Friday, March 5, 2010

The Screener, pt. 1.

Public screenings are funny things.  I imagined, when I first started doing this pseudo film-reviewing gig screeners would be private affairs filled with hirsute intellectuals debating the pros and cons of late Kurosawa and the like.  I imagined angered stares when cell-phones rang, the gentle sound of pen scratching note-paper, and the scent of pensive viewing permeating the air. 

I was exceptionally wrong.  Public screenings are chaotic in nature.  Various outlets (radio stations, blogs, production companies, etc.) advertise for screeners of their films in a variety of ways: ticket giveaways, flyering, free passes to the public, etc.  There's never a mention in any of these advertising forms of the fact that theaters have limited seats and in terms of early screenings, nearly half of those limited seats are reserved for press.  Thus the mob that arrives hungry for free cinema, is always, much to their surprise only partially allowed in.  Even those "lucky" film-goers released in to the cinema, are then faced with a selection of seats abysmal to say the least.  The press section of a public screener is almost the entire middle of the theater.  A hefty chunk of the center section is plastered with obnoxious red "Reserved Section" signs, forcing the lovers of free film in to tight sections close to the screen or in the far back of the cinema. 

Almost always, every single time, there's anger about the press section.  Loaded down with popcorn and candy, the public always attempts to just circumvent the various Promotions people and plop themselves down in the prime seats ten rows back, center.  And almost always, said Promotions people appear out of nowhere to redirect them to some tiny nook.  The early moments before any of these screenings always seem anxiety-charged, with people looming on the edges waiting for the chance to drop themselves in to a seat once reserved for press, or angrily espousing their hatred of the privilege inherent in the reserved seating.  I find myself half-amused by the proceedings, hunkered down in my gated community, waiting to watch the newest blockbuster early.  At times though I'm worried, "Are these free-cinema loving fans going to take out their misguided anger on we who've been giving the opportunity to enjoy the center seats?"  All of sudden I feel upper class, I feel as if I've got something someone else isn't allowed, and quite honestly, it makes me feel a little jumpy.

My worry, in the moments before the film starts, is that the always raucous screener crowd will be unable to contain their excitement during the film and I'll have to silently curse the public throughout, distracting me from my precious movie, and there by running my experience.  Up to now (and Alex claims that this is always true) the screeners have been perfect in their audience participation.  Cellphones have been kept to a minimum, talking has been almost non-existent, and the audience has clearly enjoyed the films whooping and hollering when necessary, gasping when scared.  These screener audiences have been some of the best I've encountered.

I've got a lot to say on this newly experienced screener.  Next time I'll be talking about what I like to call "screener profiling" a curious side-topic to the screener that I find fascinating.


Criterion Counsel: Today my friends, today I finish M. Hulot's Holiday (109).

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