There was a time when I saw advance screenings of movies. The gig I had at the time received passes in the mail almost every week, and I was usually offered one. Depending on my availability and if I wanted to see the movie, I'd consider going. Most of the time, the passes were for movies I had zero interest in, so I'd pass. But when it was a movie I wanted to see, I jumped for joy. I got to see The Matrix Reloaded, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Dreamcatcher a few days before they opened nationwide. Yet the last advance screening I saw was one that really tainted my view of going to advance screenings: Gothika.
I didn't go in with high hopes for this Halle Berry vehicle, but I figured I'd at least enjoy myself. I didn't think the movie was bad, nor did I think it was great. The tainted feelings though, came from the people sitting around me.
Since available seats were snatched up really quickly, I grabbed the closest seat to my preferred spot (middle seat in the middle section). Right after I sat down, I heard the people behind me talking shop. I realized I had parked myself in front of a row of movie critics and the ones behind me sounded like they had zero interest in seeing this movie or pretty much any movie that was made for the lowest common denominator. I wouldn't say this was just like the scene in Annie Hall where Alvy listens to a man behind him talk about a Fellini film, but it had its similarities.
Not only that, but I got the sense that most of the audience was there simply because it was a free movie. That said, some people were really into the movie and some really weren't. And I realized this when certain jumpy, gotcha! moments came. In one instance, a scare made some people fidget and holler. Immediately following this, a louder group of people laughed at them.
So here I am sandwiched between all of this, realizing I'm in a crowd of people who would not normally pay to see this movie. I was one of them too, so I'm not off the hook. But there's a reason why I don't pine for this experience. I'm so picky with seeing any movie in a theater; I want to enjoy myself and not feel caged in. So I prefer afternoon matinees of newly-released movies or evening showings of movies that have been out for a while and see it with a friend.
Why all this seems so odd to me is because I used to see a lot of movies in the theater. Be it with my parents or friends, I saw a lot of stuff on the big screen in its first run. In the last few years, I've seen an average of three movies a year in a theater. I've explained my reasons why before, but still, it's odd how this stuff changed and has remained almost unchanged ever since.