I will now tell you the tale of the worst theatre experience of my life.
We start in Cineplex Southland in Regina. We originally went to the Normanview Cineplex to watch a revival of Kiki’s Delivery Service, the excellent 1989 anime that everyone in my party loved. That showing was cancelled because the Normanview cinemas didn’t have any water. They gave us some vouchers for tickets and we headed across the city to watch something, even though we probably should have cut our losses and went home. But, when you go somewhere with the intent of watching a movie, you want to watch a movie.
So we sat down to watch Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, a film that eventually got a range of reactions, but this story isn’t about the movie. In fact, I can’t tell you much about the entire first half of the movie, because something happened.
It started with what sounded like someone playing an ‘80s arcade game. That’s initially what I thought it was, wondering why someone would pay to go to a movie in order to play games. But, as the chirpy arcade-inspired song continued on, it quickly became apparent that this wasn’t someone playing an arcade game but instead the worst thing in a theatre, a ringing cell phone.
Except, whose ringing cell phone?
As quickly became apparent, as everyone in my immediate area got increasingly angry - apart from the old man who somehow insisted he didn’t hear anything - nobody actually knew where the cell phone was coming from. In the entire first hour of the film, nobody had thought to quietly turn it off in a way that might not draw attention to themselves. The phone just kept ringing. People were angry, people were making accusatory glances, people were shouting at the rest of the crowd. And the phone just kept ringing.
My fiance and I began to suspect that the phone was in our seats. Maybe it was just the vain hope that it was somewhere we could salvage the rest of the film, but thought it might be near us. So we searched. Between the seats, where you could find stale popcorn from months of showings. Under the seats, getting our knees on the sticky theatre floor. Everywhere we could think. That phone was somewhere.
Eventually, right before we decided that maybe we should walk out, the man sitting beside me adjusted himself in a way that made the phone louder. I asked to see his phone, since he was old and said already that he couldn’t hear it. His phone was off, but the phone was near him. He was not to blame, however, because I started to search his seat, and I found it. Stuck between the cushion and the armrest, a black phone in a thick case. I held it up for the theatre to see. Someone cheered.
I took the phone to the man at the ticket booth, telling him that it had been ringing for the entire movie and driving us insane. Then I went to the bathroom. He thanked me for bringing it out.
Also someone brought a baby, to an R-rated movie from a director known for violence. While it might have added some accidental thematic interest it is not a baby-appropriate movie.
Eventually, I hope to see the film again, because I felt as though I didn’t really get the full experience.