Wednesday, May 16, 2007

It's Good To Be A "Select City" (*)

by Tom Bozzo

Three cheers for Sundance 608:
  1. Real butter on the popcorn.
  2. Real coffee (**) at the concession stand, a.k.a. Caffe 608.
  3. No ads (***) before the films.
Regarding #3, there is no free lunch. The Sundance ticket price is split between an admission charge and a reserved seating fee (****), the latter of which — economists will love this — varies by time-of-day and day-of-week. My boss said that he and his wife were informed at a weekend show that the seating fee really is a facility charge, and the admission part goes to the films' distributors.

Even if the fee were advertised as a new upholstery on the Sundance jet charge, going back to the old, less ad-barraged, days was totally worth it. This is also a grain of salt with which to take market researchers' pronouncements that ad-supported video streaming will kill off iTunes-style pay-once-and-never-watch-an-ad downloads. The "advancement" is DRM technology that will make the ads "unskippable." As if the technology of getting up and going to the kitchen/taking a leak during commercial breaks hadn't existed in the pre-TiVO stone age. My informal survey of DVD mastering practices suggests that unskippable ad content is becoming a bit less prevalent, perhaps (correctly) reflecting the desire of content owners to avoid inducing rage that can follow from such "features." Especially when you need to wait a frackin' eternity with a preschooler to hear some loser explain in a pathetic "Thomas" voice how you can visit the Thomas frackin' Product Gallery before getting to the hot engine-on-troublesome-truck action.

Meanwhile, sick as I am (despite limited movie-going) of Marcus Theatres' pre-show announcement reel (*****), it does theoretically remind patrons to SHUT THEIR FRACKIN' CELL PHONES OFF. That lesson was lost on one woman, whose phone rang audibly over the theater's surround sound ("Away From Her" not exactly having an earsplitting soundtrack) and who then audibly took the call in the auditorium. Vigilantism did the trick, as my boss pulled an Erin and before I could turn my head to locate the offender he had gotten up and told the loud-talker to take it outside. (Update: Apparently, she just took the call back to her row, where we couldn't hear her.)

As for "Away From Her," it was no barrel of laughs, but not the total downer you might expect from a film about early-onset Alzheimer's. I'd expect it to be played as a straight-up weepy by Hollywood, or worse a morality play about duty to one's stricken spouse, which would make the endeavor about as appealing as early-onset Alzheimer's itself.

(*) As in "Now playing in select cities."

(**) We preliminarily agree with Janelle à Paris that it wouldn't be a bad thing were Peet's to be the brand of American coffee hegemony.

(***) No TV-style ads, that is. No complaints about the preview for Paul Verhoeven's "Black Book."

(****) Some Sundance opening glitches: a misspelling of "purchase" on a screen in the mall kiosk; the online ticketing function works with Firefox 2.0 for ICBM (******) but not Firefox 2.0 (or Safari) on the G5 iMac this morning. Maybe Steve Jobs can have a Word with Mr. Redford.

(*****) Which is in large part product-placement ad for the refreshment stand, and otherwise tries to tug at the patron's heartstrings with rapid-fire editing of clips from action-packed 'mersh blockbusters. That's somewhat out-of-place at Marcus's Westgate Art Cinema, which will retain its 3 screens of art-film programming despite its proximity to Sundance's 6.

(******) Intel-Chip Based Mac, specifically, my work-issued MacBook Pro — now visibly snappier when running WinXP under Parallels thanks to a second gigabyte of RAM.

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Now, why am I not surprised that Madison is a "Select City"? That Redford guy has taste.

Peet's on the other hand...they'd better wake up and smell their own coffee. (Not to brag or anything, but lucky me: There is a grocery store on Shelbyville Road in Louisville that sells Peet's. Alas, I just revealed my real reason for wanting to move there.)
That, of course, assumes she actually goes through with it. (At least now I know why JaP moved to SF.)

My new office has Flavia packets; coffee conversation this morning was of the "I have Peet's sent to my home and therefore free is too high a price to pay for this."
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