In my other job as a film critic, I sometimes see up to three, maybe four movies a week in the theater. Many of these are free preview screenings that often seal-off a small section for press and their guests, with the rest of the theater open to radio station contest winners, promotional ticket-holders and various jerks who treat a free movie with the same level of testicular excitement usually reserved for winning a million dollars from Publisher’s Clearing House.
To say these seat-fillers are the bottom of the barrel does a grave injustice to barrel-bottoms. I have seen grown men step on their own children for promotional items like keychains and posters, heard more crying babies than a maternity ward on a Friday night and, subsequently, force-adapted to the general Lord of the Flies-esque disregard for any type of social decorum, free movie or not, with loud talking, cell-phone lights and chair-kicking some of the more innocuous indictments of things that you just have to “let go of.”
It’s enough to make you want to ask for your non-existent money back.
Now if that is how (free) moviegoers act while jacked on a $8 Coca-Cola and a $10 bag of popcorn, just imagine how amazingly insufferable they will be after spending the last of their disability benefits on a couple of $10 Bud Lights. Just try asking the increasingly buzzed dude behind you who is getting louder and louder to put a pin in it—chances are it’ll be the one false move that ruins your whole night. Can’t a dude just enjoy him some Vin Diesel without getting a courtesy cup of chaw revenge-splashed in his coif?
This past week, Mary Fallin signed a bill allowing the desegregated sale of alcohol in movie theaters. Meanwhile, cancer patients in need of medicinal marijuana to treat pain can continue to go and screw themselves…
Sorry, Mary Fallin, Stephanie Bice, and all other alkies, but this is just one of those things I am wholly against, and I’m not just saying this as a passive viewer either. Before becoming the flirtatious scribe that you read every week in these here picture pages, from about 1997 to about 2002 or so, I pretty much worked, trained, supervised, managed and made love to every single theater in Oklahoma City. From the final days AMC Memorial Square 8 to the grand opening of Penn Square Dickinson, I’ve seen it all and done it all and dealt with it all when it comes to the cinema game.
Simply put – Oklahoma City is not “urbane” enough to handle a responsibility like liquor in a movie theater. I see how you act late Saturday night in Bricktown stumbling about in front of the Harkins, calling the hot dog vendor a homophobic slur while your girlfriend cops as squat on the pavement, crying that she can’t light her Parliaments. Imagine being the pimply 16-year-old usher pulling the closing shift and having to deal with that.
God have mercy on their souls.
The kids who will be having to deal with your drunken idiocy are the same ones who will tell you they “don’t get paid enough” to confront a loud patron when a customer complains. It’s scary enough to try to lay down the law to an unruly adult who won’t stop talking; now try it when some dude from Chickasha visiting the big town decides to take in a 10:50 p.m. screening of Cars 3 , providing color commentary with a bellyful of liquid courage and raging hate-on for teenage authority. Children will be scarred.
And, as for the mangers themselves, they are not much older than their staid, delegating said jobs to avoid as much work as possible so they can hang out upstairs in the office. They’ll probably be the first ones to sneak up a couple of brews themselves to the projection booth to kick back with that one projectionist that’s always talking about unionizing but never doing it. Like a puta.
And really, do you know how easy it is to steal from a movie theater while working there? How easy it is to “write-off” cups and buckets to your friends as “damaged,” how easy it is for a case of Nerds Ropes to be “miscounted” on the inventory invoice and, even more so, how easy it will be for a teen behind the concession stand to slip a bottle of booze down the front of their pants and walk out with it? I did it with Fruitopia all the time. Those stands have plenty of blind-spots the security cams miss and plenty of opportunities for your dumb kids to down some Coors on the way home, stopping only to French kiss a telephone pole.
But I’m just being alarmist, right?
Man, if the general public knew half of the things that go on behind the stands, the scenes, or after hours of a movie theater, I’m pretty sure they’d be both shocked and titillated. It’s like a high school band bus trip on the way back from an away game with loose bow-ties and undone cummerbunds. Maybe one day I’ll tell you the story of how myself and 50% of the entire staff of the AMC Memorial Square 8 were fired, mere weeks before the AMC Quail Springs 24 opened. For drinking.
Now with all that being said, would I probably feel differently if we had an Alamo Drafthouse-type situation here, staffed with mature, veteran theater workers trained to bartend and serve, patronized by an Austin-like proto-hipster crowd that actually appreciates film and realizes what a privilege a place like that is and what a treat it is to responsibly imbibe of a frosty craft beer while enjoying Bergman’s The Virgin Spring? Certainly. I would absolutely welcome it with open arms. But there’s a reason why they won’t open here, and, truthfully, I don’t blame them.
This is Oklahoma we’re talking about. We don’t deserve nice things for a reason. If our state was a house, it would be furnished with stained couches found on big trash pick-up day and our dining room table would be a stolen cable spool. And, honestly, that’s part of our trademarked Okie charm. But all its gonna take is one major screw-up for this bill to backfire and then we’ll all be back to sneaking in a two-liter of RC and a chip-clipped bag of Baken-Ets into the theater like decent people. ¡Cómpralo ya!
Have a drink on me. Follow Louis on Twitter at @LouisFowler.