The Summer Blockbuster ... Grrr!

I can tell you my love for you will still be strong, after the 'Blivions of summer have gone.

Oh yes, it's that time of the year again. The summer blockbuster is here.

You know, there used to be a time in Hollywood when the big movies were saved for Christmas, and even then they'd only play on about a hundred screens around the country. That was before "Jaws" broke all the rules, and all the box-office records. Now every big film is summer fare, and they play on thousands of screens.

Which brings me to the much-anticipated "Spider Man" sequel, "I Robot," (search) "Harry Potter" and other big movies about to hit the silver screen near you.

I love movies. I get excited when I hear the studio theme music playing before the film begins. The drums and trumpets of Twentieth Century Fox, the grainy shot of the Warner Brothers studio lot over a guitar rendition of "As Time Goes By," and the kid fishing off the moon for DreamWorks SKG. My heart beats fast with anticipation of the cinematic escapism.

And while I rush to the theater as much as I can, there is plenty to Grrr! about inside those soundproof, speaker-lined walls.

Movie Theater Grrrs

Let's begin at the ticket line. I can't tell you how often I surpass the long line by going to the credit card machine and buying tickets there. What boggles my mind however is how some theaters will take credit/debit cards at the ticket booth, however they don't at the concession stand. That means if you don't have cash on hand, you have to purchase gift certificates at the booth for your candy or popcorn fix. On the flip side, people with cash can't take advantage of the ticket machines to avoid the line, because the machines will only take credit or debit cards.

Decisions, Decisions

And then there are the Oblivions who can't think far enough ahead to decide which movie they'd see if the one they want to see is sold out. Those are the people who hold up the rest of us while they stare at the overhead sign, checking times and asking the clerk what different movies are about.

Ditto the concession stand. There are so many choices now, from pretzels, pizza, ice cream, soda, popcorn and juice, that people tend to be utterly confused — causing another long line to form.

Stadium Seating

Finally — you have your soft drink and you're ready for the movie, but you have to walk a few miles, or up a few stories, before reaching your screening since movie theaters are mini cities these days, with upwards of 15 screens, most of them playing the same movie, like "Shrek 2."

Theaters are so big the owners must have taken the term "stadium seating" literally.

Anyway, if you're the first in a row, inevitably people will leave an empty seat between you and them. That means when a sold-out movie starts, the late-arriving Obliviots (thanks Allen) will disrupt everything by asking people to move over so they can sit together.

Commercials and Talkers

But before that happens, moviegoers are subject to commercials and annoying theater workers who commandeer the PA system and say stupid things like, "Your jacket didn't pay for the seat next to you so move it." Nothing like great public relations from your friendly neighborhood ticket-taker.

Then there are the public service announcements that "Shhh" you or remind you to shut off the cellular, and you are forced to watch the "Inconsiderate Cell Phone Guy" pronounce Karat-AY (who, by the way, can also be seen in Michael Moore's (search) Oblivion adventure "Bowling for Columbine").

So now the commercials and previews are on, but they are completely out of focus. Some people will yell back to the projection booth, but that never helps. So you get up, make your way out of the theater and find some kid wearing a dirty uniform, and tell him the focus is off or the sound is too low or the synch is off or whatever. Sometimes that helps — sometimes it doesn't.

Munch, Munch, Munch

Once the movie starts and all the Oblivions are seated, you have to deal with the Obliviot next to you who is eating his or her popcorn as if they were dying of some rare disease and the only cure was at the bottom of their bucket of popcorn.

I've been known to applaud loud popcorn eaters after they've finished and dumped their bucket or bag underneath the seat, and then wipe their greasy fingers on their shirt.

Nice going there big guy. Did you get that last unpopped kernel?

If popcorn munching isn't enough to make you wear the enamel off your teeth, there are always people who will talk during the film, or who ask, "what did she say?" after every line. I once had a guy behind me who apparently already saw the movie and who kept telling his buddy "Watch this part, watch this part, oh man this is good." If that doesn't happen, then some moron will invariably dig into that bag of Sourpatch Kids (search), crinkling away through the whole movie. They might as well sell Slurpies. Oh yeah, they do.

And Then the Movie Stinks

As if dealing with everything mentioned above — and then some — isn't enough, sometimes the movie just plain stinks. What recourse do we have? Has anyone ever tried to get their money back after seeing a bad movie? I never have. Why do we simply accept bad films? If I buy an air conditioner and I bring it home, install it in the window, then discover I need a 220 line, go back to the store, buy an overpriced double-pole breaker because my circuit box uses Federal Pacific breakers (which are obsolete) — a horizontal pronged grounding receptacle and some romex wire — then go back home, run the wire up the wall, install everything, only to plug the AC in to discover it doesn't work — you better believe I'm going to bring it back to the store and get a new one (yes, that happened to me last weekend).

