whose look of passive sympathy seems to say “My son, you should have held back on the Sprite”. No, the toilets represent a social faux-pas for the experienced cinema-visitor and, as a result, they can resemble a medieval swamp. Something I came across in a German cinema, of all places.
How Theatrical! is a series on the delights of cinema-going, the dark pleasures of a theatre that go beyond cinema itself.
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