' ' Cinema Romantico: Nothing Works Anymore

Tuesday, May 02, 2023

Nothing Works Anymore

In September 2021 when most everyone in America wanted to pretend the still-raging COVID-19 Pandemic was over, AMC commissioned a $25 million advertising campaign to help spur people back to movie theaters, headlined by a minute-long Nicole Kidman-starring spot in which she rhapsodized about the movie-going experience, a spot that became ironically beloved and is still running before movies. It was somehow both an inadvertent parody of over-the-top inspirational ads and an improbable transcending of them, probably because Nicole Kidman alone could send up a cult leader while simultaneously making it feel as if you had just joined her cult in spite of yourself. “AMC Theatres,” the end credit declares, “We Make Movies Better.” I love the movie-going experience as much as anyone – maybe more than most – but still I have to ask, AMC, do you?

This past weekend was a two-movie weekend. I love two-movie weekends! And yet. Both movies were at the New City 14, formerly an ArcLight, but now an AMC. At our Saturday afternoon showing of “Showing Up,” which we attended with friends, the house lights were so low that My Beautiful, Perspicacious Wife used the flashlight on her phone so we could find our assigned seats. (Other patrons who entered after did the same.) As the Nicole Kidman AMC ad eventually cued up and she strode inside the theater up there on the screen wearing heels, explaining “We come to this place for magic,” My Beautiful, Perspicacious Wife leaned over to me and whispered something to the effect of, If she came into this theater in those heels, she would have tripped and fallen flat on her face. 

After the movie, I availed myself of the men’s lavatory, as did my friend Chad, where we discovered all the urinals – literally all of the urinals – were out of service, cordoned off by stanchions and rope. As we exited back into the lobby, Chad said to me, “Have you noticed that ever since The Pandemic nothing works anymore?”

The next afternoon My Beautiful Perspicacious Wife and I returned to the New City 14 for a showing of “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret.” I once again availed myself of the men’s lavatory and once again all the urinals were cordoned off. Once again, we used the flashlights on our phones to find our assigned seats because the house lights were too low (it’s also worth noting the image of “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret” projected on screen was shockingly, unacceptably dim itself), stepping in puddles of spilled, sticky soda on the floor along the way, and discovered that my seat was partially covered in...well, I honestly don’t know what. It was something gross, that’s for sure, something crusted over, that had apparently missed by the overnight cleaning crew? If an overnight cleaning crew exists? That had been there since opening night of “Jurassic World Dominion?” We tried to sit in other seats, but the showing was essentially sold out and eventually I wound up back in my original one, throwing my coat over the God-knows-what, sitting down, and trying to put it out of my mind. “Are you there, God?” I thought to myself. “It’s me, Nick. WTF, Dude?”

Saturday Night Live parodied the Nicole Kidman ad last year, amplifying the cultlike quality, and fair enough, but I’m imagining a different lampoon. “We come to this place,” Kidman says as she opens the door to the lobby and steps right in spilled soda mixed with spilled commercial frozen drink machine pina colada, ruining her pricey heels, “to step into the unknown.” “We come to AMC theaters,” she continues as she enters the restroom to discover an out of order sign hung on all eight stall doors, “to hold it for two straight hours.” She enters the theater, can’t see her seat because it’s too dark, trips and falls flat on her face. “To require emergency dental surgery immediately after our show,” she says. She reaches her seat and plops right down in vomit. “To ruin our pants,” she says through a bloody, suddenly toothless smile.

“AMC Theatres. Where Nothing Works Anymore.”  

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