Many evenings I get a hankering to check out a movie at the local Cineplex only to have my hopes dashed after I check the listings. The movie I’d read about in the Globe will not be playing in Moncton, so I have wait for it on DVD. Unfortunately by the time it’s released, I’ve completely forgotten about it.
I should keep better tabs on movies I want to see, but renting movies pales in comparison to the shared experience of the big screen. So you can imagine my elation last week, when Slumdog Millionaire and The Wrestler opened in Moncton.
There’s not much to say about either film that hasn’t already been said by critics, and, judging by the nominations and awards both films have garnered, the quality of the films are not in question; however, the audience these films attracted did surprise me.
Amanda and I went to the 9:00 show of Slumdog on Friday night, and since it was opening night we arrived early to ensure good seats. We battled our way through the crowd of over-dressed teenagers at the concession stand and then headed to our theatre. We were really impressed by the sizable crowd waiting to be let in. Perhaps a quality independent film like Slumdog was getting some serious appreciation from Monctonians.
We quickly took a spot in line with hopes of still getting a good seat, when the girl from the ticket counter tapped me on the shoulder and said we were in the wrong line. These anxious movie fans were waiting to see My Bloody Valentine- she told us we could walk right in to our theatre.
We thanked her and entered the right theatre, where we had our choice of seats to watch the Oscar nominated picture. We patiently waited not only for the movie to begin, but for more people to show up. In the end, about twenty people were entertained by a fast-paced, heart-wrenching, pulsating film. After our movie ended we fought our way through the throngs of people coming out of the sold out Bloody Valentine. It was a little discouraging to see such a discrepancy in the number of people who came out to see these two movies. No wonder independent and serious film rarely comes to Moncton.
If I was disappointed by Friday’s crowd, I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of people who shared The Wrestler with us the following Thursday. We went to the early show and the theatre was half-full to see Mickey Rourke’s heart-breakingly brilliant performance. So why did so many more people attend The Wrestler on a week night? Do serious film-goers avoid the weekend crowds, or in these tough economic times does the cheaper ticket make a big difference? Or could it be that The Wrestler appeals more to the local crowd than Slumdog? After all, South-eastern New Brunswick has always been a wrestling hot-bed.
Who really knows what makes people shell out money for one movie and not another? In a culture of video on demand and illegal downloads, it’s a big risk for theatre operators to take chances on independent cinema. In the world of bottom lines it’s an easy choice. A sold-out popcorn flick is more attractive than twenty people watching a well-made film.
I’m just happy both Slumdog Millionaire and The Wrestler came to Moncton and I was able to enjoy them. If either film is still playing in your area, do yourself a favour and check them out. You won’t be disappointed. If they’ve already passed through your neighbourhood, or you’re unable to get to a theatre, keep them in the back of your head, so in a few months when they pop up on DVD you won’t forget them. These films are enjoyable and both deserve and an audience.