Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Performing Ushers

The movie theater that I frequent takes the moviegoing going experience very seriously. Just the way I like it. From the real butter on the popcorn to the assigned stadium seating to the fact that they won't let anyone in after the movie has started—so there's nobody walking in front of you during those crucial first few minutes, this is a modern movie palace seemingly custom designed for a movie geek like me. Watching a movie here is about as close to a pure experience as a multiplex will allow. Take, for example, what's on the screen before the movie.

Nothing. A blank screen.

Not a bunch of commercials. Not horribly outdated and easy movie "trivia". Nothing. When the show starts there are just three trailers. No annoying theater ads gently suggesting that you to buy a washtub of popcorn and a tanker of Coke before reminding you to turn off your cell phones. Nope. In this theater the ushers take center stage.  Before lights go down, a spotlight is illuminated in front of the screen and an usher introduces the movie. 

Before the show can start, there are a few key pieces of information that must be conveyed:  the name of the movie, it's run time, a reminder that there should be no phones or texting, and please no putting your feet on the seat in front of you. 

When the theater first opened, these speeches were very dry and technical. But because this is Los Angeles and this is an opportunity to perform, some of the ushers have developed routines in order to make the announcements more interesting. 

Some tell jokes. Others offer wry observations about the movie. A few play to the crowd. Some of the ushers use different personas—the intellectual, the fanboy, the nervous nerd, the caffeinated cheerleader...  

If the theater is fairly empty, an usher might try to strike up a conversation. In a theater composed of me and one other couple, as the usher got to the, "there's no talking in the movie" part, he pointed at me and said, "especially you, sir." When he remarked that I didn't respond to him, I reminded him that he had just asked me not to talk. A courtesy chuckle came from the other couple. 
 
A few of the ushers have actually developed fans. It's not uncommon to hear their name being shouted out as they take the stage or vigorous cheering after their speeches. It doesn't seem like the patrons are doing this ironically either.

I've grown to look forward to these performances each time I see a movie there. And I see a lot of movies there. Instead of being bombarded with the same ad over and over, these performing ushers add a welcome dose of spontaneity and life to the moviegoing experience, which is something that you don't usually get at the multiplex. 

6 comments:

Dustin Christian said...

That sounds like the greatest theater ever.

Surfer Jay said...

Arclight does all that? Well, the theatre I frequent in El Segundo was recently taken over by Arclight. And they put a friggin bar in the lobby. Can you believe that? Does yours have a bar too? I gotta admit though, I think it sucks. Of course, onjly now that I am taking my kid to the movies. Ten years ago I always smuggled alcohal in, so I of course see the appeal to get saused up before hand.

And I have never seen the ushers do all that. And I didn't notice they don't play nonsecial crap before the lights go out. Okay, now that I think about it, maybe it's because I always show up after the previewsstart. yeah, that's why.

Shelle-BlokThoughts said...

That sounds magical... our theater's haven't taken it to that level yet... sigh.

Daddy Geek Boy said...

Dustin... It's a pretty great theater.

Jay... Arc lights are expanding, thankfully. The bar in the lobby is a great touch, I've had myself plenty a pre-movie cocktail. There are some 21 plus screenings that let you bring in booze! If the theater just opened, it may take a bit before the ushers settle in and start to mix up the announcements.

Shell... It's entertaining. But don't get me wrong, they're not breaking out into Glee style musical numbers...yet.

Surfer Jay said...

They let you bring in the booze too? Did not know that. So far, at the bar in El Segundo, they have a sign that says no booze beyond this point.

Daddy Geek Boy said...

Jay...Go to their website and check for 21+ screenings. They usually have one or 2 a night. At least they do at some locations.