Those who know me, know I love going to the movies. I love going to a theatre, buying a big bag of popcorn, with too much butter, and a gigantic soda pop, actually a sprite mixed with blue slush. Odds are most of the popcorn will be gone before the movie starts. Then I watch whatever film catches my fancy. The movie doesn’t have to be good, or even very interesting, I just love going to the cinema.
My favourite seats are back row, in the middle. I think they are the best, others are welcome to their own opinions. If I have to take a phone call, I go out of the theatre. I respect the basic rules of the theatre, no talking, no phones, and no being a jack wagon.
Since moving to China, I have continued my love of going to the theatre. We get a new English movie about every two weeks, at least when they don’t pull it because it needs to be censored more. So, I take what I can get. Movies from Hong Kong are also a treat, because they seem to always put English subtitles. I have no problem reading my way through the movie.
In China, the rules of the theatre are different. Let me start by saying, I am happy most of the movies I go to are usually 4 people, plus Xiu Xiu, and myself. Sometimes there are many more people. Most everyone will talk loudly through the movie… I can deal with it. Bright phone screens are often turned on through the movie. It isn’t strange to see 6-10 glaringly bright screens texting/games at any given time… I can grit my teeth and deal. Flashlights on phones being used to see something in the person’s purse, on the floor, or just making a light show… I can deal with it. People take phone calls during the movie, and employ their, “If I yell it will make my phone work better,” voices during the call… I can deal. The short ‘Rules of the Theatre’ video is not shown before the movie. The only rule in my small town theatre is, “No spitting on the floor.”
Not joking, they have a sign, I will try to remember to take a picture next time.
Now, all of the aboves, I can deal with gracefully. Inside I want to smash a phone, but, such is the movie house in China. I love going to the movies too much to let these things drive me away.
Now, to today’s experience. It is the Sunday of a holiday, and the new Jackie Chan movie, Dragon’s Blade, is showing. We decided to go, and the theatre was packed. Probably 15 empty seats in the house. The movie was in about a dozen languages, with 1/2 of it or so in English, the entire thing with Chinese, & English subtitles. We were in the back, but 7 seats to the left of the middle.
Around 1 hour into the movie, a shadow crept over my English subtitles. The guy in the back middle, who was loudly conversing with his family of 8 was standing up. His head was blocking the projector. I tsked, otherwise I kept quiet, most of the scene was in English. His shadow lasted 10 minutes. English, english, english scene, keep quiet. He sat down. About 10 minutes later the shadow came back, this time during a mixed language scene. I was much more annoyed. It really didn’t matter if I understood Turkic, Hun, Aribic, Chinese, or any of the other languages in the movie, I was paying to watch a Jackie Chan movie, not a small town guy’s silhouette show. I kept quiet, but much more annoyed.
Side note: Everyone needed the subtitles due to the multiple languages in the film, the English ones were lower which is why mine were effected, but everyone else’s didn’t have the shadow.
He sat back down. I said to myself, “That’s got to be the last time, right? I mean who goes to a movie and stands for half of it?” Well, 5 minutes later I found out, it was this guy, that’s who. He stood back up, and cast his noggin’s shadow onto my understanding of the movie. I could see the first two letters of the dialogue, and the last letter. He stood there for an eternal 30 seconds this time before I involuntarily whisper growled at him (very gruffly), “Oh. My, Goodness! Sit down, I want to understand the movie!” Now, I didn’t assume he could speak English, in fact in my small town it is safe to assume beyond a few words/sentences a person doesn’t speak English. My words weren’t important, my tone delivered my message, “Sit down, shut up, I think you’re being a tool.” His wife apologized to me, because she realized what he had been doing. He stood there starring at me, his shadow still on my subtitles. My girlfriend then told him in Chinese, “You’re blocking the subtitles, we paid to see the movie, not your head, please sit down, or stand elsewhere.” He started shooting his mouth off at us. His wife was apologizing in both English, and Chinese. Apparently he was cursing a blue streak. C’est la vie.
I held my tongue, the only Chinese insult I know is to call him an idiot. I wanted to use it, but I am better than that, so I didn’t. After 45 seconds of mouthing off, he sat down, not to stand up until he left 10 minutes early (which was almost an hour after this happened, so the two aren’t connected).
I was a little embarrassed I let the words come out of my mouth in a moment of aggravation the third time he stood up. I should have had Xiu Xiu lean over and say, “Excuse me, your head is blocking the English subtitles, please move.” I should have had her say something the first time he did it, or the second time he did it. Instead I lost my cool, and blurted out in a tone I knew he would understand meant, “I don’t like you.”
So, justified in confronting to get my money’s worth, and understand the film, definitely. Tactful in the way I did it, not so much. I will try to politely take care of the situation next time rather than verbally punching the person in the head without stopping to think. My words had nothing to do with it, but my tone was definitely unbridled. The only thing I have going for me is, I didn’t rudely insult him with the single Chinese insult I know.
Other interesting thing, people leave during the last couple of minutes of a movie here in Fengxian. You can tell the movie’s wrapping up, and there they all go. Today’s movie saw half of them leave 10 minutes before the end, and the majority of the rest left 2 minutes before the credits. The credits weren’t 10 seconds in, and we were the last two people in the theatre with the usher shooing us out. I will put up with this, except at a Marvel movie, I’m staying to the bitter end on those ones.