So why can't we get our money back after watching a bad movie? I guess it's the same principle as getting a bad meal. If you eat it all hoping it will get better, the restaurant won't take it off your bill. The trick is leaving the movie early. But who wants to wait in that long line again, and then plead their case with some kid who speaks broken English (although he's American) and is not authorized to give you a refund anyway? Then you'll have to wait for the manager to come down, and explain all over again ... It's just not worth it.


Now For Your Grrrs

Cindi in Raleigh, N.C.: Here in the South, the latest greeting from the cashier as one approaches the checkout line, is, "Hi! Did you find everything you were looking for?" This Grrrs me to no end, because if my answer was "No," it means I have spent 10 minutes going up and down each aisle looking for some elusive item. After giving up, and going to pay for what groceries I did find, do they really think I want to stop the checkout process and follow them to the correct aisle? Do they think the customer behind me wants me to wait while we go find the elusive item? So naturally I have to say, "Yes, I did, " to their foolish question. Maybe they should have a few of these perky salespeople milling about the aisles so they can ask me that question when I really need it.

Annique from Bradenton, Fla.: I am 6 1/2 months pregnant. This doesn't make me public property ... This is a very special and important time in my life; my private life. Therefore, when you see a pregnant woman out in public, please refrain from putting your grubby, questionably clean, strange hands on our bellies. It's not a community play thing ... Hands off please. If it's so tantalizing, get your own!

John in Corpus Christi, Texas: I work for a large chain video rental store. It can be pretty busy on a Friday or Saturday night and it's unbelievable how the customers can act. I had a customer the other night approach the counter to check out. She was complaining loudly and was really upset about the long check-out line. The whole time she was complaining she was looking for her rental membership card and coupons (holding up other people behind her).

I just smiled and asked the rest of the people in line if they could kindly have their cards and coupons ready when they get to the counter to make the line go quicker. Several people started laughing (clearly at the lady at the counter.) She ended up getting embarrassed and was even more upset when she left. Several people commented that I handled the situation well and provided some comic relief while they were waiting. This lady has been back to the store since and she is now a very quiet and polite customer.

— Bravo John. You tamed the Oblivion.

Karin in New Mexico Grrrs at air conditioning and stylish classmates: It just grrr'd me for my whole high school career to have to bring along several extra layers of clothing for different classrooms in a school where the indoor temperatures ranged from near arctic to tropical jungle year round, and the teachers could not control the [air conditioning or heat.]

Oh and yes, I always laughed at the oblivions who never came prepared for the dramatic temperature differences and cared more about the latest fashions than comfort. Usually they came into the same cold classroom day after day wearing skimpy clothing that pushed the dress code, covered in goosebumps, and they complained about it while I sat in my long sleeves and coat and smiled.

Keith O. of Norfolk, Va., writes: My grrr is with cable TV. When I was a young lad we had but three channels (maybe four if VHF was working) and there was never anything on. Now that I'm a fair bit older I’m privileged to have 300 channels and there’s never anything on … except infomercials of course. Has one guy been doing all the programming this long?

Another thing is, while I appreciate the candor and honesty of the pharmaceutical manufacturers TV ads, who would buy their products after hearing … "May cause intestinal bleeding, headaches, dizziness, sexual impotence and liver damage?" Sounds like the cure is worse than the disease.

Christin S. in Pittsburgh, Pa., writes: Grrr! to all those "environmentally conscious" fitness fanatic bicyclists who can't seem to realize that they are obligated to follow the same traffic laws as the SUVs they despise. Get off of the sidewalk and bike in the street! And maybe you wouldn't have to complain about cars hitting bicyclists if you would quit running red lights ... cars have to stop at them and so do you. I'm tired of having to dodge you people on my way to work everyday, GRRR!

James in Greenwood, Ariz., says: I just read an article about someone suing over Ladies' Night in New Jersey, and I had to find someone to send this to. What kind of an idiot gets upset because women get into a club or bar for free? When I was a single man, the only thing that mattered was a large number of women at whatever club I was at, and if they got in free it didn't matter. The only thing I cared about was that they were there. I don't want to stand around a bar full of men all night. Obviously, this guy doesn't have any kind of life and probably goes home alone anyway. Just answer me this: When will there be some type of intelligence test administered prior to having a lawsuit filed?

Until next week, Grrrrrrrrrr!

Read previous Strakalogue Grrr! columns

Mike Straka is the Director of Operations and Special Projects for, and contributes as a features reporter and producer on "FOX Magazine," "Sunday Best" and As an actor, Straka appeared in the film "Analyze This," co-starred in the Off-Broadway hit "Tony n' Tina's Wedding," and has appeared in various TV commercials and programs.

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