German movie theaters FTW

Posted on 21.12.2009

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Pre: Yesterday, 3pm. We are with Sid and Kathrin in their apartment, deciding when to go to the movies. We want to see Avatar in 3D. It is either playing at 4pm or 9pm, and tomorrow is a work day. So we get up, take 2 minutes to get ready and are on the road. It’s about a 30 minute drive. Plenty of time, even in the snow (more on that later).

It occurs to me while we are driving that this will be my first experience in a German Kino. So I start asking tons of questions, mostly about the food options because I am starving. Is the food way overpriced like it is auf den USA? Yes. Do they have a ton of candy? Yes. Nachos? Yes. Buttered popcorn? Um.. what?
The first thing I learn is that coronary causing, artery clogging, yummy as hell buttered popcorn is not the norm and is not an option in most places. Then we get into a long discussion where I explain (in great detail) the intricate workings of companies like Orville Redenbacher and Ka-Pow and the different degrees of buttery popcorn that one can purchase at the market. ‘At the market??’, they say, ‘Really?’. ‘Yes, really’, says I. What ze Germans have instead of this is either salted popcorn (which honestly tastes like normal popcorn sans butter) or sweet popcorn (the equivalent of kettle corn). Noted.
We get to the theater. The screens showing the listings for what is available are like previews of movies on DTV. Easy to read and understand. They even tell you what time it is now, when it starts, how long, and projected end time. And they list the movies not by name, but by order of theater number where the film is being shown. Point 1 for the Germans vs the horrible screens at places like Loew’s.
Of course and as totally expected, the movie viewing industry in Deutschland is a racket, just like everywhere else. Our tickets were 12 -Euros each, which comes out to about $18 US (Side note: As I have said before, this is kind of about right considering the higher cost of living and I would expect about this price from places like San Fran and LA as well. Maybe even NYC, depending on the theater). I am assuming that part of this might have also been because we bought our 3D glasses, they did not need to be returned at the end of the show. The same price comparison went for the food: 4.5-E for my large popcorn (and it was effing LARGE) and medium soda. 6- or 7-E for René’s nachos. No point for anyone here. Not that it is a competition 🙂
I learned here, after we left the refreshment stand, that because butter is not typically the norm, there are no random carts off to the side with an extra butter dispenser or more napkins. This means that you won’t slip and fall because some crazy child was left alone with the butter dispenser, drowned the popcorn, and managed to drip it all over the floor on the way to the show. You get everything at the stand, done. There are standing tables/bar type areas around where you can hang out and wait for the movie to begin.
There is also a restaurant and fully functional bar in this theater, but it is separate and you cannot bring your meal or beer into the movie. I didn’t find out about drinking in the movies, but I am assuming that might be allowed. Insert part here where I tell my friends about the new theater that opened up in Harbor East.
We get to a standing table near our theater and realize that we have about 15 minutes until the theater opens. It is about now that I start to realize that while people are standing around, no one is lining up to get into our show. Which is odd to me. Then René says, ‘what seats do we have?’ to me, since I am holding the tickets and I look at him like he has just spoken Latin to me. How would I know, we’re not in there.
It turns out that the Germans assign seats in theaters. I missed this part during the paying process because I was too busy admiring the easily read screens, but you can say ‘there are four of us’ and get a block of seats together. Holy shit, my head exploded over this. What continued was a long train of ‘really??’ questions and ‘yes, Gina, really’ answers.
Really?
So… no lines around the outside of the theater in the cold for the new Star Wars or Twilight films? You can order your tickets online and reserve your seats? No pushing or running to get into the theater first? No having to politely ask the assholes sitting RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROW to move over so your group can sit together?
Hello, German efficiency. I am a fan. Talk about actually getting to enjoy your time at the theater rather than being stressed about showing up late, or being at the back of the line, or not being able to find seats together…
Points 2-35 for Germany.
So the three of them go out to have a smoke and I stand guard over more food than we can possibly finish. They get back, the doors open, and people exit. Then the doors close again for about 5 minutes while the theater is cleaned up. Then the doors open again and everyone files in (in a relative calm and orderly fashion) to take their seats.
We are assigned Row 5, which is close to the front but not bad. Actually, pretty decent for 3D. We enter from the wrong side and have to pass a few couples to get to our seats. Something is odd about this, but I don’t notice until I sit down in my seat.
The chairs don’t fold up. When we walked by, the couples didn’t have to get up to let us through. When I sat down, I had ample space to stretch out my legs, and there was actually room in the seat for me to have been about 33% bigger. I turn around and look to the back of the theater and notice that it is AS big/long/deep as the ones I am used to. There is just more personal space for people. This theater is nearly 15 years old, so this is not recent.
René and co begin to chuckle as I tell them about how cramped it is and how much of a pain it is when someone has to use the bathroom in ‘my’ theaters. Then René says, ‘but I thought everything is supersized in America?’, to which I laugh and agree, but then report that ‘yes, that is true, but in this case the theater is supersizing their profits by squeezing more people into the space’. What the hell. Points 36-400 for Germany.
Enter: the movie itself: awesome. And I understood it even though it was in German, even better! James Cameron has never been a bad director, and even in half-animated form the body language was easy enough to supplement what I didn’t understand totally auf Deutsch. Good acting all around and really lovely scenery. I think my language classes are really starting to kick in! I understand so much more than I did a month ago.
End: the movie and our absolutely necessary bathroom stop: the theater has seen a full day’s worth of moviegoers and the snow has not deterred anyone. And yet somehow, the bathroom isn’t under a puddle of urine. I love how clean everything is here. What is worse than needing to pee and standing in a waiting area that reeks of the stuff? Points 401-infinity. Germany.
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Posted in: German Lessons