Monday, June 27, 2011
Going to the Movies in Israel
Jerusalem is a very social city. On the average Thursday or Saturday night, there is often a party, get together, dinner outing or other happening(s). As a result, going to the movies, is not a popular activity in Jerusalem. At least that is what I told myself was the reason I had not been to the movies in Israel since I arrived in August. Additionally, when I came to Israel, I brought with me a projector that I have used several times to host movie night in my apartment. Having a nice screen and arrangement at home also contributed to the streak of not going out to the cinema.
A few weeks ago, The Hangover 2 was released globally. Generally movies come out in Israel a few weeks to months after they do in America; however, some films, usually blockbusters like the Harry Potters, are released on the same day worldwide. Despite hearing mixed reviews on the Hangover 2, my roommate Shimon, friend visiting from America after leading a Birthright trip Elissa, and friend from Tel Aviv Chaim and I headed out to the Binyanei Haumah Movie Theater to see for ourselves if the original masterpiece's sequel could hold up the to the same level of humor as its predecessor. Unfortunately, this was the only cinema in the city showing the movie. At the end of it all, I enjoyed the movie a lot, but had one of the most “Israeli” experiences of my 10 months here, which has led me to swear off ever returning to that cinema, and possibly the movies in Israel at large.
We arrived to the movie theater with only a few minutes to our show. As we entered the lobby, I was shocked by the chaos that stood before us. Rather than standard lines of patrons waiting in a civilized line, there was a swarm surrounding the ticket booth. There were not ropes or dividers in place, only 50+ people sticking their arms out over the person in front of them, hoping that the employees behind the counter would take their cash or credit card next. To me the scene was pandemonium. To Shimon and Chaim, it was a Saturday night at the movies. Now I have been top the movies in Israel in past trips – namely when I studied here for the year. While you always needed to be weary of people trying to cut you with a slew of excuses ranging from “Oh I didn't think you were in line” to “my movie is starting in X minutes”, there were lines that were for the most part respected. Here however, there was nothing.
I took to the side of the counter hoping to circumvent the large crowd facing the front as Shimon started working his way forward from the front end. In Israel, movie theaters have assigned seats.a This ensures that people can sit together, provides people who come early with the best seats and efficiently seats patrons in the cinema. Also, if this were not the case, theaters would be full of people saving seats for their friends who would show up 20 minutes late it at all, people moving all about during the movie and all sorts of other inconsideration. As a result, a transaction that in the States takes 30 seconds takes all together here as the ticket seller asks the customer their preference on front or back of the cinema, isle or middle of the row. Also, a large percentage of the customers were students and soldiers. These patrons receive discounts, which the ticket salesperson needs to manually enter for each patron. In the end, it took us about 15 minutes of “line” jockeying and maneuvering to get tickets. Shimon got to the front of the line and made the purchase as the ticket girl ignored me from her side.
We entered the theater to a slew of disappointments. The actual theater room was a bad shape – really wide at the back and small in the front – the screen was impressively small. As we sat down, I immediately noticed how loud it was in the room – everyone was speaking. It was okay though, because we were only in the previews. Coupled with the loud volume in the room was the low volume of the speakers... the sound system sucked. Again Shimon was un-fazed by all of this.
The lights turn darker and the movie begins. The crowd does not stop speaking. A series of “SHHHHH”s are followed by a round of “NU”s and “SHTOK”s (shut up). Within a few minutes the room reaches the quietest it will get throughout the movie, which for the most part is quiet with the smattering of jerk teenager talking on his phone and inconsiderate couple talking to each other. No later than the lights dimmed did latecomers start arriving to the cinema. Rather than trying to “keep it down” and quietly slip into their seats, these folks put their cellphones to work, turning on the flashlight iPhone app to make sure they could see where they were going in the otherwise dark movie theater – as though there was going to be something in the isle just waiting to trip them up. Several groups that came late decided that instead of sitting in the open seats that they were assigned, it was absolutely okay to ask people to slide down so two couples could sit together. The inconsideration had no end.
American movies in Israel have Hebrew subtitles. Many of the jokes are projected on the screen seconds before the lines are said. This leads to about half of the crowd laughing before the joke is delivered, which makes the joke un-hearable to the rest of us.
At the end of the movie, as expected, everyone wants out of the theater immediately. It does not matter that there are people in front of you... you want out and if pushing will help (it won't but who cares) then you will push. This is of course the popular mentality there, which really helped close off an awful nights at the movies. I left that theater with the resolve to never return. I expect it will be a while before I change my mind on that. While I know that not all movie going experiences in Israel are like the one described above, there are some universal consistencies. Seeing the Hangover 2 was one of the most “Israeli” experiences I have had since I arrived. I will soon be sharing another with you that I expect