XD is no BFD but it’s “Easy” money

Over the past few weeks, I missed ample opportunities to screen “Easy A,” the new comedy that takes Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter” and transplants it to a modern-day high school setting. It’s always a good sign when a studio screens the movie almost a month in advance, as was the case here. It also didn’t hurt that Emma Stone had come to town to do some local press, another sign of confidence.

There were probably four or five screenings, most at either the AMC Metreon or the Century 9 across the street on Mission Street in San Francisco and, for one reason or another, I missed ‘em all.

But that was fine. I really just have to see a flick by the time I record my KGO radio segment on the Friday of the movie’s release so in the cases where I miss a screening, I often just buy a ticket to the first show at the Daly City Century 20 before heading downtown.

Financially speaking, it works out too. The Fifth and Mission Garage costs a minimum of twelve bucks to park for a “free” screening, versus a six dollar matinee admission in Daly City with free parking, leaving six bucks left over for popcorn. The difference is that at a promotional screening, you don’t have to sit through twenty minutes of trailers and commercials but for some reason, when you buy a ticket, you do. More about that later.

So I met up with a friend, drove to Daly City for the 11:45 showtime of “Easy A,” parked for free and walked up to the row of box office windows. I had $15 in cash, more than enough to buy two matinee tickets. Out of ten windows, only two were open and there were no other customers. In our window was a female clerk about 19-years-old, decked out in her Cinemark uniform.

The conversation went something like this:

Me: “Two for Easy A, please”

Clerk: “For 11:45?”

Me: “Yes.”

Clerk: “Okay, that’ll be $28.”

Me: “No, I wanted two tickets.”

Clerk: “Yes, it’s $28.”

Me: “For … two tickets?”

Clerk: “Yes.”

Me: “What?!?!?”

The clerk shrugged, and then said with conviction “Because it’s in XD.”

Me: “What the hell does that mean?”

Clerk: “XD. In digital.”

I stared at the clerk, incredulous. At this point, my friend started looking around uncomfortably.

Me: “Wait, so it’s not in 3D?”

Clerk: “No.”

Me: “And this is a matinee show.”

The clerk broke eye contact and said, dismissively, “You can buy a ticket for the 1:00 show. That’s only six dollars.”

Friend: “It’s okay. I’ll pay.”

Me (to friend): “No, hold on. We’re talking about twenty-eight dollars for two tickets. You don’t think that’s outrageous?”

The clerk just glared at me with a pathetic tolerance that split the difference between the professional demeanor outlined in her employer’s handbook and a look that suggested what a cheap bastard I was.

It occurred to me that there were only two choices: skip the movie and drop the review from the radio segment or suck it up and let Cinemark have its way with us.

As much as I wanted to walk away, I had already dragged a friend along (who skipped out of work) and I needed to see the movie within the next two hours. So, we begrudgingly combined our cash and bought two tickets for $28, leaving no money for popcorn or concessions which ironically is where theaters make most of their cash.

There were a total of four suckers inside the theater, including us. While waiting for the movie to start, I kept winding back the exchange in my mind, the way you think of better responses after losing an argument. We could have bought a $6 ticket to another movie and just walked into the “Easy A” auditorium. Or if we had more time, we could have chucked the day and stayed for a triple feature.

I had a lot of time to ponder these alternatives because of the eight (!) trailers and commercials that ran before the movie. And while I’m a huge supporter of the cinematic arts and generally play the game like a good boy, I suddenly had a pretty good idea why theatrical admissions are heading into a nose dive. What really galled me is that I’m not a cheapskate by nature yet here I was disappointed in myself that I hadn’t cheated the system better.

It’s bad enough when you have to pay $14 for 3D flicks in which you’re expected to return the glasses. And if standard XD admission is $14, why isn’t there a matinee price? Furthermore, if you and a friend are expected to plunk down the price of a new Blu-ray disc (or two standard DVDs) for two hours of rented big screen entertainment, can we lose the commercials and trailers?

While we’re at it, how about some complimentary popcorn?

So how was the movie? “Easy A” was very funny and clever, with a great deal of affection for the John Hughes comedies of the 1980s and equal amounts of contemporary sass. Emma Stone is an instant star and I’d recommend this film to anyone with a funny bone. It was an absolutely delightful way to spend 90 minutes.

Was it such a BFD to warrant fourteen bucks to watch it in XD? Hell no.

Author: Dennis Willis

Dennis Willis is an award-winning producer, TV host, producer, director, editor (he preferred Avid until a torrid affair with Adobe Premiere, and the rest is history), author and film critic (print and radio). Dennis produced and hosted the TV programs Reel Life, FilmTrip, Soundwaves (1983-2008) and produces the annual Soundwaves Xmas program. He is currently the film critic on KGO Radio in San Francisco, and a member of both the San Francisco Film Critics Circle and the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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