Spots in the dark.

Tuesday, June 8th, 1999

Well, Sunday afternoon-warm, sunny, full of green trees and blooming flowers-seemed made for a wander outside to enjoy (enjoy?) the transformation of Virginia Avenue last weekend into that Summerfest thing. You know, that gathering where the object is to get as many vehicles with out-county plates to cram into an intown neighborhood, sprawling over medians and, well, mostly in front of our house. The idea is that people stroll blissfully down Virginia, which has been transformed into this corridor of art, music, and free spirit. Well, with success comes creeping commercialism in all its ugly forms-and for every worthy enterprise like artists stalls and places to get walkabout food from restaurants like Harvest and Dish, we had to run the gauntlet of countless natural gas services and cell phone providers determined to sign us up, or at the very least, to force us to shake hands with some bespectacled guy in a rotund blue costume (hey, he ain’t the real gas guy!)
As my friend Tom said after visiting the World of Coca-Cola, "What that place needs is a logo-free zone."
And in search of an advertising-free experience, my wife and I squeezed past the enormous fake climbing mountain, escaped the hubbub of Virginia Highland, and headed for the cool darkness of the moviehouse.
I guess we should have known better.
First, there were the slides, the lowest form of advertising life known on this planet. (I always say to my brother-if our work dries up, we can always make those slides in the theatres. Scrambled movie titles-how hard could it be?) For some reason, at this particular showing the slides would proceed at their usual mind-numbing pace for a while, and then speed up unpredictably, whizzing by in a blur as if the projectionist had collapsed on the remote control for a minute or so. Then, the stately march through the carousel. Then, warp speed. Go figure. Maybe this is something that market-research experts have determined will get our attention. Um…I guess it did.
But those were just a prelude to the torture to come.
Torture, as in twelve minutes of commercials before we even got to the trailers, which, after all, are nothing but commercials for movies. Twelve minutes! We were forced to watched really grainy video-to-tape transfers-an ad for talking chimps on TBS, an ad for Moviefone (Why? We’re here, we figured out the showtimes already!), a chiropractor (spend too much time in those moviehouse seats?), and, targeting our demographic perfectly, a Coke spot with NASCAR guys (auto racing and Shakespeare-great together!)
Has the cost of replacement projector bulbs gone up so much that it’s come to this: our seven buck visits to the movies must be augmented by some easy-money ad revenue? The phrase ‘captive audience’ comes to mind, of course, but do media buyers really think that just because we can’t zap these annoyances into submission, we’ll be moved to increase our yearly chiropractic budget?

We need those fine web-based movie listings services to add just one more line of data to their movie listings: how many minutes we can skip and still slide into safely our seats by the opening titles.