Ms. 35 offers helpful advice and answers to your etiquette questions related to NYC's moving image culture. Have a burning question about navigating the exciting world of New York City moviegoing? Unsure of how to conduct yourself during a communal experience? Feel like you're… in the dark? Send your inquiries to Ms35@screenslate.com!
Dear Ms. 35,
I'm the sort of person who walks out of movies when they stink. How much of the movie must I endure before asking for my money back? Similarly, if I watch more than, say, half of the movie and decide to leave, can I still request a refund? How much is too much?
Ready To Bolt
Dear Ready To Bolt,
Once, Ms. 35 caught Waking Life at a crowded chain theater opening day. Not 15 minutes in, a woman stood up and yelled at the screen, “COLLEGE MOVIE! This is a COLLEGE MOVIE! I DIDN’T PAY TO SEE ANY COLLEGE MOVIE!” She stood up and walked out bellowing, a third of the audience following her. Ms. 35 is of the mind that to truly reject a film, one must entirely experience it, while respecting some folks know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em. You can endure exactly as much or as little of any film as you’d like. After all, it’s your precious time and sensibilities. However, unfortunately, you’re conflating ratings with refunds. Whether you slap down $25 for Batman Vs. Superman 4DX at Regal or $5 for Boro in the Box at the Goth Bodega, you’re paying for access to an experience. Whether that experience lives up to your discerning taste is a separate point.
Now, if the theater shows the wrong movie, if the volume is too loud, if the aspect ratio is off, or if the air conditioning busted [ed.: if microcinemas don't get a pass here, they will all fall], that’s on the theater. Get thee a manager ASAP, and, who knows, you might get a refund even if you sit through the other 8 hours of OUT 1. Same goes for anything within the theater’s control, including other patrons’ behavior—but that’s a wasp nest for a different column. If your issue is with the quality of the plot and not the projection, you can’t take it out on the theater via monetary recompense. Walking out of a bomb is as much your choice as it was to walk into it, and given most films go out of their way to advertise what they’re about, the fiscal loss falls on you.
There are rare cases—Kangaroo Jack and Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai come to mind—where a movie suffers from misguided-bordering-on-delusional marketing. Films (despite what auteur theory would have you believe) are usually the product of a small army; strong as it might be any individual contribution becomes diluted, especially post-picture lock when the full engines of capitalism take over—including its submission for cliquish critical groupthink. (Who wants to stand on the lonely side of the Tomatometer?) There are all kinds of reasons the experience might ultimately not jive with one’s expectations. But this comes with the turf—alongside the possibility of a pleasant surprise.
See you at the movies,
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